At MetroHartford Alliance, A Young Man Nurtures His Passion For The City
By JENNA CARLESSO
April 12, 2012
HARTFORD Little goes on in Hartford without Julio Concepcion knowing about it.
He can tell you about the city's budget deficit, its tax structure and its politics. He knows the government players, the police department and the businesses.
He's not a politician or CEO. He's just interested in what makes Hartford tick.
On any given day, Concepcion can be spotted sitting at the back of city council meetings, budget workshops or community gatherings.
He said his job at MetroHartford Alliance as liaison between the city, its businesses and neighborhoods doesn't require him to be a fly on the wall at countless municipal functions, but he enjoys being involved and informed.
"What brought me to the city was a job. What made me stay was really the community, the people and everything that goes on," Concepcion, 29, said. "I fell in love."
After graduating from the University of Connecticut in 2004, Concepcion moved to Hartford and joined then-Mayor Eddie Perez's staff as a community liaison. The job was "an eye-opener" to the social issues residents face, he said, and has fueled his ambitions to someday work in policy-making.
"You think you know the world and the city, but when you're working at the mayor's office, your eyes really open up to the social problems poverty, unemployment," he said. "Those are things as a community liaison you really had to deal with, and it made you want to help even more."
Since then, Concepcion has made a name for himself in many city circles. In 2008, he co-founded Hartford Crime Stoppers with Assistant Police Chief John Horvath. He serves on the boards of the Downtown Business Improvement District, Hartford Areas Rally Together, The Knox Foundation, the Hartford Community Loan Fund, the Hartford Public Library and Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, among others.
His interest in local politics and government began years earlier, while attending East Hartford High School. While serving as class president, Concepcion was invited by then-state Rep. Melody Currey to attend town council meetings.
"The wheels started turning in my head," Concepcion said. "I thought, this is what I want to do policy-making, change-making."
In 2007, he was hired by MetroHartford Alliance, where he's been active in several projects, including Live Hartford, an initiative that runs tours of available city homes and apartments and provides information online about rental opportunities, properties for sale and homeownership programs. While leading his first tour of Hartford three years ago, he showed two homes that were later purchased by people in his group. Concepcion bought a house in the city's West End in November.
Concepcion's efforts were noticed.
"He's a true Hartford person. He lives and breathes the city," said Michael Zaleski, head of the downtown business improvement district. "He's got a fresh perspective and sees the potential. He's the type of younger leader the city needs."
R. Nelson "Oz" Griebel, CEO of MetroHartford Alliance, called Concepcion's attitude about Hartford "infectious."
"He's the kind of person who stokes your optimism about the future of the city," Griebel said. "He brings the passion and the commitment. He has the intellectual and emotional horsepower that can be an invaluable asset to the city over the long haul."
City Councilman Luis Cotto said he hopes Concepcion, a former member of the city's Democratic town committee, would consider getting into politics.
"We need to get some new blood up in there, and I think Julio is the personification of that," Cotto said. "He knows the city, he knows the processes, he knows the populace. He's the kind of guy we want going on to be a city council person."
Concepcion said he is working on another component of Live Hartford: A homeownership incentive program in which city corporations would provide grants to employees who buy a home in Hartford. The grants could be used for closing costs or a down payment on a property.That plan is pending state legislative approval.
He said he also wants to run for political office someday.
"Maybe it's naοve, but I want to change the process to make it more inclusive, to this day," he said. "Anytime you want to make a substantive change you have to be involved and know who the changemakers are. You have to be as informed as possible."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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