Janele Hyer-Spencer

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Janele Hyer-Spencer
NLN Janele Hyer Spencer.jpg
Janele Hyer-Spencer, March 2010
Member of the New York State Assembly
from the 60th district
In office
January 1, 2007 – December 31, 2010
Preceded by Matthew Mirones
Succeeded by Nicole Malliotakis
Personal details
Born Donna Janele Hyer[1]
(1964-10-24) October 24, 1964 (age 52)[2][3]
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Douglas Spencer
Residence Staten Island, New York
Alma mater Columbia College Chicago
CUNY School of Law
Profession Attorney,[4] politician
Website www.janele.com

Donna Janele Hyer-Spencer (born October 24, 1964)[2][3] is a Democrat who represented New York's 60th Assembly District,[5] which covers parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn.

Early life and education[edit]

Hyer-Spencer attended high school in Lake Zurich, Illinois, where she ran track, cross country, and played golf. She also played basketball in college.[3]

From 1994 to 1996, she took classes at Aurora University's School of Social Work. She earned a bachelor's degree from Columbia College Chicago. Hyer-Spencer graduated from City University of New York School of Law with a J.D. in 1998. Hyer-Spencer also graduated from Queens College with a Master of Arts degree in Public Policy in 1998.

Early career[edit]

Janele Hyer-Spencer began her career as an activist, advocate, lawyer and politician on the foundation of devotion to family and the values of hard work. The daughter of a small business owner and dedicated mother she credits her parents with imparting on her the commitment to social justice and the pursuit of quality of life for all.[6]

Hyer-Spencer became a litigation attorney for the New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services[7] (ACS) specializing in child abuse and neglect. Hyer-Spencer practiced in all five Boroughs of the City of New York and the Integrated Domestic Violence Courts. She later joined the ACS legal Counsel unit where she was responsible for negotiating and resolving class action and civil lawsuits.[8]

She served as the Legal Director of My Sister’s Place,[9] a New York City-based non-profit organization which helps victims of domestic violence.[10] At My Sisters' Place[11] Hyer-Spencer was responsible for helping to develop the non profit’s first immigration service divisions for victims of violence seeking redress through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Overseeing a staff of attorneys and advocates, Hyer-Spencer led the agency’s legal arm to provide redress, safety, security and economic self-sufficiency to hundreds of victims of violence.

Hyer-Spencer formed her own private law practice specializing in family law and serving domestic violence victims. Hyer-Spencer has been licensed to practice law in New York since 1999.[1]

In December 2005, the State of New York Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy appointed Hyer-Spencer to its Surrogate Decision-Making Committee for a two-year term. The committee makes treatment decisions for people that are deemed mentally disabled, that live in facilities or use programs licensed, operated or funded by New York State.

She was part of Project Hospitality’s Summit Against Bias, joining other civic leaders to help eliminate bias and prejudice on Staten Island. Her memberships include the Staten Island Welfare Action Network, the Staten Island Women’s Political Caucus, the National Eleanor’s Legacy Committee and used to be a board member of Community Health Action of Staten Island.[citation needed]

New York State Assembly[edit]

She was first elected to the New York State Assembly in November 2006, narrowly defeating her Republican opponent to win a seat vacated by Republican Matthew Mirones.

Domestic violence[edit]

Upon taking office, Hyer-Spencer vowed to be a voice for victims of violence and abuse where, speaking on the floor of the New York State Assembly in her first term she advocated for stronger penalties for child sex abusers.[12] During her tenure she introduced and passed legislation to make New York State a leader in combating domestic violence.[13] As a member of the State Judiciary Committee Janele marshaled through a bill and later passed the law to eliminate fees on Orders of Protection to remove financial roadblocks from victims seeking protections.[14]

Education and health care[edit]

In 2008, Hyer-Spencer outlined her platform telling voters that she promised to be a vociferous a dvocate for education and health care that is “a right not a privilege”.[15] She worked on the extension of Child Health Plus, for the largest expansion the program had seen to care for children.[16] She used her role on the Aging Committee to author legislation for increasing income eligibility for prescription drug coverage for seniors.[17] In education she fought to prevent increases in state education tuition and to preserve tuition assistance for poorer students. In 2010, Hyer-Spencer took the lead against Education budget cuts when she announced that she would vote against a Budget Extender Bill that would be on the backs of students by instituting severe education cuts.[18] She also developed the Hyer Hopes Awards honoring students from selected elementary, intermediate, and high schools throughout Staten Island and Bay Ridge who demonstrated significant improvement in academic achievement, or succeeded by overcoming adverse conditions.[19] Hyer-Spencer intensified her focus on education by sponsoring a yearly Summer Reading Challenge to encourage children to read more and become excited about learning.[20]


With a long record of Advocacy on social and environmental issues Hyer-Spencer took the local lead against Hydro Fracking, a process of natural gas drilling. Appearing on local public media outlets Hyer-Spencer used her role on the State’s Energy Committee to partner with Josh Fox, an Oscar nominated film director, to educate the public and advocate a ban on natural gas drilling within New York City’s watershed.[21] She is an ardent supporter of beach clean ups and protection for the waterfronts of Staten Island and Brooklyn. As an avid surfer and member of the Surfrider Foundation,[22] and organization dedicated to the preservation, protection, and access of beaches across the country, she has volunteered and participated in local campaigns to protect the waters of New York.

Award and honors[edit]

Hyer-Spencer was awarded the prestigious Verrazano Narrows award from the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation for her outstanding work promoting economic development, where she drafted and sponsored legislation to create the first ever “Green Zone” to attract and encourage environmentally green businesses to Staten Island.[23] She was also recognized for her efforts to motivate, mentor, and inspire Staten Island business women by founding and funding the Women’s Leadership Council.[24] Her local awards also include recognition by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of Staten Island for her commitment and advocacy on behalf of those combating the brain disorder.[25]

Community service[edit]

Hyer-Spencer sponsored a yearly health and wellness fair called the “Boardwalk Bash” to provide health information and access to preventative care services.[26] In keeping with her mission for universal health care she was chosen by the American Cancer Society to present a public service announcement highlighting her father’s battle with cancer and struggle with maintaining health insurance.[27] She was recognized for her commitment to the Dress for Success campaign where she sponsored a yearly drive to benefit women re-entering the work force.[28] Hyer-Spencer began an advocacy campaign to promote the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors), federal legislation that would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented alien minor students who were brought to the United States by their parents and who remain undocumented – work she continued with the New York State Education Department.[29]

Hyer-Spencer faced Republican Nicole Malliotakis and Right to Life Party candidate Marietta A. Canning in the general election on November 2. Malliotakis defeated Hyer-Spencer with 55% of the vote.

Current work[edit]

Hyer-Spencer is serving as a Judicial Support Magistrate for the New York State Unified Court System where she presides over child support and paternity proceedings in New York City Family Court.

Personal life[edit]

Hyer-Spencer lives in Staten Island with her husband, Douglas Spencer.

As of 2009, she had run in three New York City Marathons, with a best time of 4 hours and 20 minutes. In a Staten Island Advance interview, she stated she runs 5 days a week, and over 25 hours a week.[3] She is an avid surfer and a competition sailer having completed the well known Newport Bermuda Race,the biennial yacht race from Newport Rhode Island to the Island of Bermuda.

While in the State Assembly, she was noted for commuting to Albany via motorcycle, riding a Yamaha V-Star with the custom license plate JANELE.[30]


  1. ^ a b "Lawyer Donna Hyer-Spencer - Staten Island, NY Attorney - Avvo.com". avvo.com. 
  2. ^ a b "D. Janele Hyer-Spencer". OurCampaigns.com. Retrieved March 13, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d Kochman, George (October 28, 2009). "What makes 'em run: Janele Hyer-Spencer". Staten Island Advance. SILive.com. Retrieved March 13, 2011. 
  4. ^ http://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/attorney/AttorneyDetails?attorneyId=5523491
  5. ^ "New York State Assembly - Charles Barron". state.ny.us. 
  6. ^ Weintraub, Lori (2011). "Janele Hyer-Spencer Taking Risks in Social Justice A Leader in Island Politics". Citizens Magazine. citizensmagazine.com. Retrieved 28 July 2012. 
  7. ^ "NYC Administration for Children's Services". nyc.gov. 
  8. ^ "Social Workers from Within and... Outside ACS Express Their Views". NASW New York City Chapter. Retrieved 28 July 2012. 
  9. ^ http://www.mspny.org/legalservices.html
  10. ^ Hicks, Jonathan (November 6, 2006). "Rarity in New York Politics: Tight Assembly Race in City". New York Times. Retrieved 28 July 2012. 
  11. ^ "My Sisters' Place - Providing Hope – Achieving Justice – Changing Lives". mspny.org. 
  12. ^ "State Assemblywoman Janele Hyer-Spencer speaks on Sex Offenders". New York State Assembly. 
  13. ^ "Assembly Passes Legislation To Expand Protections for Domestic Violence Victims". Women Against Violence - Bay Ridge. Retrieved 28 July 2012. 
  14. ^ "2007 Domestic Violence Legislative Update". Empire Justice Center. Retrieved October 1, 2007. 
  15. ^ Klein, Helen (October 17, 2008). "Janele vs. the cop - Hyer-Spencer, Cammarata tangle". Brooklyn Courier Life. Retrieved October 17, 2008. 
  16. ^ "Affordable health insurance for your children". New York State Assembly. Retrieved 19 February 2009. [permanent dead link]
  17. ^ "BILL NO A04403A". New York State Assembly. Retrieved 2009.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  18. ^ Padnani, Amy (June 26, 2010). "Staten Island Technical High School students rally against budget cuts". Staten Island Advance. Retrieved June 26, 2010. 
  19. ^ "Assemblywoman recognizes 53 island graduates". Staten Island Advance. 
  20. ^ "Summer Reading Challenge". New York State Assembly. Retrieved 19 April 2009. [permanent dead link]
  21. ^ "Brooklyn Independent Television Episode 135". Brooklytn Elected Officials. Retrieved 2009-10-26. 
  22. ^ "Surfrider Foundation". surfrider.org. 
  23. ^ Randall, Judy (April 30, 2010). "For Staten Island, these are better days, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver tells SIEDC Conference attendees". Staten Island Advance. Retrieved April 30, 2010. 
  24. ^ "20G grant to boost women's group". Staten Island Adbace. Retrieved August 6, 2008. 
  25. ^ "Alzheimer's group bestows honors". Staten Island Advance. Retrieved March 4, 2007. 
  26. ^ "Assemblywoman Janele Hyer-Spencer hosts Boardwalk Bash". New York State Assembly. Retrieved May 4, 2009. [permanent dead link]
  27. ^ "Access to Health Care: Janelle Hyer-Spencer". American Cancer Society. Retrieved Apr 17, 2008. 
  28. ^ "Assemblywoman thanks Island for response to clothing drive". Staten Island Advance. December 8, 2009. Retrieved December 8, 2009. 
  29. ^ FERNANDA SANTOS (14 October 2011). "New York Regents Expected to Push for the Dream Act". nytimes.com. 
  30. ^ Paybarah, Azi (May 4, 2009). "Janele Hyer-Spencer Travels Light". New York Observer. Retrieved March 13, 2011. 

External links[edit]

New York Assembly
Preceded by
Matthew Mirones
New York State Assembly, 60th District
Succeeded by
Nicole Malliotakis
Party political offices
Preceded by
James Hart
Democratic Party nominee for New York State Assembly, 60th District
Succeeded by
Inez Barron