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    Saturday, December 03, 2022

    Norwich names two to head human services, community development

    Katherine Milde poses in her office at Norwich Youth and Family Services Tuesday, October 4, 2022. Milde has been named the new Norwich Human Services Director. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Norwich ― City Manager John Salomone has tapped two Human Services program managers to lead the Human Services and Community Development offices.

    Katherine Milde, the program coordinator at the Youth and Family Services division of Norwich Human Services was named human services director starting immediately. Sydney Phelps, community caseworker at Human Services will start as community development director Oct. 24.

    Milde, 38, originally from Chicago and now living in Ledyard, will keep her office at the Youth and Family Services at 75 Mohegan Road, which also houses recreation programs that are part of Human Services. The Rose City Senior Center, also part of the department, is nearby at 8 Mahan Drive.

    Milde recalled when former Director Lee-Ann Gomes hired her in January 2019, Milde was asked about her career goals. She answered, “I would love to be you.”

    When Gomes planned to retire, Milde was offered an apprentice director position. But she was City Hall employees’ union president. She said she needed to remain in that position, “to learn all the positions, all the people,” before seeking the management position.

    Gomes’ successor, Tara Booker, announced in summer she planned to cut back to part time and leave the city position this fall. Milde felt she was ready.

    “If I hadn’t turned down that opportunity then, I wouldn’t have grown to be ready for it,” Milde said.

    Milde’s 15 years of experience in nonprofit management started at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center from 2005 to 2012.

    Her husband, Lane Milde, was recruited by Pfizer, Inc. in Groton, where he is a senior automation scientist. The couple moved to Ledyard with their 18-month-old son. Katherine Milde started working at the Mystic YMCA while earning her master’s degree in organizational leadership at Quinnipiac University.

    She worked as career center coordinator at Stonington High School, where she helped start the youth manufacturing pipeline with a grant from the state Department of Labor and a partnership with the Westerly Education Center.

    She was hired to run the summer youth employment program at Norwich Youth and Family Services and became program coordinator in 2020. She ran high school social and emotional learning programs and is case manager for the Juvenile Review Board.

    Among her first duties as Human Services director will be hiring an Adult Services Division manager. Booker is serving as interim manager.

    Milde called Phelps “an excellent choice” for community development director. At Human Services, Phelps worked on programs funded by federal community development block grants received from the community development office.

    “I am so excited about the collaboration the position offers between agencies, businesses and residents of the city, as well as grassroots organizations with youths here,” Phelps said. “There’s so much opportunity to improve the physical conditions here in the city.”

    Phelps, 27, grew up in Norwich, a 2013 Norwich Free Academy graduate. She earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology at the University of New Hampshire, with a minor in gender studies. She said she was “heavily involved” in the Black Student Union, equity and identity programs and LGBTQ communities.

    She then went to New Orleans for a year in the AmeriCorps program. She taught sixth and eighth grade math. She returned to Norwich as a classroom interventionist at Teachers’ Memorial Global Studies Middle School, helping students with emotional management and problem solving. She earned her master’s degree in social work at Tulane University in December 2020 while working as an intern at Norwich Human Services.

    She was hired full time in January 2021. Phelps helped Norwich families and students adjust to remote learning. She wrote and managed grant programs to purchase 30 laptops for high school students, provide home internet for 40 families and partnered with Norwich Adult Education to help parents connect to online school programs for their children.

    She administered the $450,000 in CDBG grant money that provided rent and utilities assistance to struggling Norwich families.

    “This community raised me,” Phelps said. “And it’s such a blessing to have had the opportunities this community offered me, and it’s great to be able to give back.”


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