Kelvin Roldán, the 28-year-old Democratic state representative from Hartford’s Fourth district, is on this meteoric career path:
He started out five years ago as an aide to Mayor Eddie Perez. In the fall of 2006, he sacrificed that $74,000 a year salary to run for Evelyn Mantilla’s seat, which he won. Then Monday, March 5, he landed an $89,000 job in the Hartford Public School System.
Roldán is now acting Director of Strategic Partnerships, Superintendent Steven J. Adamowski said Tuesday, March 6. Basically, it is the position abdicated by former Travelers’ guru John Motley almost a year ago, Adamowski said, but Roldán won’t have any of the personnel management duties.
After a nine month probationary period, the acting part of the title will disappear, Adamowski said, and Roldán will vault into a $109,000 to $129,000 salary range.
For comparison sake, Adamowski said a teacher with two master’s degrees in Hartford would be above the $60,000 salary level. Yet Roldán doesn’t even have one master’s degree, at least according to his official state representative biography. Roldán, a graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont, is currently pursuing his first master’s in public policy at Trinity College.
Adamowski met Roldán during the search process. Roldán served as point man for the search committee in terms of arranging meetings with the Boston firm which the City hired to find candidates for the Superintendent’s job, according to Sam Saylor, a member of the search committee.
Saylor was literally speechless when he first heard about Roldan’s new job Tuesday.
Adamowski said that Roldán was brilliant, energetic and a superlative guy. Adamowski personally recruited him, and said that he did not ask Mayor Perez, who is also the chairman of the Board of Education, about Roldán before hiring him.
Since it is a management position and not a union job, Adamowski said he has free reign to appoint and pursue whom he chooses, and not have to go through a search process.
“I realize that there may be cynical perceptions, but I can assure you that we are going to be attracting people from the private sector, from the non profit world, from government, whether someone has worked for a mayor, a senator, or is a government official,” Adamowski said.
“We have sought out the best person in this area. I can’t look at it in that lens. We are trying to attract the best people we can and form the best team we can. He is going to offer a lot and do a lot of good work for us,” Adamowski said.
The official job responsibilities, Adamowski said, will initially be to design and create partnerships with funders, both private donors and corporate sponsors, to improve the quality of education for Hartford’s youth.
Roldán will immediately get to work on building relationships across the country to help Hartford high school students improve their college graduation rates, Adamowski said.
Neither Roldán nor Adamowski saw it as a conflict of interest that the majority of Hartford’s school budget dollars come from state coffers, and Roldán will be voting on that budget.
“I don’t know if he would have to recuse himself,” Adamowski said, pointing to other elected officials who work in the school system like State Representative Doug McCrory, who is a part-time vice principal at Weaver High School.
Roldán in the state Legislative Office Building Tuesday promised he would recuse himself if a vote of significance arose. He said this was all ethical, and he is not worried about the perception of this being a patronage appointment.
“People just need to look at my record and look at what I have done,” Roldán said. “I have the educational background.”
School board member Andrea Comer agreed that Roldán did focus on educational issues while he worked for the Mayor. But she acknowledged that to anyone who is familiar with the Mayor, the hiring might send red flags out.
“At first glance it struck me the same way it would strike anybody else,” Comer said. “You’ve got someone who is in the mayor’s office who then resurfaces at the school board. That said, so did I.”
But Comer took a salary cut to move jobs.
“Here’s the thing, it probably raises eyebrows because a) he’s young, b) he’s coming from the mayor’s office,” Comer said. “For his age, he is a very accomplished young man. He is wicked smart. I think people are focusing more on the proverbial red flags than on what he has accomplished to date.”
For Steven Adamowski not to have talked to Roldán’s former employer, the Mayor, is not at all odd, Comer said.
“[Adamowski] is not one of those people who plays by the Hartford politics 101 rulebook,” she said. “He does what he thinks is best for the district and what he thinks will make the school system the best it can be.”
She is willing to give the Superintendent the benefit of the doubt on this one because of his experience. But, she said, “If it turns out that is a decision I regret, this will be a decision he regrets. Fool me once,” Comer said.
The Mayor’s office did not return a call for comment.