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Ganim gives ex-NAACP chief, legislative candidate job

November 15, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — Having failed to become a state Senator, activist Carolyn Vermont has landed a job in City Hall as a mayoral aide.

Mayor Joe Ganim announced Thursday that Vermont, former head of the Greater Bridgeport NAACP and a recent legislative candidate for retiring state Senator Ed Gomes’ seat, will be the administration’s new community liaison.

The city did not immediately state how much Vermont will earn.

Ganim, who ran Bridgeport in the 1990s and was re-elected in 2015, has in recent years found similar paid community outreach work for political allies like state Rep. Rev. Charlie Stallworth and former Town Clerk Alma Maya.

But in this most recent case the City Council when crafting a new municipal budget last spring called on the mayor to hire a liaison rather than fill the vacant deputy chief of staff position in his office.

“Carolyn is a true supporter and activist for the most vulnerable in our city,” Ganim said in a statement. “Her extensive knowledge of the city along with her passion and devotion to children’s and community services make Carolyn a valuable team member to serve in this role for my administration.”

Thursday’s announcement noted that Vermont has most recently been director of urban initiatives for Connecticut Against Gun Violence and, prior to that, held managerial and consultant positions with various other nonprofits.

And following the May 2017 fatal shooting of 15-year-old Jayson Negron by a rookie police officer, Vermont was among the community leaders Ganim assembled to focus on improving relationships between residents and cops. This group was more administration-friendly, while other activists and clergy members were criticizing City Hall and demanding public safety reforms.

Vermont ran the city’s NAACP branch during a tumultuous period of in-fighting that resulted in the Connecticut NAACP’s temporary take-over of the Greater Bridgeport organization in 2013 and election of a new president, George Mintz.

Vermont recently campaigned for the 23rd District state Senate seat being vacated by Gomes. But she and Gomes’ former legislative aide, Aaron Turner, lost the Democratic Town Committee’s endorsement to Dennis Bradley. Vermont then failed to obtain the necessary petition signatures to force a primary with Bradley.

Ralph Ford, an influential black Democratic leader, has been pressuring Ganim to diversify his close aides. Ford said he is friends with Vermont but was taking a wait-and-see approach to her hiring.

“What does that mean to be ’community liaison?” Ford said. “Is this just window dressing or will it really have an impact in terms of advising the administration? Just to have a position so you can say, ‘Oh, I have somebody of color in my office’, that doesn’t satisfy me.”

City Council President Aidee Nieves found it “a little surprising” that the liason position, having been created in the spring, was being filled now.

“Carolyn is a good community leader. She’s known throughout Fairfield County for the work she’s done,” Nieves said. “It’s my hope she can work with all the community and across all organizations to ensure everyone’s voice is at the table.”

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