Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin announced Wednesday that Ron Van Winkle has been named Hartford’s Interim Chief Operating Officer.
By Ronni Newton
Former West Hartford town manager has spent the past seven months traveling and leisurely enjoying his retirement, but on Wednesday he donned a tie and returned to the world of town finances as the City of Hartford’s interim Chief Operating Officer.
“No more traveling, no trips to South America,” Van Winkle said in a phone interview Wednesday, his first day on the new job.
Van Winkle, who has lived in West Hartford for 35 years and worked for the town for 30 years, said that Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin actually approached him before he retired on June 30, 2017, just after he announced his plans.
“I said, ‘I’m going to retire,'” Van Winkle said.
At that time Bronin was speaking with Van Winkle about a consultant position, but in late 2017 Bonnie Malley left Hartford’s COO role to join the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, and the mayor approached Van Winkle about taking on that role.
“I have 30 years of experience,” Van Winkle said, and Bronin appealed to his need to put that expertise to use assisting the city with a complex set of financial issues.
Van Winkle, 70, served as West Hartford’s town manager from 2008 through his retirement on June 30, 2017. Prior to that he was director of Community Services, and also has experience as an economis with Pratt & Whitney and as director of planning in the Department of Economic Development in Gov. Ella Grasso’s administration.
“I agreed, on an interim basis, to get through this budget,” Van Winkle said.
“Ron has more than three decades of experience in municipal government, and he is respected throughout the State of Connecticut as a strong leader and manager,” Bronin said in a statement. “I have enjoyed getting to know and work with Ron in his prior role as town manager for West Hartford, and we are fortunate to have someone of his experience and caliber joining our senior team.”
“The city’s issues are financially substantial,” said Van Winkle. Hartford is dealing with a vast amount of poverty, unlike what he experienced in West Hartford.
“There are lots of challenges and lots of opportunities,” he said, adding that the city has a “great leadership group,” and that he believes the finances have started to stabilize.
As for how long “interim” will be, Van Winkle said he doesn’t know. “Right now it’s on a short-term basis.”
Because Van Winkle is working for the City of Hartford on an interim basis, he won’t need to meet the residency requirement and has no plans to move from West Hartford where he has lived for more than three decades.
“I started today and I have been busy already,” said Van Winkle.
Bronin also announced Wednesday that Cherese Chery has been named director of Human Resources, and she will begin that job on March 1.
“These are two critical positions that enable the city’s ability to govern effectively. I am excited that we have been able to recruit two accomplished public servants that will be able to hit the ground running on day one,” City Council President Glendowlyn L.H. Thames said in a statement.
Van Winkle most recently served as West Hartford’s Town Manager from 2008 through 2017 and before that he was the town’s Director of Community Services, beginning in 1987. He also spent three years as an econometrician for Pratt & Whitney. He served in the United States Army and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida and a master’s degree in economic development from Northeastern University.