Spanish American Civic Association CEO Carlos Graupera has dedicated most of his adult life to serving the Lancaster County community he has called home since 1965, fostering cultural, social, civic and economic development.
On Thursday, the 72-year-old Cuban native announced he will step down from his role as CEO in 2023, although he did not give a specific date.
José R. López, 56, a former bank executive and commercial real estate appraiser who has served as SACA’s president since 2020, will take over as the new CEO.
“SACA now has a very good operation and a capable management team. It’s time for a younger generation to take over and do things better because times change,” Graupera said Thursday. “I’m stepping down as CEO but I’m just going to do more of what I can do best. Period. We must transition to duties where we might be of more help.”
While his role at SACA won’t include the title of CEO, Graupera will remain very much involved in the organization he helped launch in 1973. Specifically, he said he will focus on establishing a regional network for Tec Centro, the organization’s bilingual workforce development center.
Graupera said he will work with leaders in the cities of York, Lebanon and Reading to create a Tec Centro regional network.
Tec Centro provides education and skills training to individuals with a focus on workforce development. Its first campus, which offers medical, culinary and language programs, opened in 2014 at 102 Chester St. in southeast Lancaster city. Its newest campus, which focuses on mechanical fields, opened in 2021 at 57 Laurel St. in the city’s southwest.
Tec Centro’s model is being duplicated by other communities nearby, such as the WEPA Empowerment Center in Lebanon and Berks Latino Workforce Development in Reading. Last month, M&T Bank donated one of its former branch buildings in York County to SACA to create a new workforce development center.
Graupera was influential in creating SACA to accommodate the needs of a large influx of Latino families, which today represent about 23,000 of Lancaster city’s population of 58,039, or 40%, according to the 2020 Decennial Census. The nonprofit has evolved over the past 50 years, but it has remained a steady and reliable presence in the local community.
Graupera came to the United States with his family in 1961 when he was 11 years old. They moved to Lancaster four years later.
His father, Charles, who had emigrated before the family, eventually became a Spanish language professor at Elizabethtown College. Meanwhile, his mother Aida, worked as the first bilingual caseworker for Catholic Social Services.
López, a native of Puerto Rico, grew up in Lancaster’s city Southeast, graduating from Lancaster Catholic High School in 1985.
This is not López’s first time working for SACA. He previously served as president and CEO of SACA Development Corp. from 1998 to 2002, overseeing the conversion of the former four-story General Cigar warehouse at 453 S. Lime St. in Lancaster city, into 30 apartments and office space.
López was last employed as senior vice president and chief appraiser for Pacific Mercantile Bank in Costa Mesa, California.