Ex-Hartford Treasurer Kathleen Palm Devine, who recently ended 12 years as elected fiduciary of the city’s cash accounts, bond financing and its pension fund, has plenty in common with her successor, Adam M. Cloud.
For starters, both see the city as poised to harness the economic clout and brainpower of the treasurer’s office to rejuvenate itself.
But the similarities run deeper: Devine, 63, is a fourth-generation resident who is passionate about her family’s deep roots in the city. So is Cloud, scion of a family with extensive business, political and education ties to
Devine raised her grown daughter in the city. Cloud, 41, is raising his family in the city’s West End.
They, too, are fervent that the city treasurer keep an unpoliticized hand in managing the $1 billion nest egg that supports 3,000 city retirees whose ranks Devine now joins.
Both sat recently for an interview with HBJ in Devine’s old office — Cloud’s new digs — overlooking downtown’s Constitution Plaza, to discuss the past, present and future of the treasurer’s office.
The immediate task confronting Cloud, the pair say, is keeping the treasurer’s office, with its team of 16 investment advisers and administrators and support staff, on the track Devine set during her tenure.
Devine is proud that the city has kept its “A’’ bond rating and that its contribution to the public pension, as a percentage of its budget, has stayed fairly modest. The city’s 3 percent contribution to the pension — compared to less than 1 percent in previous years — rose in response to the drop in the value of pension assets due to the volatile markets following the 2008 economic collapse, she says.
And the pension fund mustered an 11.5 percent return as of last June 30, a result that exceeded the city’s 8 percent benchmark.
Another source of pride: The city pension fund has assets to cover 97 percent of what it owes to eligible retirees, authorities say.
“We have 3,000 people who rely on us to make the right decisions,’’ she said. “It’s a huge responsibility.’’
Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra is among many who laud Devine for “guarding over that fund like a hawk.’’ Segarra also praised her willingness to collaborate with City Hall “to find new and creative ways to meet the new and unique requirements of our city charter.’’
On that score, Devine and Cloud say the treasurer’s office should continue that partnership. Both see the office taking on a greater role as a catalyst for nurturing the city’s financial and economic development. They also see room for the corporate community in that vision.
“We’re going to have to find new ways of doing business,’’ Devine says. “This office can be a great help to the mayor and city council … in finding solutions.’’
The treasurer’s office has long leveraged the millions the city has in dozens of bank accounts, for instance, to convince lenders to mentor and fund youth programs and activities and other Hartford initiatives. However, Cloud says he is surveying his counterparts in other U.S. cities to devise best practices “that would push that envelope a little further.’’
Cloud’s skills as a lawyer with broad experience in public-sector finance nationally from his days at former Hartford investment bank Advest Inc., would be valuable in advancing the city on that track, observers say.
“I want to be a partner in solving problems,’’ Cloud said. “I’m certainly not a jack-of-all-trades, but I think I bring enough to the table that I can help when asked.’’
Sam Hamilton, CEO of the Greater Hartford Business Development Center Inc., agrees. “He knows folks and folks know him,’’ said Hamilton, who has known the Cloud family since Adam was a youngster.
Over the years, Hamilton, who also runs the Hartford Economic Development Corp., which partners in promoting the city’s economic resources, also has witnessed Devine in action.
“She’s been a good person and a strong advocate for the city of Hartford,’’ he said. “And she’s been consistent in that approach.’’
Finance was Devine’s latest career. Her father was an ad exec active in city Democratic politics and her mother was a journalist. Devine started out as a reporter, first at United Press International in Maine, then returning as a writer for the Hartford Advocate.
It was there, in the early ‘80s, that her keen knowledge of the city, reflected in her writing, drew the attention of John Zakarian, then The Hartford Courant’s editorial page editor.
“She was what we called in those days an ‘alternative journalist’,’’ said Zakarian, now retired. “Her writing was opinionated and that’s what we wanted.’’
Zakarian says Devine, at the time a single mother, never gave any indication she was destined for municipal finance.
“She didn’t even write about finance,’’ he said. “Her writing was on Hartford politics. Frankly, I was surprised she went into elective politics.’’
Zakarian says he always thought Devine might one day run for mayor.
“Absolutely not,’’ Devine said, although she says she was encouraged to over the years. “I just couldn’t see leaving [as treasurer] to run for mayor.’’
After some four years at The Courant, in 1988 she left to go to work for then state Treasurer Frank Borges as his press secretary. There, Devine was educated in municipal finance — including debt management, investing and bonding. She later served as an investment officer for the state pension fund.
Devine left in 1993 when Borges resigned to work on Wall Street, and soon after joined United Technologies Corp., working as a media spokesman in its Carrier and Pratt & Whitney divisions.
Later, Devine returned to the state treasurer’s office to work for Joseph Suggs. In 1995, then City Treasurer Denise Nappier hired her as an assistant treasurer.
Devine spent five years in that post, before being tapped by then Mayor Mike Peters to fill out Nappier’s unexpired 12-month term when Nappier was elected state treasurer in 1998.
Except for a Democrat primary challenger and a brief GOP challenger who withdrew before her first election bid in 1999, Devine has run unopposed in her subsequent elections.
Devine says she never took her treasurer job for granted. She says she promptly returned all phone calls, and if she didn’t know how to help the caller, she says she directed them to the right person.
Devine points to similarities between being treasurer and being a journalist.
“It’s a helping profession,’’ she said.
The former treasurer was one of 29 city employees who took the city up on its offer of early retirement to curb costs. Her goal is spending more time with her husband, geologist Joseph D. Devine III, at their second home on the shoreline and with their seven grandsons.
Meantime, she plans to resume volunteering with Real Art Ways, Harriet Beecher Stowe House and other charities with which she grew distant after the 2008 economic collapse.
“I haven’t been able to do much of that in the last few years,’’ she said.
Cloud says Devine approached him near the end of 2010 about succeeding her. After a month of reflection, he chose to serve out the remaining 10 months of Devine’s term. He intends to stand for election in November.
His salary is $140,000 a year; Devine’s pay was $156,800 her final year.
Cloud is one of three children of former state lawmaker Sanford I. Cloud Jr., now a land developer-investor. His mother, Diane Cloud, is a Bloomfield educator.
After graduating from Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford, Adam Cloud earned undergraduate and law degrees from Howard University in Washington D.C.
He returned to Hartford, working in Advest’s public-finance department, racking up Washington, Atlanta, and other U.S. cities as clients.
More recently, he served as financial adviser to the city of Hartford. Cloud also has served on the board of the Hartford Economic Development Commission and the Hartford Redevelopment Agency.
Like Devine, observers say, his background in public finance, combined with his own local roots, should benefit the city.
Peter Stevens is president of JCJ Architecture in Hartford. Stevens also chairs the independent three-member panel that, together with the treasurer, oversees the city’s pension fund.
He said he admired that Devine kept a steady hand on the fund even during the economy’s darkest days.
“Now that opportunity goes to Adam at a time when there will be challenges,’’ Stevens said. “But I feel he’s up to it.’’