Women of Western Wake: Matty Lazo-Chadderton

The way Matty Lazo-Chadderton radiates warmth and kindness is clearly key to her success as a powerful voice for North Carolinians for decades.

Those who have worked alongside her agree. Sue McLaurin, of Durham, a friend and colleague of Lazo-Chadderton for more than 30 years, perhaps best sums her up.

“In a time of incredible political divisiveness, the world needs more people like Matty,” McLaurin said. “She embodies graciousness, an incredible kindness and a willingness to help all people.”

Lazo-Chadderton’s commitment to volunteerism and civic engagement began when her now adult children were in preschool. Her son, David, was diagnosed with autism and Lazo-Chadderton became an advocate in both the special education and regular education realms.

She attributes her passion for service and caring for others to her parents. The oldest of five siblings, who include Mariella, Lus Maria, Manolo and Juan Lazo, she was born and raised in a small town near Lima, Peru. Her mother was a teacher, and Lazo-Chadderton became a teacher initially as well. Her career took several turns before she came to the United States. She lived and worked in business in Venezuela, then operated an art gallery in the Dominican Republic.

She and her family came to the United States in 1987 seeking education opportunities for David after hearing about North Carolina’s programs for children with autism.

“When I arrived, I was reminded of the same hospitality I’d felt in other countries I’d lived in,” Lazo-Chadderton said. “They didn’t wait for me to ask for help; they asked me how they could help.

“That touched my heart and I fell in love with North Carolina.”

She also found what she calls “another great characteristic of the American personality,” the drive to volunteer.

“I began to volunteer in my children’s preschool and I realized that, to volunteer is one of the best practices in order to learn your new culture and to become acculturated,” she said.

She built a network of friends and fellow advocates, and when her marriage ended, decided to stay in North Carolina with her children. In those early days, she would visit North Carolina legislators to advocate for the needs of young children.

“I always say education is the best tool,” Lazo-Chadderton said. “When you have a sound and basic education, you apply that through your whole life.”

The opportunities for her to use her voice grew as she became embedded in the community and got to know government officials and civic leaders.

In the time since, she’s continued to speak not just for education, but for other government and civic issues as well. She was a lobbyist and education advocate for the N. C. Justice Center in the late 1990s and early 2000s. From 2001 to 2011, Lazo-Chadderton served as director for Hispanic and Latino Affairs for North Carolina Senator Marc Basnight. In 2011, she was named Institutional Public Affairs Officer for the Consulate General of Mexico in Raleigh, and then briefly served as director for Hispanic and Latino Affairs for the Governor’s office in 2012.

Joe Stewart, of Raleigh, first met Lazo-Chadderton more than 20 years ago when the two would cross paths at the State Legislature.

“Matty is an incredibly compassionate person,” said Stewart, the vice president for governmental affairs, Independent Insurance Agents of N.C. “She sees, as part of what defines her, a willingness to engage on issues that matter, and she has an appreciation based on her own background for what folks need, and works toward those goals.”

The list of meaningful ways Lazo-Chadderton has touched the people of North Carolina and beyond goes on as she’s served on a number of boards and advisory councils over the years. Civic participation is equally important to her, and she’s participated in voter registration drives and civic education efforts for more than 20 years.

Most recently, Lazo-Chadderton held the position of Deputy Director of Public Engagement for Gov. Roy Cooper’s office before retiring earlier this year.

She said the success and smiles of others motivates her. Seeing how not just her work, but the collective work of advocates and volunteers makes a difference for people has always encouraged her to keep pushing forward.

When she reflects, Lazo-Chadderton says she’s most proud of having the opportunity to serve the Latino community and every community. On a personal level, she says one of her proudest moments was becoming a U.S. citizen in 1996.

“It was wonderful,” she said. “I already felt American, but it was beautiful to have that accomplishment.”

Though she’s technically “retired” at the moment, Lazo-Chadderton says “sometimes it’s on paper, but not in your mind and heart.”

She’s had a consulting business over the years and plans to keep working in that capacity on issues surrounding equity, inclusion and access for all. She continues to volunteer her time as well.

Lazo-Chadderton lives in Cary, and is close with her two sons, David, now an artist, and Andrew. She’s a recent new grandmother, as Andrew and his wife, Daphne, have two children, Miles, 3, with whom she loves to dance, and Olivia, 1. She enjoys the solitude of long walks and is a gardener, which comes from her mother, a rose gardener.

“Gardening is like medicine or therapy for me,” she said.

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