HPW’s Inspiring Women series profiles remarkable Greek-American professional women whose stories of success inspire and encourage us to achieve our own career goals and aspirations.
Nicole Malliotakis was elected to the State Assembly on November 2, 2010. A lifelong resident of the 64th District, Nicole attended P.S. 53, I.S. 24, and New Dorp High School. She was the first in her family to graduate from college, earning a B.A. from Seton Hall University and an M.B.A. from Wagner College.
Prior to taking office, Nicole focused on the state’s energy, economic and environmental policies as a public affairs manager, while working with community organizations and elected officials to make Brooklyn and Staten Island better places to work, live, and raise a family.
During her first year in the State Assembly, Nicole received a number of awards from various organizations. She was named a Rising Star by the Capitol newspaper and a Top Ranking Pro Jobs Supporter by The Business Council of New York State, Inc. She also received special recognition at the 2011 Women of Achievement Awards by the Staten Island Advance. Nicole was presented with the 2011 “Special Outstanding Community Service” award by the South Beach Civic Association and an “Award of Gratitude” by the Order of AHEPA for serving as the honorary speaker at their 2011 AHEPA Scholarship Awards Graduation, as well as her contributions to the Hellenic community. Most recent, Nicole was featured in The National Herald’s 40 under 40 list.
This November, Nicole had the privilege of being re-elected for another term in the New York State Assembly. Recovery from Hurricane Sandy has become a hallmark of her second term as her district, which includes the eastern shore of Staten Island, was among the hardest hit by the October 2012 storm. She is currently the ranking minority member of the Assembly committee on Governmental Employees, while also serving on the Assembly committees for Banks, Corporations, Authorities & Commissions, Transportation, and Ways & Means.
What first got you interested in politics and public service?
I first got involved in politics as a high school student. My mother took me to the campaign office of Congressman Vito Fossella when he was running for Congress for the first time (1997). I began as a volunteer, stuffing envelopes and making phone calls. I enjoyed it very much and continue to be involved throughout high school and college. Once I graduated college in 2001, I worked as a community representative for State Senator John Marchi before being appointed as a representative for New York Governor George Pataki.
How do you feel being a first generation American has influenced your goals and ambitions career wise?
My father comes from the birthplace of Democracy (Greece) and my mother is a Cuban refugee, who fled Cuba in 1959 to escape the communist regime of Fidel Castro. In many ways, I believe my background and upbringing has influenced my choice to be an elected official in a democracy and serve in public office as a proponent of limited government, less wasteful spending and as a watchdog for the taxpayer.
What impact has your Greek heritage had on your career/professional life?
From my father I learned to have a very strong work ethic and always do what is right. My father may be the hardest working and honest person I have met.
What’s it like to be the first Greek-American woman elected to office in New York?
There are two of us. New York State Assemblymember Aravella Simotas and I were elected on the same day in 2010. I am very proud to have been one of the two first Greek-American women to be elected in the State of New York. It was a proud moment not only for Greek-Americans, but all women as well. I think we need more women to take a proactive role in government and get involved in the political process. We are still very outnumbered in the state legislature, Congress and United States Senate. Unfortunately, as progressive as New York City and State claim to be, we have not yet had a female mayor or governor and I hope that changes soon.
What has been your most rewarding moment thus far as a NYS Assemblywoman?
I think the most difficult but rewarding moments I experienced were following Hurricane Sandy when I was able to help thousands of my constituents recover from a terrible natural disaster. Many of my constituents became friends and community activists that I still work with. It was a devastating time for my district, which was almost entirely affected by the storm.
Did you have any mentors who helped guide you on your career path?
Governor Pataki has been a great mentor to me and I call him occasionally for advice.
Are you involved with the Greek community in New York? If so, how?
I attend many annual functions in the Greek community including the Greek Parade, Cyprus Federation, Hellenic Times Scholarship Fund, and more. I was also very active in advocating alongside the Archdiocese and AHEPA for the rebuilding of St. Nicholas Church, which was the only house of worship destroyed in the 9/11 attacks. Locally, I have a Greek population that I represent in both Staten Island and Brooklyn that I host events with. Internationally, I am very proud to serve as a board member of the World Hellenic Interparliamentary Association (WHIA). WHIA consists of legislators and members of parliament of Greek heritage from all around the world. We meet in Athens bi-annually to advocate for issues the World Greek community cares about.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Read, Bicycle, Tennis and Yoga.
Favorite Greek restaurant in New York?
Very difficult to choose. There are so many. Greeks are great cooks!
Favorite Greek Dish?
My father’s stuffed tomatoes are the best. I also love Tiropita and Spanakopita.
Favorite Greek island?
I am very fortunate to have family in both Santorini and Crete—two islands that I love.
f you could give one piece of advice to women regarding their professional lives, what would it be?
Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.
In a special event hosted by Hellenic Professional Women Inc and Hellenic Lawyers Association, Nicole Malliotakis along with other Greek American elected officials will present a discussion about Greeks in Public Service on November 29, 2016. Please visit the event page for more information.