New Greek TV's featured Greek of the Week is newly appointed acting Nassau County, New York's District Attorney Madeline Singas.
The first generation Greek-American was sworn in to her new post this past Tuesday, January 6th. The 48-year-old Manhasset resident stated after taking the oath of office, "I came from very humble beginnings...My parents could not speak English...they came as immigrants to this country and today I am here to show that the American dream is alive and well in Nassau County in 2015."
Singas has devoted her career to keeping Nassau's communities safe and has worked over two decades prosecuting violent crime. The mother of twins has enforced pioneering programs to combat domestic violence, gun violence, gangs, prescription drug abuse afflicting Long Island, and on many other issues.
The Greek-American lawyer grew up in Astoria and attended Bronx High School of Science, completed her undergraduate studies at Columbia University, and obtained her law degree from Fordham University Law School. In our interview below, the newly appointed acting District Attorney discusses her commitment to public service, past legal feats, future plans in office, and proud Greek-American background.
Maria Athens: What attracted you to a legal career rooted in public service?
Madeline Singas: I was raised by parents who believed that it was a duty to serve my community. My mother, who died too young, believed that everyone, no matter one's means or station in life, had the ability to make life better or easier for someone else. She taught me to be strong yet humble, to be selfless and generous. My parents never denied anyone who needed their assistance, and they devoted time and support to their church and community. From my parents I also inherited a deep and abiding respect for the rule of law. It seemed natural for me to enter public service.
Maria Athens: Can you tell us about your background leading up to your current position?
Madeline Singas: In 1991 I graduated law school from Fordham University and began work as an assistant district attorney in Queens County, where I had a successful 15 year career. I handled serious felony cases as a prosecutor in the office's major crimes division, and I was selected to be the deputy chief in the office's newly created domestic violence bureau. In 2006, Kathleen Rice recruited me to create the Special Victims bureau in Nassau county. I designed a bureau that increased the effectiveness of law enforcement to deal with crimes committed against women, children, and the elderly.
While bureau chief, I helped to create the Safe Center in Nassau County -- a facility for children and women who are the victims of sexual abuse or physical abuse. There, children can receive medical treatment, and survivors can speak to law enforcement, speak to prosecutors and social workers in a safe environment. In 2011 DA Rice selected me to serve as her chief assistant, where I oversee the daily operations of the office and represent the office on both the county and the state level.
Maria Athens: Why did you initially want to fight against violent crime?
Madeline Singas: I always saw myself as being the voice for those who had no voice. I also was always moved when I would read stories in the newspapers of families and people who had suffered devastating and violent losses, leading me to want to make a difference for these victims and their families. Thus, whether it was a woman who was murdered, a child who was sexually abused, or a person shot during a robbery, as a prosecutor, I spoke for them. I worked hard so that victims were protected and so that their perpetrators would be held accountable.
Maria Athens: What are the biggest challenges and rewards in your position?
Madeline Singas: The biggest challenge is trying to coordinate different agencies to accomplish an efficient administration of justice, while dealing with limited resources. My biggest rewards come from witnessing crime victims, especially women and children, find the strength to rebuild their lives.
Maria Athens: What professional and personal feats are you most proud of?
Madeline Singas: My proudest moment as a prosecutor was having my dad, an immigrant with limited knowledge of our justice system, sitting in the courtroom proudly watching his daughter on trial, knowing that his hard work for his family had paid off.
Maria Athens: What sound initiatives have been implemented under your reign?
Madeline Singas: First, as I mentioned in an earlier question, I am particularly proud of the opening of the "Safe Center" and our role in that operation. I'm also proud of our Adolescent Diversion Part and Youth Court which work with 16 and 17 year old offenders to ensure that they don't reoffend, and the Human Trafficking Part, where women who have been brought into the world of prostitution are given the resources and opportunities to leave that life behind.
Maria Athens: Can you tell us about your Greek-American upbringing? How much of an influence was your Hellenic heritage while growing up in Astoria, Queens?
Madeline Singas: My Greek-American upbringing was very important to me and defined me. I attended St. Demetrios of Astoria until the eighth grade. Interestingly, the friends I made at St. Demetrios are still my closest friends today. I was a member of GOYA and the Maids of Athena. I was married in the church I was baptized in, and baptized my children in that community as well. Today my children go to Greek school and play sports through the church. In fact, they play sports with the children of my schoolmates! That sense of ethnic pride, of belonging, were uniquely the result of my upbringing.
Maria Athens: Where are your family roots from in Greece? Do you get back to the homeland regularly?
Madeline Singas: My father was born in Glyna, a small town in northern Epirus. My father's village was inaccessible to us as his home and many relatives remained behind the iron curtain for so many years. My mother was born in the Argirohori, in Epirus in a very rugged landscape where there was no electricity or running water. Naturally as children, my sister and I did not like to visit my mother's home town. I did spend many summers touring the beautiful islands and mainland, both with my parents and then with friends and now with my family. As an adult I can now appreciate Epirus as one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.
Maria Athens: As the first women with Greek origins positioned as Nassau County's Acting District Attorney, what is your advice to the new generation of Greek-Americans?
Madeline Singas: My advice is the same advice my parents gave me--study hard, do not let anyone tell you that you cannot succeed, be proud of your heritage, and respect everyone.
Maria Athens: What are some of your major priorities and goals in your new post?
Madeline Singas: I want to continue the incredible work we did in Nassau county under Kathleen Rice combatting drunk driving, addressing the proliferation of heroin and prescription drugs, and working on crime prevention strategies. I want to focus on reducing gun and gang violence, addressing public corruption and keeping children safe from internet and sexual predators. I want to further work with the police to continue to keep Nassau county one of the safest in the country. I want people to live free from violence in their homes and to be protected from drunk and distracted drivers on the street.