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Hartford Native Shawn Wooden Sworn in as State Treasurer


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Hartford native and former City Council Chairman Shawn Wooden was sworn in as Connecticut’s 83rd State Treasurer, pledging to use his office to protect worker’s retirement security while spurring improvements in the state’s economy, infrastructure and educational system.

The Hartford resident was among several elected state officials, including Gov. Ned Lamont, who took the oath of office on Wednesday at the William A. O’Neill State Armory. Connecticut Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard A. Robinson administered the oath of office.

Wooden showed gratitude for the path that led him to his new position.

“I’m honored beyond works that the people of Connecticut have placed their confidence in me by electing me state treasurer,” Wooden said in a statement. “Having oversight of more than $60 billion in state assets is an enormous responsibility. I assure the taxpayers of this state that every investment and decision I make will be geared towards maximizing returns and moving Connecticut forward.”

Democrat Wooden succeeds Denise Nappier, another Hartford resident, who served as state treasurer for 20 years. Nappier elected not to seek another term.

Wooden, 49, was an investment attorney at Day Pitney, specializing in public pension plans for 21 years.

Before that, he worked for the former Hartford Mayor Carrie Saxon Perry and then as Connecticut Director of Project Vote, a national voter registration and education program. He was also served as a key aide for the Connecticut Commissioner of Social Services.

Raised in the North End of Hartford, Wooden said his is an unlikely journey. The youngest of six children, he participated in Project Concern desegregation busing program and attended Manchester Public Schools, where he graduated with honors. He then went to Trinity College and New York Law School.

Besides his work in the private sector, Wooden served as President of Hartford City Council from 2012 to 2015, leading efforts to close budget deficits, protect the city’s pension system and boost economic development.

His work in the state treasurer’s office is an extension of those efforts, he said.

“Connecticut is facing some enormous fiscal challenges right now, as well as some very exciting opportunities for growth,” Wooden said. “I look forward to using my extensive experience in government and as an investment attorney to take on the very serious work ahead of us.”

Featured Photo: Connecticut State Treasurer Shawn T. Wooden is sworn in by Connecticut Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard A. Robinson as his sons Senai, 13, (L) and Isaias, 16, (R) hold the Bible.

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If You’re Over 50, Chances Are the Decision to Leave a Job Won’t be Yours


A new data analysis by ProPublica and the Urban Institute shows more than half of older U.S. workers are pushed out of longtime jobs before they choose to retire, suffering financial damage that is often irreversible.

By Peter Gosselin

Tom Steckel hunched over a laptop in the overheated basement of the state Capitol building in Pierre, South Dakota, early last week, trying to figure out how a newly awarded benefit claims contract will make it easier for him do his job.

Steckel is South Dakota’s director of employee benefits. His department administers programs that help the state’s 13,500 public employees pay for health care and prepare for retirement.

It’s steady work and, for that, Steckel, 62, is grateful. After turning 50, he was laid off three times before landing his current position in 2014, weathering unemployment stints of up to eight months.

When he started, his $90,000-a-year salary was only 60 percent of what he made at his highest-paying job. Even with a subsequent raise, he’s nowhere close to matching his peak earnings.

Money is hardly the only trade-off Steckel has made to hang onto the South Dakota post.

He spends three weeks of every four away from his wife, Mary, and the couple’s three children, who live 700 miles away in Plymouth, Wisconsin, in a house the family was unable to sell for most of the last decade.

Steckel keeps photos of his wife, Mary, and their three children on the mantel at his rented place in Pierre. (Ackerman + Gruber, special to ProPublica)

With Christmas approaching, he set off late on Dec. 18 for the 11-hour drive home. When the holiday is over, he’ll drive back to Pierre.

“I’m glad to be employed,” he said, “but this isn’t what I would have planned for this point in my life.”

Many Americans assume that by the time they reach their 50s they’ll have steady work, time to save and the right to make their own decisions about when to retire.

But as Steckel’s situation suggests, that’s no longer the reality for many — indeed, most — people.

ProPublica and the Urban Institute, a Washington think tank, analyzed data from the Health and Retirement Study, or HRS, the premier source of quantitative information about aging in America. Since 1992, the study has followed a nationally representative sample of about 20,000 people from the time they turn 50 through the rest of their lives.

Through 2016, our analysis found that between the time older workers enter the study and when they leave paid employment, 56 percent are laid off at least once or leave jobs under such financially damaging circumstances that it’s likely they were pushed out rather than choosing to go voluntarily.

Only one in 10 of these workers ever again earns as much as they did before their employment setbacks, our analysis showed. Even years afterward, the household incomes of over half of those who experience such work disruptions remain substantially below those of workers who don’t.

“This isn’t how most people think they’re going to finish out their work lives,” said Richard Johnson, an Urban Institute economist and veteran scholar of the older labor force who worked on the analysis. “For the majority of older Americans, working after 50 is considerably riskier and more turbulent than we previously thought.”

The HRS is based on employee surveys, not employer records, so it can’t definitively identify what’s behind every setback, but it includes detailed information about the circumstances under which workers leave jobs and the consequences of these departures.

We focused on workers who enter their 50s with stable, full-time jobs and who’ve been with the same employer for at least five years — those who HRS data and other economic studies show are least likely to encounter employment problems. We considered only separations that result in at least six months of unemployment or at least a 50 percent drop in earnings from pre-separation levels.

Then, we sorted job departures into voluntary and involuntary and, among involuntary departures, distinguished between those likely driven by employers and those resulting from personal issues, such as poor health or family problems. (See the full analysis here.)

We found that 28 percent of stable, longtime employees sustain at least one damaging layoff by their employers between turning 50 and leaving work for retirement.

“We’ve known that some workers get a nudge from their employers to exit the work force and some get a great big kick,” said Gary Burtless, a prominent labor economist with the Brookings Institution in Washington. “What these results suggest is that a whole lot more are getting the great big kick.”

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Hartford Public Library Receives Grant to Address Opioid Overdose


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Hartford Public Library recently received a grant to arm staff with a lifesaving opioid reversal drug: naloxone.

Thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Cigna Foundation. The grant comes amid a spike in opioid-related deaths in the state. According to officials, more people are dying of accidental overdose of opioid than from homicide, suicide and motor vehicle crashes.

In 2017, 1038 people across the state died from opioid overdose. Hartford had the highest number of fatalities, 58.

Library officials took steps to join other city workers, including firefighters and police officers, to combat the problem. Police officers and firefighters are already armed with naloxone, which reverses the effect of opioid overdose.

“As a public institution, we see that our entire community is impacted by the opioid crisis; it was clear that a rapid and robust response to the problems caused by opioid drug crisis was imperative,” said HPL CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey in a statement. “Hartford police, fire and ambulance personnel have been wonderful in helping us deal with overdose situations, but we also want to be ready for instances when emergency services cannot arrive in time.”

The money will help train staff and provide naloxone and CPR supplies. Library officials said they will also provide opioid abuse awareness materials in all libraries across the city. They will also work with the Greater Hartford Harm Reduction Coalition to host workshops and forums.

“Libraries like HPL are increasingly innovating around health education. We are proud to support this potentially life-saving initiative and commend HPL for its efforts to battle substance use disorders in our communities,” said Mary Engvall, executive director of the Cigna Foundation.

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Sen. Beth Bye to Resign to Join Ned Lamont’s Administration


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — State Sen. Beth Bye will resign to take a job with Gov. elect Ned Lamont’s administration.

Lamont picked Bye to lead Connecticut’s Office of Early Childhood, which was created in 2013. She will help to develop a cohesive early childhood care and educational system.

“Beth Bye has devoted her entire professional career to helping to build a more progressive and equitable early childhood system in which all children, regardless of their parents’ socio-economic status, can grow, learn and develop,” Lamont said. “It’s clear that the formative early childhood years are jey to providing children a solid educational base and platform, and I know Beth is the best person to take the helm of this critical agency.”

Bye is a Democrat who represents the 5th Senate District, which includes West Hartford, Bloomfield, Burlington and Farmington. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 2007 and then moved to the Senate in 2011. There will be a special election to fill Bye’s seat because she was reelected in November.

Currently, Bye is the executive director of Auerfarm, a Bloomfield-based community farm that hosts 15,000 student trips annually. Prior to that, Bye led Great by 8, a community partnership to develop a program that supports optimal health and educational outcomes for children ages birth to eight. She also worked as Early Childhood Director at the Capitol Region Education Council and was Director at Trinity College Community Child Center and the University of St. Joseph School for Young Children.

She will earn $155,000 in her new job.

“I am grateful to begin this next chapter in my career, leading an agency I helped to spearhead and create,” said Bye. “Connecticut’s children—all of them—represent  the future of our state, and deserve to have the tools and support necessary to develop, grow and thrive.”

 

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Ned Lamont Picks James Rovella for Commissioner


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD —  Gov. elect Ned Lamont has nominated a former Hartford Police Chief to be a commissioner.

Lamont tapped James Rovella, 60, to be the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection’s Commissioner.

Rovella has selected Regina Rush-Kittle of the Middletown Police as Deputy Commissioner for Emergency Management and Stavros Mellekas of the Connecticut State Police as State Police Colonel.

“James, Regina and Stavros are experienced law enforcement officers, having dedicated their lives to keeping our streets and communities safe in Connecticut,” Lamont said in a statement to the press. “I am proud to welcome these three dedicated public servants to my administration’s leadership team.”

Rovella began as a patrol officer with the Hartford Police Department. He was then promoted to homicide detective before he served 12 years for the office of the chief state’s attorney, where he became chief inspector and oversaw all medicaid fraud, financial and statewide criminal cases. In 2012, Rovella returned to Hartford to become its interim chief of police. He was then appointed permanent chief in August 2012. Rovella retired in February 2018.

“I thank Gov. elect Lamont for the trust he has placed in me to lead the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection,” Rovella said. “My decades in public safety have been guided by a commitment to building trust between law enforcement personnel and the local communities in which they serve. That priority will remain a focus as I work to make this state a safer home for all of our residents.”

Rovella will begin his duties on Jan. 9 and will make $183, 340. His nomination will be sent to the General Assembly for consent.

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Ebony Horsewomen Secures Grant for Cowboy Museum


HARTFORD — Ebony Horsewoman Inc. of Hartford is among a dozen cultural organizations to receive grants from the state.

The Department of Economic and Community Development’s Good to Great initiative funds projects that link art, history and tourism in ways that enable cultural and historical sites to enhance visitors’ experience. The funding is targeted for small to medium-size cultural organizations.

The list of $3 million in grants includes $50,000 to Ebony Horsewomen to build a barn and create a mini Black Cowboy Museum.

The funding can be used for a variety of needs, including construction, exhibit design and installation, planning and marketing. Recipients must provide a 25 percent cash match.

Other recipients include the New England Carousel Museum in Bristol with $150,000 to install a new energy efficient, air handling system with humidity control to protect the museum’s collection and improve visitors’ experience. The Connecticut Trolley Museum in East Windsor also received $50,000 to complete its restoration.

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Hartford Delta Sigma Theta Announces MLK Breakfast Speaker


HARTFORD — The Hartford Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority has announced its keynote speaker for its annual Martin Luther King Breakfast to be held Jan. 21.

The event will feature Shavon Arline-Bradley, a founding principal of R.E.A.C.H.  Beyond Solutions LLC, a public health policy and faith advocate. She is also the co-founder of The Health Equity Cypher Group, a collaborative of nationally recognized health equity experts designed to expand the work of health, equity, diversity and inclusion in all sectors.

Bradley also held the position of Director of External Engagement and senior advisor in the Office of the United States Surgeon General and served as the Executive Vice President of Strategic Planning & Partnership for the national NAACP.

The breakfast, which helps to keep King’s legacy alive, is the premier scholarship fundraising event for the Deltas and one of the largest Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations in Connecticut.

More than 140 Greater Hartford high school girls have been awarded more than $355,000 in scholarship funds.

The Hartford Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority was founded in 1947 and is a private, non-profit organization whose purpose is to provide services and programs to promote human welfare. Since its inception, the chapter has placed a priority on providing monetary contributions to deserving young girls to further their education.

The breakfast is open to the public. Tickets are $55. For more information, visit www.dsthartford.com.

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Frontier Airlines Returns to Bradley International Airport


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Greater Hartford residents will now have access to more discount flights out of Bradley International Airport.

That’s because the discount airline Frontier will return to the region March 28.

Fares will be as low as $59.

Frontier will offer direct flights from Denver to Bradley. It will be one of three airlines offering flights from Denver to Bradley. Southwest and United airlines also offer service to Denver.

The news was announced on Tuesday at Bradley Airport by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Connecticut Airport Authority Executive Director Kevin Dillon, Frontier’s Vice President of Network Josh Flyr and other airport officials.

Airline officials said the Denver flight will be the starting point to add more destinations from Bradley.

“An indication of a strong route network is the continuous diversification of routes and airlines,” Dillon said. “With the addition of this new service, we’re pleased to introduce a renowned low-cost carrier to Bradley and to continue solidifying the airport’s strong reputation in the industry and its pivotal role as New England’s second largest airport.”

“It’s another step forward for our transportation system and its another step forward for our ability to be connected to the rest of the world,” Malloy said.

Airport officials said they look forward to Frontier’s return to Bradley.  The Denver-based previously offered flights from Bradley to Denver from 2007 to 2008.

“An indication of a strong route network is the continuous diversification of routes and airlines,” Dillon said. “With the addition of this new service, we’re pleased to introduce a renowned low-cost carrier to Bradley and to continue solidifying the airport’s strong reputation in the industry and its pivotal role as New England’s second largest airport.”

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Latinas and Power Picks Keynote Speaker


HARTFORD — Latinas and Power, New England’s largest and most influential networking and professional development symposium for Latinas, recently announced its 2019 keynote speaker: Dr. Betty Uribe.

Uribe is a banking industry veteran, celebrated author, and nationally-renowned speaker. She will address the 16th Annual Latinas and Power Symposium, which will be held on May 16 at the Hartford Marriott Downtown at 200 Columbus Boulevard.

As an Executive Vice President for California Bank & Trust, a division of Zions Bancorp, Uribe runs the Greater Southern California Division, which is a $3.5 billion business line covering retail and business banking.
During Uribe’s tenure as Executive Vice President at CB&T, the financial institution has been named “Best Bank in Orange County,” for three consecutive years by the voting readers of The Orange County Register.
“I selected Dr. Betty, because when I met her at a Latina event in Mexico recently, I was immediately taken by her authenticity and ability to connect with people,” said Latinas and Power Symposium Founder Marilyn Alverio. “The Latinas & Power Symposium is all about identifying Latinas that are out here representing and articulating the important issue we face in today’s world. Her optimism is contagious. After reading her book #Value, I knew she was the right person to bring to Hartford, CT for our 16th annual symposium.”
As a significant thought leader in the financial and banking industry, Uribe is a recognized authority on the psychology of leadership, turnarounds, organizational structure, and peak performance. Her work is regularly featured on all forms of international, national and local media.
As an author, Uribe wrote #Values: The Secrets to Top Level Performance in Business and Life, which was selected by Inc. Magazine as one of the Top 60 Books on Leadership and also received an endorsement from the Vatican.
She has been honored consistently for her strategic intellect and humanitarian endeavors. Among the many honors bestowed upon Uribe are: First Woman in History to join the Rose Bowl Foundation Board; Fortune Magazine’s Top 50 Most Powerful Latinas in Business (2017 & 2018); and Pepperdine University’s 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award.
Registration and other speakers for Latinas and Power Symposium 2019 will be announced in the coming months.
For more info, visit: www.latinasandpower.com.

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Ned Lamont Pledges More Diversity and Inclusion


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.”

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