Bouncing Forward from the Pandemic: Moving CT Ahead

COVID-19 has from the outset been a disrupter and will likely lead to permanent changes in a variety of areas from retail markets to the use of commercial office space, the vitality of small businesses and the delivery of public services at the state and local level. In addition, Connecticut has the dubious distinction of having the 48th (out of 51) rank on income polarization in the country, with 18.8 times as much income going to the top 20% than reaches the bottom 20%.

Rather than think of “bouncing back” to the previous status quo, the crisis offers an opportunity to get beyond “business as usual” to carry out a paradigm shift for public service delivery, and to move forward on economic and social justice issues.

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of advanced information technology at the state and local level and of moving forward to implement best practices across an array of service areas. It also exposed weaknesses in legacy systems that were not up to increased demand.

In response to this pandemic, four organizations are coming together to co-host a two part virtual panel entitled “Bouncing Forward from the Pandemic: Moving CT Ahead”. The quartet includes UConn’s Department of Public Policy (DPP), the Connecticut Town & City Management Association (CTCMA), American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) and Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG).


The Panels

Panel 1: Bouncing Forward from the Pandemic: Next Steps for Public Services Delivery in CT will be on October 1st from 2:30pm – 4:00pm.

  • Moderator: Mayor Shari Cantor, Town of West Hartford
  • Panelist presentations include:
    • Digital Government: A Blueprint for Advanced IT for State and Local Services: John Elsesser, Town Manager, Coventry
    • Shared and Regional Service Delivery Options: John Filchak, Executive Director, NECCOG
    • Municipal Best Practices and Directly Associated Grant Programs: David Wilkinson, Executive Director, Tobin Center, Yale
    • Post-Crisis Organizational Learning: Dr. Mohamad Alkadry, Department Head and Professor, UConn Public Policy

Panel 2: Bouncing Forward from the Pandemic: Economic Disparities, School, Childcare, and Residential Integration will be on October 15th from 2:30pm – 4:30pm.

  • Moderator: Beth Bye, Commissioner, Office of Early Childhood
  • Panelist presentations include:
    • State of the State on Economic Disparities: Dr. Stephen Ross, UConn Depts. of Economics and Public Policy
    • Residential Zoning Reform: Dr. Saud Anwar, State Senator
    • Addressing Challenges Faced by the Working Poor : Dr. Lauren Ruth, Research & Policy Director, Connecticut Voices for Children
    • High Potential Programs to Boost High School Students to a Family Living Wage: Dr. Lyle Wray, Executive Director, CRCOG

Participants are required to RSVP prior to the event.


The Moderators

Mayor Shari Cantor, Town of West Hartford
Mayor Shari Cantor

Mayor Shari Cantor, Town of West Hartford

Shari Cantor is the current Mayor of her hometown of West Hartford. Shari graduated from the University of Connecticut majoring in accounting and has worked in public and private accounting for PWC and Cigna. Shari has served as Mayor since 2016, Deputy Mayor from 2011, and on the Town Council since 2004.

Shari is the mother of four sons and a daughter-in-law. She has been married to her husband Michael for 35 years. Shari is a UConn Trustee and serves on the Boards of the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center Foundation, Foodshare, the West Hartford Art League, and the American School for the Deaf. She also volunteers for many other non-profits, including the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. She is a West Hartford Rotarian.

During her service as Mayor, Shari was inducted into the UConn Business Hall of Fame in 2017 and honored as the Malta House of Care Foundation’s Woman of the Year in 2016. Also in 2017, she and Michael were presented with the Torch of Liberty Award from the Anti-Defamation League – an award given annually to outstanding citizens whose extraordinary work has helped to strengthen the Greater Hartford area.

Beth Bye, Commissioner, Office of Early Childhood
Beth Bye, Commissioner

Beth Bye, Commissioner, Office of Early Childhood

Beth Bye was appointed as Commissioner for the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood by Governor Ned Lamont in January 2019. Bye also served in the Senate from 2011 to 2019 and in the House from 2007 through 2010.

In 2013, Senator Bye led the effort to create The Office of Early Childhood (OEC), to coordinate and enhance various early childhood development programs and create a cohesive early care system. It was one of the first such offices in the country. Her work as champion for the creation of the office is informed by her own, long-term experience since 1980 as an early childhood professional.

Beth’s experience includes leadership positions at Auerfarm/Wintonbury Early Childhood Magnet School, Great by 8, the Capitol Region Education Council, and she also helped to open two early childhood magnet schools. Beth was the director at both the Trinity College Community Child Center and the University of St. Joseph School for Young Children, which was named a State of Connecticut model pre-school.

Commissioner Bye received her BA and MA in Child Development from the University of New Hampshire.


The Panelists 

John Elsesser, Town Manager
John Elsesser, Town Manager

John Elsesser, Town Manager, Coventry

 John Elsesser has served as Coventry Town Manager since 1988 and has served in other CT Towns as an assistant since graduating from University of Hartford in 1982 with an MPA. He is a Credentialed Manager through ICMA. John serves in a leadership capacity at the regional and State level, including positions as President of the Tolland County Chamber of Commerce and on the Board of Directors of CCM, COST and Chairman of the Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency (CIRMA). He also serves on the State E-911 Commission and the State Emergency Response Commission.

John Filchak, Executive Director, NE CT Council of Governments (NECCOG)

John Filchak, Executive Director, NE CT Council of Governments (NECCOG)
John Filchak, Executive Director

John Filchak has served as the Executive Director of NECCOG since 1995. NECCOG s a 16-town regional council of governments founded in 1987 where each municipality is represented by their respective chief-elected official. NECCOG is focused on achieving results for their member towns through regionalism, offering a range of voluntary, member initiated programs and services. This regional approach to problem solving enables their member towns to achieve efficiencies and economies of scale that individually would be difficult to realize.

John was Deputy Commissioner of the CT Department of Agriculture from 1991-1995, and before that he served as the Director of Governmental Relations for The CT Farm Bureau.

John graduated from The University of Montana

David Wilkinson, Executive Director, Tobin Center, Yale
David Wilkinson, Executive Director

David Wilkinson, Executive Director, Tobin Center, Yale

David Wilkinson is the founding Executive Director of the Tobin Center for Economic Policy at Yale. He is a former senior White House official and has served two Connecticut Governors in cabinet-level roles. His work has contributed meaningfully to fields of data-driven and evidence-based policy in the United States. Wilkinson was most recently Connecticut’s Chief Performance Officer, leading statewide efforts to advance data-enabled, results-driven government. Previously, as Commissioner of Early Childhood, he directed one of the state’s largest agencies, deploying or leveraging annual funding of nearly half a billion dollars in support of approximately 200,000 children and families.

As Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation, Wilkinson led efforts in the Obama White House to identify and scale better, more effective government services, advancing Presidential priorities that strengthened communities and enabled upward economic mobility. In his White House and state cabinet roles, he worked closely with the Child Study Center, which he has described as deeply impactful on his policy work.

Wilkinson is a is a graduate of Yale Law School. He is a Senior Fellow at Yale’s Institution for Social and Policy Studies.

Dr. Mohamad Alkadry, Department Head and Professor, UConn Department of Public Policy

Dr. Mohamad Alkadry, Department Head and Professor, UConn Department of Public Policy
Dr. Mohamad Alkadry, Department Head and Professor

Mohamad G. Alkadry serves as a Professor and Head of the Department of Public Policy at the University of Connecticut. He previously held academic and administrative appointments, and was tenured at Florida International University in Miami, FL, West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV, and Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA.

Dr. Alkadry has over 50 peer-reviewed articles, peer-reviewed book chapters, and journal symposia. He is also co-editor and co-author of three books: Women and Public Service: Barriers, Challenges and Opportunities (2013, 2014), These Things Happen: Stories from the Public Sector (2002), and Scaling Up Microenterprise Services (1998)Dr. Alkadry has authored in excess of fifty community and professional studies in areas of governance and public management.

Alkadry earned his B.A. from Carleton University, his M.P.P.P.A. from Concordia University, and his Ph.D. from Florida Atlantic University.

Dr. Stephen Ross, Professor of Economics, UConn Public Policy
Dr. Stephen Ross, Professor of Economics

Dr. Stephen Ross, Professor of Economics, UConn Public Policy

Stephen L. Ross is a Professor of Economics at the University of Connecticut. His research has primarily focused on housing and mortgage lending discrimination, residential and school segregation, neighborhood and peer effects, and state and local governments. He has published in prestigious academic journals including the Journal of Political Economy, Review of Economics and Statistics, The Economic Journal, the American Economic Journal-Economic Policy, Social Problems and the Journal of Urban Economics, and published the Color of Credit with MIT Press in 2002. His research has been funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the FannieMae Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health. Professor Ross also has consulted for Abt Associates, FannieMae, the National Consumer Law Center, the New York State Attorney General’s office, and the Urban Institute.

Dr. Ross earned his Ph.D. in Economics from Syracuse University

Dr. Saud Anwar, State Senator Representing East Hartford, Ellington, East Windsor and South Windsor

Dr. Saud Anwar, State Senator
Dr. Saud Anwar, State Senator

Dr. Saud was first elected to public office in 2011 as a member of South Windsor’s Town Council. He has served two 2-year terms as South Windsor mayor, in 2013 and 2017. He was elected as State Senator in 2019 to represent the residents of the 3rd State Senate District. Saud also works with humanitarian and peace initiatives on a local, national and global scale. He is a founding member of the South Windsor Hunger Action Team, Zero Waste South Windsor and the South Windsor Alliance for Progress. He is also the founder of South Windsor Haiti School Inc., a board member of the South Windsor Community Foundation and is a former chair of the South Windsor Human Relations Commission.

Saud is a medical doctor with specializations in treating lung diseases and critical care medicine, occupational and environmental medicine. He currently serves as Chair of the Dept. of Internal Medicine at Manchester Memorial and Rockville General Hospitals.

Saud was trained in pulmonary and critical care medicine and holds a Master’s Degree in Public Health from Yale University.

Dr. Lauren Ruth, Research & Policy Director, Connecticut Voices For Children
Dr. Lauren Ruth, Research & Policy Director

Dr. Lauren Ruth, Research & Policy Director, Connecticut Voices For Children

Lauren Ruth, Ph.D., is the Research & Policy Director at Connecticut Voices for Children. While Lauren supervises the process and content of the entire body of research at CT Voices, she specializes in research on youth-serving systems. Prior to joining the team at CT Voices, she worked first as a special education instructor and then as a lobbyist at the state capitol in Hartford.

She was awarded a Ph.D. in Psychology from Yale University.

Dr. Lyle Wray, Executive Director, CRCOG

Dr. Lyle Wray, Executive Director, CRCOG
Dr. Lyle Wray, Executive Director

Dr. Wray has served as Executive Director of CRCOG in Hartford since 2004. Previously he served in the Minnesota area county manager, county human services director and Executive Director of the Citizens League. In California he served as Executive Director of the Ventura County Civic Alliance.

Originally from Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, Lyle earned a doctorate in psychology from the University of Manitoba. He has had a variety of international teaching & consulting experiences in e-government, performance measurement, civil society and human resources. He co-authored Results That Matter, published by J. Wiley in 2006. He was elected as a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration in 2015. and was elected President of the Community Indicators Consortium in 2017.

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