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Rich Negrin
If confirmed by the Senate, Rich Negrin will be the first Latino to assume a State role in PA. Photo: AL DÍA Archives

Shapiro taps Rich Negrin as the first Latino to helm top environmental office in Pennsylvania

Negrin, whose professional scope ranges in public and private work, may soon brave his first State role.

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Pennsylvania has further insight into Governor-elect Josh Shapiro’s cabinet as he announced Rich Negrin to serve as the state’s Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection on Tuesday, Jan. 10. 

Negrin, an attorney of Cuban descent, is the third appointee envisioned to serve in Shapiro’s cabinet, currently under construction, following Al Schmidt, tapped as Secretary of State, and Khalid Mumin as Secretary of Education. 

Shapiro’s transition team, consisting of 300 or so staffers, has also ushered in Cindy Dunn to be Secretary of Conservation & Natural Resources, and Russell Redding to be Secretary of Agriculture

“I am humbled that Governor-Elect Shapiro has entrusted me with the great responsibility of leading this Administration’s efforts to protect our Commonwealth’s air, land, and water,” said Negrin.

 “As Secretary of Environmental Protection, I will work diligently to bring people together and ensure the Department works efficiently and we effectively serve all Pennsylvanians in pursuit of a safer, healthier future.”

Negrin’s resume — which includes extensive government and private work — is far-reaching.

He served as a prosecutor for the District Attorney’s office, then dabbled in corporate litigation for Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, a private firm. 

In 2005, he pivoted to an executive position as Vice President and General Counsel for Aramark Healthcare. 

But a marker in Negrin’s career came when former Philly Mayor Michael Nutter appointed him Managing Director.

He quickly rose through the government ranks to become Managing Director and Deputy Mayor, a role understood to be incredibly tempestuous, and the appointee is tasked to run government operations and be an excellent legislator, aside from reporting to the Mayor.

Defying the role as the highest-ranking Latino official in local politics at the time — in an office whose employees then averaged two years — Negrin served the city for a five-year tenure before he stepped down in 2015. 

“I’m up at all hours of the night, and that takes a toll over time,” he told AL DÍA at the time.  

“Depending on how you do the job, most managing directors have lasted two and half years max. That’s the average," he said. 

His position at the time was that public work was not in the interest of seeking a reward but that of accountability, a legacy that an outgoing Negrin tried to instill. 

“Government is not going to do everything, and it’s not going to solve every problem,” he said at the time of his stepping down. 

“But people are entitled to the truth. They’re entitled to know what you can and cannot do for them. They’re entitled to a level of service,” he remarked.

He spearheaded the Philly 311 project, an essential services hotline for non-emergency citizen issues, where he continued his predecessor’s work to figure out its effectiveness and use-case matched the need in the city.

Throughout his term, Negrin aspired to create “a government that listens” despite the difficult and often controversial role he assumed. 

Since stepping down, Negrin took on higher-level corporate work, immediately becoming a partner of a prestigious Philly-based law firm, where he winded down from his government career for the next seven years. 

He currently serves on the Board of the Chicago-based Respiratory Health Association and the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. 

Negrin holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science from Wagner College and a law degree from Rutgers Law School.

Most recently, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from his alma mater, Wagner College, for his leadership and public service. 

“Our Commonwealth needs leaders who can manage these agencies’ critical work – from protecting Pennsylvania’s beautiful state parks, forests, and trails, to carrying out a bold, comprehensive climate and energy plan that will grow our economy, protect and create jobs, and safeguard Pennsylvanians’ constitutional right to clean air and pure water,” a press release from Shapiro read. 

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