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Knowing People

May 29, 2005
By MIKE SWIFT, Courant Staff Writer

Whether for his bosses, colleagues or adversaries, Chuck Sheehan loves to give people nicknames. Sometimes they are bestowed with affection. Other times they are not. But always they reveal something integral about the person, in turn revealing something about the namer: Chuck Sheehan knows people as well as construction.

As the former executive director of the Capital City Economic Development Authority, Sheehan was the state official most directly in charge of the $271 million Connecticut Convention Center project during much of its construction. And although he began a new job as manager of the Metropolitan District Commission this spring, Sheehan says he remains deeply proud of how the convention center and other state development projects are changing Hartford.

"It's not ego-driven," said Sheehan, 56. "It's a chance to basically change history through the practice of your profession of construction manager. And I feel quite honestly that it's the major accomplishments - like Rentschler Field, like the convention center, like Capital Community College - that achieve those kinds of goals."

Sheehan has lived almost all of his life in East Hartford, although he recently moved west of the river. He knows what's at stake in the state's efforts to revive the capital city.

During the first three of his five years working on the state's development projects in Hartford, Sheehan worked for the development authority's first executive director, Brendan Fox, a lawyer. While the formal Fox and the jocular Sheehan could hardly have more dissimilar personalities, they were a good team - Fox contributed the in-the-office expertise, while Sheehan's background as an engineer meant he knew his way around a construction site.

Sheehan took the top post at the development authority in 2003, just as construction of the convention center was moving into its most active phase. He was at the helm for one major disappointment, the state's falling-out with Richard Cohen, the developer who was supposed to build the "Front Street" district of shops, restaurants and apartments adjacent to the convention center.

But most of the state's development program, including the reconstruction of the Hartford Civic Center, made great progress under Sheehan's watch. Annette Sanderson has replaced Sheehan as the authority's acting executive director.

"I have a tremendous sense of accomplishment," Sheehan said recently. "We did exactly what we committed to do."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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