The Social Equity Council, as dictated by the adult-use cannabis law, Public Act 21-1, consists of 15 members, seven (7) of whom are appointed by legislators, four (4) of whom are appointed by the governor, and four (4) of whom are ex-officio members.
Ginne-Rae Clay - Interim Executive Director
Ginne-Rae Clay is an accomplished senior executive with more than 35 years of expertise in government, organizational management, education, community action, and community engagement. Most recently, she served with the City of Bridgeport as the deputy director of the Office of Planning and Economic Development and director of the Office of Housing and Community Development in a position that required her to oversee the management and coordination of multiple city departments, administer the city’s Housing and Urban Development grant programs, and create and negotiate its contracts, among other housing and community development programs.
In 2011 and 2012 she served as an adjunct professor at Central Connecticut State University’s School of Business, from 2007 to 2012 as state director for the Connecticut Small Business Development Center, and from 1987 to 2007 she held several senior level positions at the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development.
Ms. Clay is also actively involved with several boards and community organizations. She is currently the president of the Greater Waterbury NAACP, and is a member of the ACLU of Connecticut’s board of directors, the Waterbury Diversity Council, the Waterbury Development Corporation, and Waterbury Voices. She has earned a master’s degree from the University of Hartford’s Barney School of Business and Public Administration, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut.
Andréa Comer, Committee Chair
Andréa Comer serves as Deputy Commissioner at the Department of Consumer Protection and will be filling the role of Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Protection or designee.
Andréa has been appointed as a Deputy Commissioner for the Department of Consumer Protection, after serving as Chief External Affairs Officer for the CT Paid Leave Authority. Previously, she led communications, strategic planning and workforce development efforts for business, government and nonprofit entities.
Ms. Comer has served on the Hartford Board of Education, as Chair of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving’s Greater Together Advisory Committee, and as Chair of the CT NAACP’s Education Committee. She currently serves as Vice Chair of Five Frogs and on the boards of the Hartford Public Library and the state’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission.
Ms. Comer has a BA in journalism from SUNY Buffalo State, is an Aspen Executive Leadership alum, and a UConn MPA Fellow. She was an inaugural recipient of the 100 New England Women of Color Award and has been recognized by the CT Commission on Children, YMCA, Urban League of Greater Hartford and the CT NAACP.
Kevin E. Walton, Sr. - Governor's Appointee
Kevin E. Walton, Sr. was born and raised in Staten Island, NY. Upon graduating from St. Peter’s Boys High School in 1986, Mr. Walton attended Southern Connecticut State University where he earned his BS in Corporate Communications in May of 1991. Mr. Walton serves as the Director of Equity & Inclusion for the Area Cooperative Educational Services (ACES) in North Haven, CT where he works collaboratively with the Executive Leadership Council and the district leadership team to develop, implement and monitor programs and initiatives designed to ensure fair and equitable treatment of all stakeholders including employees, students and families. Mr. Walton is also responsible for implementing programs and activities that support ACES mission to recruit and retain a diverse educator workforce.
Mr. Walton recently completed his tenth (10th) season as the Head Boys Basketball Coach at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven, CT where he led the Governors to the 2019 & 2020 Southern Connecticut Conference Championships. For his efforts Brother Walton was selected as the 2020 New Haven Register Area Coach of the Year. Prior to Wilbur Cross, Mr. Walton spent fifteen (15) years as the Head Girls Basketball Coach at Career High School where he led the program to three (3) state championships including 2008 when the Lady Panthers finished the season ranked #1 in Connecticut. Mr. Walton was initiated into the Epsilon Iota Iota Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. on May 15, 1992. Over the past thirty (30) years, Mr. Walton has served in numerous local, district and international leadership positions including Basileus, Scholarship Chair, and Social Action Chair and as the Immediate Past Region I Director of the Omega Life Membership Foundation.
Mr. Walton’s professional, civic and community service activities include the American Association of School Personnel Administrators Board of Directors, New Haven Department of Parks & Recreation Board of Commissioners and the New Haven Scholarship Fund Board of Directors. Mr. Walton is a staunch advocate for young people prompting him to start the Leadership Institute where the primary focus is youth leadership development and Young Life Sports which is dedicated to athletic and leadership skill development for boys & girls ages 10-18 years old. Mr. Walton is also the co-founder of Storytellers New Haven and WiseDog Strategic Solutions, LLC. Mr. Walton resides in New Haven, CT with his wife Dr. Karen DuBois-Walton, their sons Kevin, Jr. & Kaleb and their four (4) legged son Koleman Love. Mr. Walton’s motto is “To whom much is given, much is required.” (Luke 12:48).
Kelli Vallieres, Ph.D. - Governor's Appointee
Dr. Vallieres will be filling the role of an executive branch official focused on workforce development. Dr. Vallieres serves as executive director of the Connecticut Office of Workforce Strategies. Prior to joining state government, she worked for more than 20 years as the CEO of two manufacturing companies in Connecticut, has a PhD in adult experiential learning, and serves on the boards of several workforce-focused organizations across the state.
Marilyn Alverio - Governor's Appointee
Marilyn Alverio is the founder and creator of Latinas & Power Symposium, which was established in 2004 as a professional network of Latinas who collaborate and support each other through their career and business journey. In 2019, the group expanded and she became CEO of Latinas & Power Corp. The nonprofit organization continues to grow at the local, national, and global level with in-person and new virtual platforms throughout the world and a mission to develop influential leaders and community advocates. Throughout her 35-year corporate career, she held numerous management positions in the airline, pharmaceutical, health, and financial services industries. Most recently, she retired from Mass Mutual, where she was a marketing strategist and consultant.
David Lehman - Ex Officio Member
David Lehman serves as the Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), the state agency that oversees a wide range of programs promoting business growth, brownfield redevelopment, the arts, historic preservation and tourism.
David also serves as the Governor’s Senior Economic Advisor. He is hard at work at creating an innovative public-private partnership between DECD and AdvanceCT (formerly CERC) that will provide a new economic development delivery model for our state.
David’s business development priorities include helping build our urban centers into engines of growth, furthering the state’s innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems, and strengthening the state’s workforce pipelines.
Prior to joining DECD, David worked in the financial services industry. Most recently he was Global Head of Real Estate Finance for the Investment Banking Division of Goldman Sachs, where he worked for 15 years.
Marc Pelka - Ex Officio Member
Marc Pelka serves as Under Secretary at the Office of Policy and Management and will be filling the role of Secretary of the Office of Policy & Management Secretary or designee.
Christine Shaw - Ex Officio Member
Christine Shaw, Assistant Treasurer at the Office of the State Treasurer will be filling the role of the State Treasurer or designee.
Subira Gordon - Speaker of the House Appointee
Subira Gordon was born and raised in Jamaica, in a small rural community with a 2 percent literacy rate. Her mother was one of the few people who could read, and Subira quickly realized the value of schooling, as her mother was often asked to assist neighbors with undertakings that required more than a first-grade education.
Upon graduation from high school, Ms. Gordon attended Bates College where she earned a bachelor’s degree in history, and spent years afterward organizing workers in Connecticut to advocate for their rights. This was her passageway to political mobilization, policy change and the ins-and-outs of the legislative process, culminating with her role as Executive Director of the Connecticut General Assembly’s Commission on Equity and Opportunity.
At the Capitol, Ms. Gordon worked closely with grassroots advocates and legislators to create equitable solutions for communities of color. Since joining ConnCAN, Ms. Gordon has led numerous legislative victories focusing on educational equity. Some highlights include minority teacher recruitment and retention, education funding reform and working to ensure that Connecticut’s education system is responsive to the needs of students now and into the future.
Michael A. Jefferson, Esq. - Senate President Appointee
Michael A. Jefferson is a graduate of Southern Connecticut State University. He received his Master’s degree in Child Welfare from Saint Joseph College and his Juris Doctor from the University of Connecticut School Of Law. Mr. Jefferson is a member of the Connecticut and Federal bars. He has been a sole practitioner for nearly 25 years. Mr. Jefferson is a long-time community activist and a former radio talk show host. He is credited with establishing New Haven’s first ever community based All Civilian Review Board as a means of combating police misconduct. Mr. Jefferson is the former chairperson of the State of Connecticut’s African American Affairs Commission (AAAC). He is also the founder of the Kiyama (kee-yah-ma) Movement. The “movement” is dedicated to promoting self-improvement among Black males of all ages. Mr. Jefferson is a former member of the Supreme Council of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. – having served as the District Representative (DR) for the organization’s New England region (i.e. First District) from 2013-17. He is a life member of the organization. In 2016 Mr. Jefferson published his first novel - Deo-Vindice (Dayo-vin-dee-chee): The Resurrection.”In his spare time he enjoys writing opinion pieces on matters pertinent to race and equity in American society. Mr. Jefferson has served as a guest lecturer at numerous high schools, colleges and universities. He is the co-founder (along with Attorney Robert Pellegrino) of the popular presentation: Rooting for Tarzan – The Socialization of Blacks and Whites in American Society.
In June 2021 Mr. Jefferson was appointed by Connecticut State Senator Martin Looney (President pro-tempore) to the state’s Social Equity Council. “The SEC was developed in order to make sure the adult-use cannabis program is grown equitably, and ensures that funds from the adult-use cannabis program are brought back to the communities hit hardest by the ‘war on drugs.’ ” Mr. Jefferson is also in his second term as Clerk of the Connecticut Senate.
For his work in the community Mr. Jefferson has received numerous awards. Including, a five time selection as one of the 100 most influential blacks in the state of Connecticut by the NAACP. Mr. Jefferson lives with his wife of thirty three years - Pamela Augustine. The couple has two sons Michael II and Malcolm-Fidel (deceased).
Edwin Shirley - Senate Majority Leader Appointee
Edwin Shirley was appointed to the Social Equity Council in 2021 by Senator Bob Duff, Senate Majority Leader. Ed joined Fairview Capital Partners as a Partner in 1998. In that role he was involved in a broad range of investment management and business development activities of the firm and was a member of the firm’s Investment Committee until assuming his current role as Senior Advisor to the firm in 2016. Prior to joining Fairview, Mr. Shirley was a principal in several investment advisory firms where he was responsible for the design and placement of private debt and equity securities for small and middle market companies. In that capacity he primarily specialized in the Broadcast and Cable industries. Ed began his investment career at Equitable Capital Management Corporation where he successfully invested in debt and equity securities, primarily in Telecommunications, Airlines, and Manufacturing.
As Senior Advisor, Ed serves on the advisory boards of several Fairview partnership funds. Additionally, he is Chairman of the Trustee Board of Union Baptist Church of Hartford. He is a member of the Board of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra where he chairs the Audit, and Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committees, and is a Director of the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts where he chairs the Investment Committee. He is also Chairman Emeritus of the Urban League of Greater Hartford. Ed holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hampton University, and a Master of Public Affairs degree from the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University.
Corrie Betts - House Minority Leader Appointee
The appointee must be one who is from a community that has been disproportionately harmed by cannabis prohibition and enforcement.
Avery Gaddis - Senate Minority Leader Appointee
Avery Gaddis has spent more than 20 years advising and assisting the small business community, specializing in entrepreneurship, business growth and development and strategic planning.
Mr. Gaddis has a degree in Political Science from Central Connecticut State University and an MBA from the University of New Haven. He has served on various nonprofit boards and civic organizations, including Hartford VNA Healthcare, Inc., Waterbury Youth Services, Inc. and Hartford Behavioral Health, Inc.
Mr. Gaddis is a former member of the Connecticut Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, current member of Connecticut’s Minority Business Initiative Advisory Board and serves on the Commission on Racial Ethnic Disparity in the Criminal Justice System. He is a current member of the newly formed Social Equity Council.
In 2015, Mr. Gaddis was named as one of the “100 Men of Color.” In both 2015 and 2018, he was designated by the NAACP as one of Connecticut’s “100 Most Influential Blacks.” He was Honorably Discharged from the Army Reserves in 2002 after serving for eight years.
Ramón Arroyo - Black and Puerto Rican Caucus (BPRC) Chair Appointee
This appointment does not need to meet any specific qualifications.
Ojala Naeem - House Majority Leader Appointee
This appointment must be one with professional background of at least five years working in economic development to help minority-owned businesses.
Fabian Durango, Office of the Governor Appointee