By Nan Price, Content Manager, MetroHartford Alliance
Hartford Foundation for Public Giving President and CEO Jay Williams enjoys making an impact in Connecticut’s capital city.
JAY WILLIAMS: I was initially drawn here for a career opportunity in 2017. I had served in the Obama Administration and, at the end of that Administration, my wife and I were contemplating where to go next. I was looking for an opportunity to draw upon my previous experiences in community, economic development, public service, and banking. At the time, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving was in search of the next CEO to succeed Linda Kelly.
Coincidentally, I had come to Hartford about a year and a half before as a part of my work in the Administration and I really connected to the city because I felt that it had a lot of similarities to our hometown back in Youngstown, OH. At the time, I didn’t know I would have this opportunity.
Later, as the interview process for the Foundation progressed, my wife and I drove up and really started exploring the community. We both became very fond of it. We saw a lot of upside and potential. When I received and accepted the offer, we moved here and with our son and my mother and have enjoyed these last four years immensely.
So, what drew me here was a career opportunity and everything I hoped it would be has absolutely been validated.
What makes Hartford unique?
JAY: What I have found unique about Hartford are the variety of communities and neighborhoods and experiences and things to discover. Our region has that Midwestern, welcoming feeling. And, because we’re from the Midwest, we may be a little biased, but we expect every place to welcome you like the Midwest welcomes you. We haven’t found that in other cities where we’ve lived, but in the Hartford Region we immediately felt welcomed and we’ve enjoyed the warmth of the people.
It’s a community that, while it’s steeped in history from the early formation of this country, still offers that welcoming feeling. I enjoy the uniqueness of the history and historic sites here as well as the physical landscape. We love that you can be at one of the coastal communities in an hour or less, or you can be in a central city like Hartford or New Haven. This region offers a variety of experiences no matter what you’re looking for and all within relatively easy reach.
How can people make an impact here in the city?
JAY: For years I’ve said that I have an affinity toward these mid-sized cities because, to me, mid-sized cities and regions offer big-city opportunities. Yes, to a certain extent they also offer big-city challenges, but you also have more of an opportunity to make an impact. What you’re doing makes a difference. You can feel that you’re being meaningful in your engagements and your work and see the change as it happens.
So, I’ve just always been drawn to mid-sized cities because the work is relevant and it’s addressing very real problems. Also, the region isn’t so large that you feel like you’re just a speck in the larger scheme of things. Here, you don’t have to wonder if what you’re doing is really helping to create a better society, a better community, a better environment. You can make a real impact.