Joe Maldonado

1922 – 2001

Epitomizes the social worker in high levels of government services

Joe Maldonado was the first U.S. born child of Mexican immigrants who came to New Mexico in 1920 with their three children. He grew up in a small coal-mining town where his father was a miner. During the Great Depression, the Maldonado family experienced hunger for long periods of time. Although he seldom spoke of it, it was a lesson Joe never forgot. He went on to attend the University of New Mexico where he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Education in 1944. During WWII he served in the Navy as a Pharmacist’s Mate. Upon discharge, he earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Southern California in 1948. He became a charter member of the National Association of Social Work in 1955. He married twice in his lifetime, and enjoyed many children and grandchildren.

Maldonado’s distinguished career of public service under five presidents included the positions of Deputy Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity in Washington, DC, Deputy Director of the Community Services Administration in Washington, DC, and Regional Director of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare for Region IX in San Francisco. In the 1960s, Maldonado was Executive Director of the largest community action project in the United States, the Los Angeles Economic and Youth Opportunities Agency. He moved from that position to become Regional Director of OEO in San Francisco and, later, as Regional Director of Region V of United Way of Los Angeles for three years. He served on the first national strategic planning committee for United Way of America in the mid-1970s. In 1986, he retired from the Department of Defense as the Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance where he reported to Casper Weinberger.

Maldonado was known for his honesty and dedication to the poor and under-privileged. An early proponent of legal services for the poor, nutrition programs for pregnant women, and job training for unemployed youth, he was highly regarded by his co-workers. In describing his approach to management, he wrote, “my philosophy of management is a basic one which would apply generally to any managerial position…simply stated, this fundamental philosophy demands that in serving people, a manager must strive for maximum efficiency and effectiveness within the resources available while remaining humane and compassionate to human needs.”

Maldonado carved a long and illustrious career for himself from the humblest of beginnings, accruing innumerable citations, commendations and awards, and earning the indisputable respect of colleagues. He was a great team leader who was able to forge powerful collaborations within the public and private sectors for the benefit of all. His pioneering pathway in this nation will be long remembered.

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