New London - When Jane Glover was first asked to consider being Daryl Justin Finizio's chief of staff if he became the city's first elected mayor in 90 years, she thought, "Yeah right, a gay man and a black woman as the two most powerful people in New London.''
But seven months later, Finizio is the mayor and Glover has a corner office in City Hall, where she presides as Finizio's chief administrative officer.
"He hired me because I am bright and wonderful and great,'' said Glover, 65, who is both self-deprecating and self-assured.
In fact, Finizio hired the three-time former ceremonial mayor because of her knowledge of the city and its people.
"Her strengths are her depth of administrative experience along with her depth of knowledge and experience in New London politics,'' Finizio said. "As a new executive, and being new to the New London political scene, I felt that to have a chief administrative officer with depth of knowledge in these areas would be a great benefit to the administration and the city."
He added that he sees Glover as a quasi-deputy mayor who can advise the mayor and share his duties and responsibilities.
He also selected Glover, a Democrat who served 10 years on the City Council and six years on the Board of Education, to keep a campaign promise.
"Mayor Finizio campaigned, and always said, he wanted his administration to be diverse and well representative of all people,'' said City Councilor Wade Hyslop, New London's first black state representative and a longtime friend of Glover. "He had that commitment and he went after the best person to represent the city of New London."
On the wall of Council Chambers in City Hall, the names of only a small handful of mayors appear three times. One is Glover, who was selected by her fellow councilors to serve one-year terms in 1995, 1997 and 2007.
Former City Councilor Rob Pero, a Republican who served many years with Glover on the council, said she brings an insider's knowledge of the city and a degree of civility.
"She's a reasonable person. She's someone you can sit down with, and even if you disagree, you can leave the room and still have a conversation,'' Pero said. "She has her detractors, as everyone does when in public life, but you know she really cares about the city."
But Pero, who was critical of some of Finizio's earliest actions, which included accepting the retirements of many long-time city employees, announcing a multi-million-dollar deficit in the budget, and firing a firefighter recruit who would have been the first minority hiring in the fire department since 1978, said he hopes Glover is also advising the mayor when he may be overstepping his authority.
"Jane needs to speak up, and tell him no more acrimony,'' he said. "All his problems so far, are revolved around his own making."
Glover has stood by the mayor on all his decisions, including firing of the minority firefighter recruit, but not before extensive discussions. The city has been trying for years to address the problem of too few minorities in its fire department, she said.
"The world is changing and New London is known as a diverse city," she said. "We have to let it play out.''
Skeptical at first
Glover is a retired children's librarian, was a media specialist in the New London school system, and worked for the Michael Dukakis presidential campaign and Hyslop's campaign for state representative. She also was government relations coordinator for the Connecticut Education Association.
Until taking the job in Finizio's administration, she was the executive director of Kente Enterprises, an African and African-American cultural center, which she founded in 1997.
She was pretty much retired from politics and was skeptical when she first was approached for the job.
"I wanted to know who else was on the list,'' she said. She's been around politics long enough to be cynical. She was told no one else was being considered.
Billie Bourque, Finizio's campaign manager who introduced Finizio to Glover more than a year ago, said Glover can communicate with anyone, is well organized, straightforward and honest.
But, he said, he was surprised when Finizio chose her because of her past support for using eminent domain at Fort Trumbull.
"But I was elated too,'' Bourque said. "I did not think, and still do not think, there is a better person for that job in the City of New London.''
He said although he disagreed with Glover when it came to eminent domain, he said he sat in on meetings of the New London Development Corp. when Glover grilled her fellow members on the pros and cons of the Fort Trumbull project and the city's use of eminent domain.
"She's very vocal and verbal when she has something to say,'' he said. "In the end, she sided with the board because she's a team player and went along with the team, but all along the way, she asked questions.''
'Who are you?'
When Glover first met Finizio, he was introducing himself at a Democratic Town Committee meeting and, she said, he rather arrogantly announced he was going to run for mayor.
"I said to myself, 'Who are you?''' she recalled.
But, Glover said, she got to know Finizio when he stopped by Kente Cultural Center for its monthly fried chicken fundraisers. She noticed he also was confident and knowledgeable when he talked about the city's education system and the New London arts scene.
Then she started seeing his green and white campaign signs popping up around town.
"I was impressed with the young people who were getting involved,'' she said. "And I like the way he handled defeat."
When Finizio lost the nomination for mayor at the Democratic caucus last July, he didn't complain, she said, but rather gathered his supporters and went on an all-out campaign to win the nomination at a primary.
She said she was surprised when he won.
He ran as the anti-establishment candidate, held coffee klatches and backyard lunches.
"He was accessible and he was all over town,'' Glover said.
A brand new government
All her previous experiences have prepared her for the job, she said.
"I love this,'' she said.
Glover has been busy creating a brand new branch of government - even ordering furniture and phones - to meeting with department heads, discussing issues with the mayor and working with the other new members of the department.
"This is the first job I've come to where there was no structure in place,'' she said. "We had to make it up."
As a progressive liberal, she said she identifies with Finizio's vision for the city as the center of the region. She sees New London as a gritty, all-inclusive waterfront community that revels in its diversity. And as a proponent of the elected mayor form of government, she said she recognized that the city had been lacking a single leader who could carry out a vision.
"We are all working on the mayor's vision,'' Glover said of herself, Tammy Daughtery, the office administrator, and Zak Leavy, the mayor's executive assistant. "But it all is going to take time. ... We never knew each other before we came to work together. We're still getting to know one another."