HARTFORD, CT — The Latino community, which worked hard to get Gov.-elect Ned Lamont elected, is also working hard to make sure talented Latinos will help him govern.
Rep. Chris Soto, D-New London, said they will be focused on finding and bringing Latino talent into the administration.
It’s a collaborative effort. The Latino Gubernatorial Appointments Task Force will accept and vet resumes, which they will turn over to the director of the transition team, Ryan Drajewicz, who is taking a leave of absence from his senior management position at Bridgewater Associates, to help Lamont develop his administration.
Soto said the task force will be a clearing house for resumes.
“Some people don’t think they have access to people in the state Capitol, but they have access to us,” Soto said.
Marc Bradley, Lamont’s campaign manager, said through the course of the campaign they developed a relationship and a friendship with the Latino community that’s going to carry on through the transition to the administration and beyond.
“I pledge and re-pledge an open door,” Bradley said.
Currently, under Gov. Dannel P. Malloy there are only two Latino commissioners, Banking Commissioner Jorge Perez and Public Health Commissioner Raul Pino.
Soto said they don’t have a definition for what a benchmark for Latino inclusion looks like, but they will be vocal if they don’t see it.
“The Latino community played a large part in helping our Gov.-elect and our Lt. Gov.-elect get elected,” Soto said. “But at the same time as leaders in our community, if the administration does not represent the community they’re gonna ask us.”
He said they will hold the new administration accountable if they don’t see diversity.
Lamont was criticized during the Democratic primary for choosing Susan Bysiewicz, a white woman, as his running mate.
Eva Bermudez Zimmerman, who is Puerto Rican ran for lieutenant governor against Bysiewicz, and did well for a first-time statewide candidate. She received 40 percent of the delegates at the Democratic convention having only entered the race three days before the vote.
Then, in the Democratic primary in August, Zimmerman won New Haven, Bridgeport, and Waterbury. But she also won Windham (Willimantic) and rural Eastford, and pulled over 40 percent in such disparate places as New London, Cornwall, Wethersfield, Sherman, Hartland, and East Hartford.
Zimmerman and her sister Hartford City Councilwoman Wildaliz Bermudez are part of the Latino task force helping with the transition.
The task force has also asked for help from other groups who have participated in transitions in the past.
Roberto Frugone, northeast director at NALEO Education Fund, said they created a similar task force to help New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy fill his cabinet in 2017.
Frugone said there are two Latinos in the cabinet, three deputy commissioners, four chiefs of staff, and four deputy chiefs of staff in various agencies.
“There’s a lot of Latino leaders known throughout the community and elsewhere so it’s a matter of connecting the two,” Frugone said.
Jessica Torres, director of the CT Hispanic Bar Association, said they want to help create “the most diverse cabinet that the state has ever seen.”
Lamont has yet to announce any hires to his administration, but he has cast a wide net for talent by naming two executives to head his talent search.
Meanwhile, the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF) Executive Director Kate Farrar joined with 34 organizations from across Connecticut to urge recently elected statewide officials to prioritize diversity in its appointment process.
“As Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General and Treasurer-elects, we urge you to aim to appoint at least 50 percent women to these positions and reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of our state. Your efforts will demonstrate the importance of the voices of populations currently underrepresented in positions of leadership in our state,” Farrar said.