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Kirkley-Bey Retiring After 20 Years At Legislature

First Woman of Color to Rise to Legislative Leadership

Northend Agents staff

December 21, 2011

Deputy Speaker Marie Lopez Kirkley-Bey (D-Hartford) announced today at a bittersweet reception that she would be retiring from the legislature when she completes her 10th term next year.

Joining the longest serving member of Hartford’s House delegation at her announcement were Governor Dannel P. Malloy, House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, House Majority Leader J. Brendan Sharkey, former House Speaker Thomas D. Ritter, and many other lawmakers—past and present.

“I have truly enjoyed—and been honored—representing Hartford at the Capitol since I was first sworn into office in January of 1993, but I will not seek re-election next year. After finally getting the opportunity to serve under a Democratic governor—I decided I could finally retire,” said Kirkley-Bey. “Although I may be leaving the legislature—I am not leaving behind my values or commitment to social justice. I’m committed to representing Hartford’s Fifth Assembly District through the remainder of my term—just as passionately as I always have. There is still much work to be done.”

“It is a privilege to have served with Representative Kirkley-Bey,” said Governor Malloy. “She has been a true advocate for her district and has given passionate voice to the issues facing the City of Hartford. Her years of commitment to public service and to her constituents is to be commended.”

“Marie Kirkley-Bey has been a tireless voice for the city of Hartford and her pursuit of equality for all of Connecticut, especially her tireless advocacy for children and seniors, has left a lasting impact on our state. Having served with her in the Connecticut State Legislature and having worked with her as a member of Congress I can tell you she will be sorely missed,” said U.S. Congressman John B. Larson. “I want to wish Marie and her entire family the best of luck in the future and extend my deepest gratitude for her years of service.”

Kirkley-Bey was first elected to represent Hartford’s Asylum Hill and Clay-Arsenal neighborhood’s in 1992. In the almost two decades she has served at the Capitol, she has been a strong voice for Connecticut’s working families and the state’s most vulnerable residents championing legislation to improve educational opportunities for all children, fully fund summer youth employment programs, improve the availability of affordable housing, feed the hungry and to reform the judicial system. This year, Kirkley-Bey worked on creating a state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)—a refundable tax credit for working people—something that she had pushed

for many years.

“For two decades, Rep. Kirkley-Bey has been a powerful advocate for the people of her Hartford district and the state,” said House Speaker Donovan (D-Meriden). “Marie fought for those who needed a voice at the Capitol to protect educational opportunities, job training, food security, and health care. She held positions of leadership in the General Assembly and nationally and was an unwavering voice of support for issues of concern to the legislature’s Black and Latino Caucus and the National Black Caucus of State Legislatures on which she served. We will miss her at the Capitol. More importantly, the people of her 5th District will miss her advocacy on their behalf.”

“Marie Kirkley-Bey has been a staunch advocate for her constituents and the entire city of Hartford during her years of distinguished service as State Representative,” said House Majority Leader Sharkey (D-Hamden). “Her many accomplishments as a tireless champion for minority businesses and protecting the safety net that families and children in need rely on will be felt for years to come.”

A former welfare recipient and public housing tenant, Kirkley-Bey found an entrylevel job at Aetna Life & Casualty and worked her way up to a management position during her 20 plus years there. She often speaks about her experiences on public assistance saying, “I was all too often judged by the source of my income and not the quality of my character. During that time of my life I was a negative statistic. Today I am called ‘the Honorable.’ My value system has never changed—just the source of my income.”

“Representative Kirkley-Bey has been a true champion for Hartford,” said Mayor Segarra. “The City of Hartford is truly indebted to her for her tireless efforts and passionate commitment to Hartford families. From housing to employment, her missed.”

In 2003 Kirkley-Bey was appointed Deputy Majority Leader by then House Majority Leader James A. Amann. In 2005 when Amann became Speaker of the House he

named Kirkley-Bey Deputy Speaker of the House. Both appointments were “firsts” for a woman of color at the Connecticut General Assembly.

“Anyone who knows Marie learns quickly that she brings her heart and emotion to every issue,” said Amann, who served as Speaker of the House from 2005 through 2008. “Her deep commitment to her constituents is an example of what makes our government work. Marie is living proof that it is truly possible to give back to society more than we take.”

Kirkley-Bey is truly a political survivor—and fighter. She has fended off numerous attempts by political machine-backed candidates to oust her from office through primary challenges.

“Marie and I have been friends and allies for over 30 years. She bleeds for the City of Hartford and she will be sorely missed. However, she can leave with her head held high for all her tremendous accomplishments over her 20 year service at the legislature and on the Hartford City Council before then,” said Thomas D. Ritter, who served as Speaker as Speaker of the House from 1993 to 1998.

Besides her work at the legislature, Kirkley-Bey is an active presence in the community. For the past 11 years, she has personally paid for the Neighborhood

Night Out held at Tuscan Homes. The annual summer celebration brings police officers and residents together in a casual setting to promote neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships with food, entertainment, games for children, and team sports.

Last month for the 10th year in a row, Kirkley-Bey raised money to help pay for turkeys and other Thanksgiving groceries for hundreds of Hartford families and seniors. Over 600 turkeys along with other groceries were given out this year.

Kirkley-Bey, of Cape Verdean descent, was born in New Britain and has lived in Hartford for 43 years. In the 1980’s, Kirkley-Bey was a founding member of Asylum Hill Organizing Project (AHOP)—a group organized to bring the diverse members of the Asylum Hill community together to work on education, crime, housing, and economic development issues. She served as President of AHOP for two years.

Members of AHOP joined with other Hartford residents to form an independent party, People for Change (PFC), to run reform candidates for the Hartford Court of Common Council. In 1987, Kirkley-Bey was elected to the Council as a PFC candidate. She served four years on the Council, where she chaired the Council’s

Housing Committee.

Besides serving as the Executive Director for the Johnson Stewart Community Center in the Northeast section of Hartford, Kirkley-Bey is the very proud mother of three children, seven grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

Marie Lopez Kirkley-Bey is a Deputy Speaker in the Connecticut House of Representatives representing Hartford’s 5th Assembly district.

Reprinted with permission of the NorthEnd Agent's. To view other stories in this newspaper, browse their website at http://northendagents.com/.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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