On his second Monday morning in office, Hamden Mayor Lauren Garrett and Chief of Staff Sean Grace arrived at Public Works Headquarters on Shepard Avenue in 7 am with Dunkin ‘Donuts and the 54 new boss of unionized employees: Matthew Kott.
Garrett fired longtime public works director Craig Cesare, the first of many expected upcoming changes in city government.
Kott is in the process of transitioning from his title of Inspector in the Engineering Department, a role he has held since July of this year, to his new post of Acting Director of Public Works. Kott holds a Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering, 15 years of experience as a project manager for defense contractors like Pratt & Whitney, and served in the Army Corps of Engineers.
Cesare, who did not respond to the Independent’s requests for comment, leaves the department after ten years at the helm. Before that he worked as an associate at Raskopf Beacon Construction SARL and served as the general representative of Republicans on the city’s Legislative Council.
The change of powers “has nothing to do with Craig Cesare, âGrace said. “This is Lauren’s vision for the department.
Garrett noted that the post is an appointed post coinciding with the mayor, as stated in the charter. Cesare is one of several department heads who can be removed and / or replaced depending on who the new administration wishes to hire to oversee the city’s operations – and how it plans to consolidate or reorganize the government of the city.
So far there hasn’t been another one yet “fires, âsaid Kenneth Kelley, Hamden’s personnel manager. retired and was replaced by Brigitte Cogswell, who previously worked as a human resources officer.
Garret’s “vision “- of a new Hamden built on sustainable and restorative economic and social policies, as she described it during election season – is most clearly illustrated by her recent selection of three people to sit on the police commission from Hamden: Elaine Dove, a social worker by trade who is also a member of the Democratic Town Committee; Rhonda Caldwell, the lead organizer of social justice organization Hamden Action Now, who called for the removal of school resource officers from the Hamden School District and a more diverse police and firefighting staff; and Danniel Dunn, a member of the Working Families Party who currently sits on the town’s technology commission.
The Legislative Council will vote on the nominations of these three candidates on December 12. 13. If confirmed, Dunn will take one of the seats in the minority party currently held by a Republican, President Mike Iezzi.
The other two terms of the five commission seats will expire in January, when Garrett will choose another pair of people to nominate.
On Monday morning, Kott outlined his priorities for his new post in public works: using his engineering background to prioritize climate change-aware infrastructure; rehabilitate the sidewalks to make Hamden more accessible on foot; and diversify an all-white, all-male department to better reflect Hamden’s natural demographics.
“Craig was an excellent public works manager, âsaid Kott, “and a trusted member of the city’s senior leadership and former mayor [Curt] Length.
“I want to build on his continuous improvements with the department, âhe said – while speaking of room for new ideas and leadership.
“I serve first the people of the town of Hamden, âhe said. “They are my clients.
His second goal is to implement ideas that Garrett put forward during his campaign, such as creating a municipal public maintenance plan to clearly notify Hamden residents when work is scheduled in their neighborhood.
Garrett highlighted Kott’s experience in managing large-scale projects with union membership and writing detailed expense documents, as important skills for a manager in his administration. As federal money flows in for infrastructure work and the new administration begins to restructure the city’s current budget, Garret said, it must rely on department heads to keep a clear and transparent track of their spending. .
In terms of diversifying the public works workforce, Kott said four positions – a truck driver and three laborers – will need to be filled by June. He said he would prioritize the placement of women and people of color in these locations.
Meanwhile, Garrett’s appointments were seen as disappointments for those who valued Cesare’s tenure.
Former mayor Curt Leng, who lost to Garrett in his campaign for a full fourth term, recalled Cesare’s accomplishments as “constant improvement in efficiency, emergency response time and constant cost savings with every well thought out recommended change â, describing his dismissal as “a huge loss for Hamden, as he was shockingly removed from his post on Friday by the new administration. “
Marjorie Bonadies, Republican majority leader in Hamden’s Legislative Council, wrote on Facebook that Cesare “read a letter from the president by his chief of staff who also serves as DTC president and her campaign managerâ¦ she was even forbidden to clean her office because her keys were confiscatedâ¦ this is how she treats exceptional employees, firing him at the end of the working day a few weeks before Christmas .
In the meantime, public works workers continue to do the day-to-day work that keeps the city running.
Mike Siciliano, the deputy director of public works who has been in the ministry for 24 years, said that although Cesare was a “outstanding director, he also said that “we’ve always done the job, âand that the ministry will continue to do so with Garrett’s guidance.
Kott came up with his own philosophy of professional life, a riff on a quote from Michael Jordan: “Individuals play the game – teams beat the odds.