Nigerian-born Beroro Efekoro has been elected as an Albany County legislator in the state of New York. He goes to work from 1 January 2020.
Efekoro, one of 10 new people joining the 39-member body, will become the first Nigerian-born person to hold office in the county, Times Union reported.
“I’m very excited to jump in and get to work on the first day,” he said. “I’m also looking to put in some initiatives that would improve education in the neighbourhood.”
Efekoro unseated incumbent Albany Democrat Doug Bullock in November’s general election and will represent the 7th legislative district, which encompasses the Beverwyck and Pine Hills neighbourhoods in Albany.
Efekoro, who was born in Nigeria and moved to New York City with his father and siblings in 2008, said he believes he will be the first Nigerian-born person to hold an elected office in New York state. Though research sources are scarce, it appears he might be just the third Nigerian to hold elected office in the entire United States.
The 29-year-old city resident moved to the city in 2012 to pursue a degree in political science at the University at Albany. He quickly became immersed in the community and political arena.
“I’ve been involved in community service for almost all my life,” Efekoro said. “I got elected as my senior class president just one year after I arrived in the U.S. I got involved in the Democratic process even before I became a citizen. I was making calls to Congress and calls to people to support the Affordable Care Act, to go out and vote for President (Barack) Obama.”
Efekoro became a U.S. citizen in 2014 while at the university and started a nonprofit – International Organization for Education – to help students succeed in school.
“I saw the need to get involved in the Albany community because a lot of the kids were failing in high school and were dropping out of school,” Efekoro said.
After graduating in 2015, Efekoro was selected as a committee person by Carolyn McLaughlin, who was then-chairwoman of the Albany County Democratic Committee.
“He’s been volunteering for quite some time,” Albany Legislator Frank Commisso Sr. said. “He’s worked for the Democratic party for a number of years.”
In 2017, Efekoro ran unsuccessfully for the Common Council’s 11th ward seat against incumbent Judd Krasher and Democratic challengers Alfredo Balarin and Clifton Dixon. Balarin ultimately won the election. Efekoro now serves as deputy ward leader for the 11th ward.
He said he will focus on addressing vacant buildings, securing housing for veterans, and establishing more programs and resources for youth, family and seniors.
His effort to improve education will include the establishment of a scholarship fund for high school graduates living in the Pine Hills and Beverwyck neighbourhoods, he said.
Rifat Filkins, the executive director of the Refugee and Immigrant Support Services of Emmaus, recently met Efekoro. She said he serves as a role model for immigrants and refugees looking to make a life in the Capital Region.
“It gives a lot of encouragement to all the immigrants that they can be whatever they want to,” she said. “Seeing things like this happen gives them more encouragement and gives them more hope that they have to keep working hard and they can get to wherever they want to.”
Efekoro is quick to agree with the sentiment, pointing out that he was not successful in his first run for elected office.
“Your imagination is the beginning of your reality,” he said. “Pursue your goal if you feel it’s something you are interested in. Falling is not failing, but failing to rise up after falling is failure.”