By Nan Price, Content Manager, MetroHartford Alliance
Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) Deputy Commissioner Glendowlyn Thames is Hartford through and through.
GLENDOWLYN THAMES: My parents migrated to Hartford in the 1970s and continued to make roots and grow our family here. Having been born and raised in Hartford, at an early age, I was very intent on— regardless of whatever state or place I ventured off to—coming back to Hartford to raise my family. I always felt Connecticut was a great place to raise a family.
I had a wonderful childhood experience and wanted my children to have that same experience one day. I went to college in New York and I lived in South Africa for a little while, but eventually made my way back to Hartford. Another reason I came back was because I knew there was a lot of work to do and I wanted to be a part of it and contribute in whatever way I could.
What impact do you hope to make in the Hartford Region?
GLENDOWLYN: I’ve been very involved in the City of Hartford both personally and professionally.
Personally, I live here as a resident and my children attend Hartford Public Schools.
Professionally, I’ve been very engaged in a variety of roles. I was the former City Council President. My four-year term ended in 2019. In partnership with Mayor Luke Bronin and my Council colleagues, we focused on structural issues and stabilizing city finances, which resulted in a significant increase in private investment in the areas of development, housing, and innovation.
In June 2019, I took on my current role as Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development. My vantage point is the whole state, but Hartford is still near and dear to my heart. My hope is that we can build off the prior momentum with significant additional investment and focus on neighborhood impact and development along the lines of homeownership, small business development, and catalyzing a new generation of entrepreneurs and makers who can contribute toward a better future for Hartford and our state.
In what other ways are you a part of Hartford? And how is Hartford a part of you?
GLENDOWLYN: I feel deeply connected to Hartford and believe in our community so much. I feel like I’ve been a part of Hartford’s past, its present, and its future.
Over the years, I’ve had many roles as a resident and working for the city starting from a college intern, working in the mayor’s office on community development, working at Hartford Public Schools on education reform, and then ultimately being an elected official on the Hartford City Council.
I’ve always had a passion for empowering my neighbors and community. For example, talking to a group of Hartford students and helping them navigate college and career plans and mentoring, engaging with neighbors through a Pizza Truck social and celebrating the end of the school year for neighborhood kids, and helping local businesses and entrepreneurs navigate resources, especially during COVID-19.
I’m very committed to the future of Hartford. Hartford is in my blood through and through. Hartford is my village and now I’m raising my family in that village.
What makes Hartford unique?
GLENDOWLYN: Hartford is unique because it’s a smaller, second-tier city that’s very diverse from a cultural and ethnic perspective. It’s also diverse with opportunities that enable people to connect within their areas of interest quickly and intimately.
As the saying goes, there are six degrees of separation. Hartford is more like two degrees. And that has many advantages. You can build not only professional relationships but those relationships turn into long-lasting friendships.
I think a lot of people come to Hartford with one plan, but they end up staying longer and developing a whole new plan. Hartford has that effect on people. Hartford enables people to engage in a community that may have a lot of challenges, but also presents a lot of opportunities for them to get involved in a tangible way that you wouldn’t get in a larger city or in a larger community.
How do you tell the story of Hartford?
GLENDOWLYN: I always approach it from the lived experience. I talk about what Hartford affords, from whatever context—from a visitor perspective, a business perspective, a resident perspective—and really try to be that brand ambassador.
I tell people about how Hartford is abound with opportunities. The cost of living is significantly less expensive than many other metropolitan areas. Location wise, it’s accessible to the coast and the mountains. If you want to go hang out in the big city, you can do that, too.
Within Connecticut, there’s a lot of diversity and variety of experiences that you have access to within 30-40 minutes. So, for me, it’s all about the quality of life Hartford and the region provides. I really focus on the positives because every city and state has its challenges but it’s the people, place, and opportunities that make it great!