Victor Diaz, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Motor Vehicles, didn’t need his eight years of exemplary Army service, the undergraduate degree in pre-law he earned at the University of Connecticut, or the MBA from the University of New Haven to earn his position. He learned all he needed to know from his mother.
“I am passionate about helping people. That’s what we do here. The commissioner, Melody Currey, … me … we’re out in the hall trying to assist people all the time. My mother taught me to be passionate about that … helping people.”
Diaz was born and raised by a single mother in Waterbury. His father stayed in the Dominican Republic; Diaz first met him when he was 13 years old. However, his mother was always there, often acting as stand-in on fathers’ day at school.
“I am lucky and I’m blessed,” Diaz continued. “My mother worked three shifts. Sometimes I would be outside at 3 a.m.—just hanging around. But I avoided trouble. My mother stressed education and caring for your community … the community as family.”
Diaz attended Waterbury public schools. He has three sisters and two brothers, and he got to know many of the 100 foster children his mother took in over the years. Felicia Diaz was recently was cited with an award for her caring and “heart of gold.”
“We were poor, really poor. The best example I can give of my mother’s caring for community is the day she had my brother and me carry her mattress down the street to a new neighbor who had moved in … a young mom with two little girls.” Diaz noted the apartment was sparsely furnished and it was evident the new neighbor slept on the floor with her two daughters. His own mother slept on the floor for almost a year, but it was important to her that the young woman knew someone cared.
“My mother instilled in me the determination, the strength to make a difference,” Diaz continued. “She said to affect change ‘You have to be at the table.’ My political involvement came through my mom. I was working elections at eight years old. Carrying signs. Always doing something.”
Prior to his position at the DMV, Diaz served as Waterbury’s first Latino deputy city clerk, capitalizing on his knack for “connecting people and building bridges” to address differences. He realized the concerns of the African American community were the same as those expressed by the Latinos in the region. His outreach earned him the respect of both segments of the population. He serves as the Connecticut representative on the Dominican American National Roundtable, which brought him to Washington, D.C. — right to George W. Bush’s White House to voice concerns of the region’s Dominican citizens. He is also the first Dominican to be elected president of a regional chapter (Greater Waterbury) of the NAACP, a feat heralded by the national press.
Diaz met then-Stamford Mayor Dannel P. Malloy in 2006 and worked on his gubernatorial campaign in 2010, helping to secure the Greater Waterbury vote for the governor.
Diaz is involved with the Connecticut Junior Republic and Big Brothers/Big Sisters. He knows what it means to have no father figure growing up, hence his desire to fill someone else’s void.
And has never forgotten his roots. His neighborhood is still at the center of all he has achieved; he hosts a block party every summer.
“You give back,” he said. “There are party videos on YouTube. We have bouncy castles and 1,000 hot dogs.”
And smiles. The biggest and proudest smile, you can bet, crossing the lips of Felicia Diaz.