By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer
HARTFORD — Gov. elect Ned Lamont on Saturday reaffirmed his commitment to bring change to the state with diversity and inclusion, saying to a group of African Americans that he will “make sure everybody gets the same opportunity.”
Lamont spoke at the Connecticut State Conference of NAACP Branches’ meeting at the Hartford Hilton Hotel to more than 200 people, including black elected officials, students, clergies, fraternities and sororities.
African Americans voted overwhelmingly for Lamont in the 2018 election. Election results showed that 94 percent of African Americans supported the Greenwich businessman, who pledged to promote diversity in state jobs and to usher in more access to state contracts.
During his campaign, Lamont telegraphed his commitment to diversity and inclusion and followed through with the selection of two African Americans for high level positions in his administration. He recently hired Paul Mounds as his chief operation officer. Mounds, 33, will oversee commissioners and report to Lamont’s chief of staff, Ryan Drajewicz. Lamont also hired Melissa McCaw, 39, as his secretary for the Office of Policy and Management. She is the first African American to hold that job.
Moreover, he appointed State Sen. Marilyn Moore, D-Bridgeport and State Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven to his transition team. Both women are African Americans.
“I think that’s a good move. He’s showing that he’s trying to be diverse and inclusive,” said Greater Hartford NAACP President Abdul-Shahid Muhammed Ansari. “It really was the Democrats’ vote from the inner cities that got him over the hump.”
After Emancipation in 1865, African Americans voted for Republicans. But ever since the 1928 election, they have mostly voted for Democrats. Their allegiance to the Democratic Party was cemented in 1936.
NAACP President Scot X. Esdaile said he wants more return on that investment, calling for more inclusion in all branches of government.
“We want to make sure our people are included at all levels, the commissions, boards and throughout,” Esdaile said.
The meeting was titled “The 94% Black Leadership Summit” because election results showed 94 percent of black voters supported Lamont and the Democratic Party.
Lamont was joined by his running mate, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, who invited attendees to send resumes and ideas.
“Send us your best. Go to our website,” Bysiewicz said. “We’re taking all good ideas because it’s for the benefit of our state.”
Lamont and Bysiewicz were coming from another meeting earlier in the day with the General Assembly’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, where they talked about ways to increase the number of black and Hispanic teachers.
He also talked about steering opportunities to the cities, training people for technology jobs, opening up contract bidding to ensure that more minorities have access to those jobs.
“I’m going to make sure everybody gets the same opportunity,” he said. ”Too many of those business opportunities, too many of those contracts seem to go to the same old gang, –and that’s not right.”
Lamont, who defeated Republican Candidate Bob Stefanowski after vote tallies came in from the urban centers the day after the election, said he believes in Connecticut’s cities. He vowed to also direct resources to cities.
“I’m a believer in our cities,’ he said. “Our state will never be great unless our cities are great and I’m going to commit every day to that.”