After nearly three decades of public service in New Haven, Board of Alders President Jorge Perez is headed to Hartford.
Perez, who as Ward 5 alder has represented the Hill neighborhood since 1987, will become the new state banking commissioner, Gov. Dannel Malloy announced at a press conference in Hartford on Friday. As president for two terms — from 2000 to 2006 and again since 2012 — Perez has become one of the most powerful government officials in the Elm City.
If the General Assembly approves his appointment as banking commissioner, as it is expected to, Perez will resign from the board and Ward 23 Alder Tyisha Walker, who represents West River, will become the new president. The board elected Walker president pro tempore of the board last January.
Malloy said Perez’s extensive experience will prove invaluable in the role of the state’s top regulator. Perez, who is currently a vice president at Liberty Bank, has worked in the banking sector for the last 25 years, Malloy said. As banking commissioner, Perez will be responsible for ensuring the safety and soundness of state-chartered banks as well as credit unions.
Perez said at the Friday press conference that he has no plans to leave New Haven just yet.
“I still plan to live in the Hill. I still live two blocks away from where I was raised,” he said. “I’m not going anywhere.”
According to city code, if Perez resigns prior to July 1, a special election will take place to choose his successor as Ward 5 alder. If he resigns after that date, Mayor Toni Harp will appoint a temporary alder to hold the seat until the November elections.
State Sen. Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said at the press conference that Perez would be able to address the needs of small businesses as banking commissioner.
“He will bring to [the job] a new perspective — someone from a city, someone who understands the aspirations of people who are struggling — for small businesses, for others who are searching for lines of credit with a dream and an idea,” Looney said.
Perez said being a community activist has been important to him throughout his life — he has been a banker for the last 25 years, but an activist for longer. He began his professional career working in a mailroom in his teens, and “only in America,” he said, could he rise so high as to become the state’s chief regulator of the entire sector.
Perez, who will earn $142,500 per year in his new position, will be the first state banking commissioner to have a background in community, rather than commercial banking, Malloy said. He added that Perez’s career path shows that the roles of banker and activist are not mutually exclusive.
Walker, who is slated to take over for Perez as president of the Board of Alders, said in an email to the News that the city will have to begin preparation for life without Perez’s guidance as a leader.
“If and when he resigns, all of us on the board are going to have to step up our leadership to continue the great work we’ve done as a team,” she said.
She added that Perez has helped develop agendas and policies over his years on the board, especially in the areas of jobs, youth policies, public safety and fiscal responsibility.
Ward 7 Alder Abby Roth ’90 LAW ’94 agreed with Walker. Roth said Perez exerted an outsized presence on the board, asking probing questions and exercising his institutional knowledge. She said his absence will create a large gap on the board.
“The mayor admires and is grateful for the stabilizing force that Alder Perez has been on the board,” City Hall spokesman Laurence Grotheer said.
Grotheer said Harp will work with the board during the transitional period once Perez resigns and the board enters a new configuration. Roth added that the board is unsure when this transition will happen.
Perez said he will work to ensure that people have equal access to capital by balancing certainty and fairness. Malloy added that foreclosure policy in Connecticut will be a priority in coming years.
Former banking commissioner Howard Pitkin resigned from the post last December. Since then, Bruce Adams has served as acting commissioner.