Board of Directors

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Headshot of Kristen Gorski

President
Kristen Gorski
Economic Development Coordinator, Town of West Hartford

Kristen Gorski serves as Economic Development Coordinator for the Town of West Hartford. She provides extensive outreach to enhance the relationship between the Town of West Hartford and local businesses. Kristen is responsible for business retention and expansion, new business attraction, new development, and small business and entrepreneurial support. She is a liaison between the Town and its businesses and non-profit organizations as well as the real estate and development community. Prior to joining the Town of West Hartford, she worked at the Bristol Development Authority for the City of Bristol.

A Massachusetts native, Kristen moved to Connecticut in 2015. In Massachusetts, she worked for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), the state's largest regional planning agency whose focus is to promote smart growth and regional collaboration. While at MAPC, she served as a liaison between federal and state agencies as well as local government representatives statewide implementing homeland security planning initiatives. Kristen also assisted with the Cambridge Post-Disaster Recovery for Small Businesses project, working collaboratively with City of Cambridge, MA and their various business districts. Additionally, she has more than six years of business management experience in the retail sector.

Kristen is actively involved with the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce where she serves on the Economic Development Committee and on the Board of Directors for Future Leaders of West Hartford (FLOW), currently holding the position of Board President. She holds a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Geography and Regional Planning and a B.S. in Criminal Justice, both from Westfield State University. Kristen lives in Glastonbury with her husband, and is an avid hiker and skier.


Headshot of Paige Bronk1st Vice President

Paige Bronk, AICP
Economic and Community Development Manager, Town of Groton
 
Paige Bronk, AICP, has a focus towards bridging community planning, economic development and project implementation. Since 2015, he has served as the Town of Groton’s Economic and Community Development Manager helping to lead new initiatives in a growing community. His 25 year career spans several economic development and planning roles in unique and notable communities including Newport, RI; North Kingstown, RI; Providence, RI; Frankfort, Kentucky; and Savannah, Georgia.

He served for 13 years as the City of Newport, Rhode Island’s Director of Planning, Development, Zoning and Inspections leading numerous public/private partnerships and property redevelopment initiatives especially in the North End Redevelopment district. Paige’s geographically diverse experience integrates a variety of environmental, business and community perspectives that address an integrated and balanced approach to community and economic development.

Paige earned a Master’s Degree in Community Planning and Development from the University of Rhode Island in 1991. He also achieved a Bachelor’s Degree with dual major in Environmental Studies and Geology from Alfred University in 1989. Paige earned his certification from the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) in 1996. Following his passion for the ocean, he recently gained a U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) – 100 Ton Master Captain’s License.

Treasurer
Mark Barnhart
Director of Community & Economic Development, Town of Fairfield

Mark S. Barnhart is presently the Director of Community & Economic Development for the Town of Fairfield, having been appointed to the post in September 2002. Previously, Mr. Barnhart had served as the Town Manager and Chief Executive Officer for the Town of Stratford from 1992 to 2002. In his capacity as Town Manager, Mr. Barnhart was instrumental in efforts to successfully remediate and redevelop the former Raymark site as well as the Stratford Army Engine Plant (SAEP). Mr. Barnhart began his professional career with the City of Camden, NJ, where he served as the Assistant to the Director of Public Utilities. In 1989, Mr. Barnhart was appointed Assistant/Town Manager of Stratford, Connecticut, a position he held until his promotion to Acting Town Manager in October 1991.

Mr. Barnhart holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Pennsylvania and completed his undergraduate studies at Albright College, in Reading, Pennsylvania. Mr. Barnhart serves on the Board of Directors of the United Way of Coastal Fairfield County and the Connecticut Economic Development Association (CEDAS). Mr. Barnhart presently resides in Monroe with his wife Katherine and two children.


Secretary 
Lynn DiGiovanni
Business Development Manager, M&J Engineering, P.C.

Lynn DiGiovanni is a business development professional for M&J Engineering, P.C. located in North Haven, Connecticut.  She spends a lot of time traveling around the state building strategic business relationships.  Her diverse network includes members of the public and private sectors who play a key role in the economic growth of Connecticut’s cities and towns.


Headshot of Garrett SheehanImmediate Past President

Garrett Sheehan, CEcD
President, Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce

Appointed in March 2018, Garrett Sheehan currently serves as President of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce and Executive Director of the Regional Leadership Council, the region’s advocate for economic growth. Garrett also serves as President of the Quinnipiac Chamber of Commerce, an affiliate of the Greater New Haven Chamber.

Prior to making the transition to a career in economic development, Garrett’s interests in public policy and current events took him to Syracuse University where he studied broadcast journalism. He began as a news anchor and reporter for a television station in Meridien, Mississippi. Garrett’s next stop was Huntsville, Alabama where he covered politics and business stories for the local NBC station.

Led by a passion for improving the economic well-being and quality of life for communities, Garrett traded his journalism career for economic development. He held positions as a researcher for the Huntsville/ Madison County Chamber of Commerce in Huntsville, AL and as a project manager for the North Alabama Industrial Development Association. In this position, Garrett was responsible for marketing and recruiting efforts aimed at companies that were considering locating in Alabama.

When an economic development position opened at United Illuminating (UI) in New Haven, Garrett jumped at the opportunity to return to Connecticut. While working at UI, Garrett focused his activities on business retention and expansion as well as regional economic development marketing.

After graduating from the UConn School of Law in 2014, Garrett served as a law clerk at the Connecticut Appellate Court for the Honorable Bethany J. Alvord. Garrett went on to work for Eversource as a liaison between the company and chief elected officials in 23 towns in Connecticut.

Garrett is actively involved in numerous organizations that focus on the economic vitality of Connecticut, including serving on the board of directors of the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC), Connecticut Economic Development Association (CEDAS), Southern Connecticut State University Business Advisory Council, and Workforce Alliance.

Garrett is a licensed attorney in Connecticut and Texas. He is a native of Middlefield, Connecticut. In addition to his law degree from the UConn School of Law, and bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Syracuse University, Garrett holds a master’s degree in business administration from Auburn University and is a Certified Economic Developer. He served as an infantry officer in the Connecticut Army National Guard and deployed to Afghanistan in 2010. Garrett and his wife met in New Haven and have two children.


Headshot of Jim BellanoJim Bellano
Economic Development Director, Town of Windham

Jim Bellano is the Economic Development Director for the Town of Windham, Connecticut. In 2017, during the search process for a new Town Manager, Jim was unanimously appointed Interim Town Manager by the Windham Town Council.

From 2001-2006, Mr. Bellano served as Director of Economic Development for the Housatonic Valley (Northern Fairfield County) region of Connecticut and later, the City of Danbury. Prior to his appointment in Windham, he was the Director of Development for Scope Realty Associates in Danbury, Connecticut.

In addition to his economic development work, for almost 30 years, Jim has taught both Political Science and Law at various colleges and universities in the tri-state area; including, Western and Eastern Connecticut State Universities. He has also authored a number of opinion pieces on those subjects. Currently, Jim serves as both the Windham representative and the Chair of the Eastern Regional Tourism Board.

From 1993 to 2001 Mr. Bellano practiced real estate, contract and bankruptcy law in Westchester County, New York. Jim received his Juris Doctor from the Quinnipiac University School of Law and a Master’s of Science in Social Science from Long Island University.


Kevin Bielmeier
Town of Southbury


Michael Ceccorulli


Sheri Cote

Economic Development Director, Towns of Guilford and Madison

When the towns of Guilford and Madison combined their Economic Development Director positions, Sheri Cote was selected to fill that role. She came to the position with more than 20 years of economic development experience with chambers of commerce and economic development organizations. She has served as the President of the Shoreline Chamber of Commerce, serving Branford, North Branford and Guilford; the Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, serving 42 towns; and the Regional Economic Development Manager for the Southeastern CT Enterprise Region, serving the 20-town region of southeastern CT. Sheri has a passion for supporting small businesses and promoting the beautiful shoreline community of Connecticut.

Sheri also serves as Treasurer of the Connecticut Tourism Coalition Board of Directors, Treasurer of the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce Board and serves on the Economic Development Commission for Old Lyme, the CEDAS Board of Directors and the Shoreline Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Previously She has served as Board Chair of LEARN and Board Chair of Thames River Innovation Place, Vice Chair of the CT Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives and was elected for 8 years to the Board of Education in Waterford.


Jalmar De Dios

Karen DelVecchio


 

Headshot of Gene GoddardGene Goddard

Chief Business Investment Officer, MetroHartford Alliance

Gene Goddard leads the coordination of new business investment projects for the Hartford Region by working with business decision makers, consultants, and corporate real estate managers looking for project locations within the region.

Gene has nearly 30 years of economic development experience at the local, regional, and state level and as a private-sector consultant. He’s diligently worked to develop initiatives and strategies that support business growth and expansion, including networking and partnership development, negotiation, strategic planning, business cost analysis, project leadership, lead generation, industry research, marketing, and workforce and business development incentives.

Before joining the MHA, Gene was the Senior Vice President and head of Springsted’s (now part of BakerTilly) Housing and Economic Development (HED) practice group, where his team specialized in development strategies, project feasibility studies, financing, and business plan development.

Gene also served as the Director of Business Investment for GREATER MSP, the regional economic development organization for the Minneapolis – Saint Paul Region, where he coordinated over $4 billion in business expansion projects for small business and large corporate entities.

Gene has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Minnesota State University – Mankato and a Mini-Master’s degree in Real Estate Development from the University of St. Thomas. He earned his Certified Economic Development Professional (CEcD) professional certification through the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) and his Economic Development Finance Professional (EDFP) certification through the National Development Council.

In 2017, Gene was named by Consultant Connect as one of the Top 50 Economic Developers in North America and in 2012 he received the Life-Time Achievement Award in Economic Development from Finance and Commerce magazine.


Erin Wilson Howard
Director of Economic Development, City of Hartford

Erin Wilson Howard began working for the City of Torrington as their Director of Economic Development in early 2014.  Prior to focusing her career on Economic Development, she has a strong background in planning having worked for the Town of Windsor, City of Middletown and Town of Ellington along with a few years in the private sector at Milone and MacBroom, Inc. In addition, she currently holds a Connecticut Real Estate License and practices part-time real estate primarily in Middlesex County.  Ms. Wilson graduated from the University of Connecticut with a double major in Political Science and Economics.  From there she attended the University of Massachusetts and obtained her Master’s Degree in Regional Planning with a focus on economic development.  In 2012, Ms. Wilson received her AICP certification from the American Planning Association.  While she is a native of Middletown, CT she resides in Middlefield and currently sits on the Town of Middlefield Planning & Zoning Commission as an alternate.


Thomas Madden
BFJ Planning


Patricia McLaughlin, Esq.
Director, Administration, AdvanceCT

Patricia McLaughlin provides corporate governance, human resources, government relations, legal and research assistance for AdvanceCT. She has extensive experience in nonprofit administration, fundraising, insurance, finance and securities law. Prior to coming to AdvanceCT, Patricia held positions in campaign finance, nonprofit management and corporate law. 

Ms. McLaughlin has a bachelor’s degree from Smith College and a law degree from Catholic University. She has previously worked in private law practice, in a large corporate department and for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. She is an active community volunteer; recent affiliations have included Treasurer, Avon Old Farms School National Council; Chair, Renbrook School; Board Member, Malta House of Care; Board Member, World Affairs Council of Connecticut; and Volunteer, Malta Food Pantry. 


Julie Nash
Director of Economic and Community Development, City of Milford

Julie Nash, is currently the Director of Economic and Community Development for the City of Milford, and a government relations professional with years of experience in state, federal and international government relations.  Julie started her career as an intern in the Connecticut General Assembly and proceeded to a coveted position as a Legislative Aide which launched a love for the industry.  During her tenure as a Legislative Aide she decided to pursue a law degree to further enhance her career aspirations.  During law school Julie had the honor of working with then Governor Rowland and his legal and legislative staff.  After law school, Julie worked as a Law Clerk at the Bridgeport Superior Court which allowed her to learn integral courtroom proceedings that would help cultivate her understanding of legalities and procedures.  After this position, Julie headed to US Tobacco in the Government Relations department working in State Issue Management.  Julie was charged with legislative analysis for all 50 states in regards to both wine and tobacco issues.  Julie spearheaded a number of projects such as strategic analysis, legislative forecasts and third party management.  Prior to her current position, Julie was the Lobbyist and Government Affairs lead for WWE working on regulatory and legislative issues on both the federal and state levels.

Julie also has a passion for community relations and has done work with the City of Milford’s Park, Beach and Recreation Commission, Milford’s Chamber of Commerce, the Junior League of Greater New Haven, the Connecticut Food Bank and many more.


George Norfleet
Executive Director, Connecticut Office of Business and Community Development

George Norfleet creates effective strategies designed to achieve goals and operates as a change agent in today’s constantly evolving business and economic development environments. He has a broad background in the media and marketing and is a proven leader with expertise developing new business, fostering relationships with partners, implementing innovation and delivering results that drive targeted metrics, lean operations, capital investment and job creation.

Currently George serves as the Executive Director of the Office of Business and Community Development for Connecticut’s Department of Economic and Community Development where he leads all of the office’s programs, staff and operations and focuses the state’s resources on business retention and recruitment.

Previously, as Director, George oversaw Connecticut’s; Office of Film, Television and Digital Media, and its tax incentive program catalyzing industry growth and expenditures of over $3 billion; Office of International and Domestic Business, leading the state’s efforts to encourage foreign direct investment; and Outreach Programs, connecting businesses and economic development organizations from across the state.

Earlier he worked in feature film and television on productions helmed by many of the industry's A-List directors and producers including Spike Lee, Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, Jonathan Demme, Oprah Winfrey, Neil Jordan and Dick Wolf, among others. He began his career in advertising with Saatchi & Saatchi.

George attended Florida State University. He serves on several Boards of Directors including the Association of Film Commissioners International’s Task Force committee, the Council of Motion Picture and Theatrical Unions, and Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network where he sits on the Governance and Finance committees and Chairs the Audit committee.


Kim Parsons-Whitaker
Interim CEO, CT Main Street Center

Associate Director of Connecticut Main Street Center since 2000, Kim Parsons-Whitaker works closely with municipalities and downtown organizations throughout Connecticut, assisting local leaders and citizens in their efforts to bring their Main Streets back to life. She collaborates with State officials and experts in placemaking and economic development in efforts to bring much needed resources and expertise to Connecticut’s Main Streets.

Kim has been a key figure in the planning, development and evolution of CMSC to an award-winning statewide economic and community development organization, which has grown participation by 800% since 2005. Currently she oversees CMSC’s member services program, the Main Street Forums for the 21st Century educational programming, and the annual CT Main Street Awards program.

 In 2013-2014, Kim project-managed the Economic Recovery for Sandy Hook Village consultancy, assembling a team with expertise in market analysis, branding & marketing, organizational capacity building and operational planning. The consultancy provided a small but active volunteer group with strategies and tactics to become an economic development engine for the community.

Kim has been a guest speaker for the Urban Land Institute, the American Planning Association, the League of Women Voters, Western CT Leadership Program, New London Landmarks, University of Hartford’s Barney School of Business, various educational institutions, and numerous Connecticut municipalities and regional planning and economic development organizations.

A professional opera and concert singer, Kim holds degrees from New England Conservatory of Music and Boston University. She has performed extensively throughout North America and the Far East and continues her performing career, though closer to home.

Kim is a 2018 graduate of the Leadership Greater Hartford Quest program, and serves on the Board of Directors of West Hartford Community Theater. 


Photo of Cierra PatrickCierra Patrick
Economic Development Specialist, City of Groton

Cierra Patrick is an economic and community developer from New London CT. Cierra orchestrates the strategic planning, implementation, and investment for local improvements, infrastructure, community assets and amenities for the City of Groton. Cierra earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Marketing and Entrepreneurship at Hampton University and went on to receive a Master’s Degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Georgetown University. Feeding her curiosity about the tools of entrepreneurs in our economy, bottom-up economic development, community revitalization and wealth creation. Cierra devises creative approaches to community engagement that encourage a variety of local entrepreneurs to collaborate. Cierra’s gift is her ability to engage diverse members of the City’s citizenry in developing and implementing plans/projects that support economic activity, stimulate local excitement, and enhance local quality of life.


Rose Ponte
Director of Economic Development, Town of Farmington

Rose Ponte was born in Havana Cuba and is a native Spanish speaker. She started her career in international banking working for National Westminster Bank on Wall Street, after taking time off to raise her four children; she became Director of Student Service at the Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts in Torrington CT. In that position, Rose developed and managed Nutmeg’s international residency high school and college student support program. After ten years, Rose had established valuable business contacts throughout Northwest CT, and the arts, and became Torrington’s Economic Development Director. In that role she leveraged the arts as an economic driver in the redevelopment of Torrington’s downtown. In 2013, she was hired as Economic Development Director for the Town of Farmington.

Rose is an active board member and acting chairman for Programs and Professional Development for the Connecticut Economic Development Association and a member of the Northeast Economic Development Association. She is a member of the Farmington Rotary, an incorporator for Charlotte Hungerford Hospital, and a former Board of Education member for Region 10 schools. She lives in Harwinton, CT.


Steve Vavrek
KW Government Services

From 2009 to 2017, Steve Vavrek served as the elected First Selectman for the Town of Monroe. During this time he was also very active on the Bridgeport Regional Business Council EDC Commission as well as on the METRO Council of Government. Prior to that, he served many years as an elected member of the Monroe Town Council and the Monroe Board of Finance. In addition, Steve has worked many years as a sales manager and has sold various wine and liquor accounts statewide for Connecticut Distributors and Brescome Barton Distributors. Steve had been a Monroe resident for over 30 years and was an active member of the Rotary Club of Monroe and  board member for the United Way of Coastal Fairfield County. Steve and his wife now reside in Milford, CT.

Steve brings many years of experience from both the business and public sectors to his real estate career. In addition to Commercial Realty services, Steve will also be responsible for growing KW Commercial's Government Services team in Connecticut by providing local, state, federal, quasi-government and educational entities the services to monetize their underperforming or unrecognized real estate assets, providing the highest economic return possible.


Delpha Very

Economic Development Director, Town of Putnam

Delpha Very has had a rich career history in the corporate world, started her own business and developed its brand for 15 years, and as a past First Selectman of Woodstock. Today she is here as the Economic and Community Development Director as well as the Putnam Redevelopment Agency Director. Experience within these diverse sectors has taught her that the critical skills of team building, strong communication, and being a champion of community building are no different in any sector. Delpha is a true supporter of the concept that Economic Development has no borders and that if you build a strong community, the economic strength will follow as proven by redeveloping Downtown Putnam and building a truly vibrant business and community hub for Northeast CT. She is a proud recipient of the CT Main Street Center’s Founder’s Award.


Jessica Vonashek
City of Norwalk


Trenton Wright, Jr., CEcD CFRE
Coordinator of Institutional Advancement, Middlesex Community College

Trenton Wright, CEcD, CFRE, is one of the longest serving members of the Board of Directors. He also serves as Scholarship Committee Chair. He received his CEcD in 2000. Mr. Wright has served as the Coordinator of Institutional Advancement at Middlesex Community College for the last 15 years. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Connecticut Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Mr. Wright is an EDI graduate and received his MPA from the University of Connecticut in 1979.

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