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Women in Business 2021: Shari Cantor, Town of West Hartford

Shari Cantor
Shari Cantor Employer: Town of West Hartford Title: Mayor See all Women in Business 2021 honorees
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Shari Cantor is the mayor of West Hartford, Connecticut, New England’s largest town, where she oversees a $300-million budget. As an elected official, Cantor builds consensus, working to use her positive influence, communication and collaboration skills. Her role requires her to be in constant contact with town administration, town council colleagues and state and federal delegations, as well as school system, non-profit, business, and spiritual leaders. On the town council since 2004, she leads with empathy and openness, making connections that solve problems. Cantor, a trustee of the University of Connecticut, is active in many other organizations as well.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far?

I have prioritized budget elements to minimize increases, saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by creating a novel and strategic plan to address unfunded legacy costs that have increased exponentially over the last two decades in West Hartford. This was done with significant research, analysis and thought and minimizes risk by creating a reserve dedicated to market fluctuations.

What’s the next big goal you want to accomplish professionally?

There is so much that I want to accomplish professionally that the challenge is prioritizing all the work that needs to be done. We are strategically planning for the next 20 years, building on a sustainable community that is desirable to be in and accessible. We’re creating micropolitan districts that incorporate and enhance the work, live and play experience. To do this, we are transforming our transit-oriented corridor and encouraging investment and diverse development in our key business districts.

What’s one of the biggest professional challenges you’ve overcome?

As an elected official, I’m in the people business. Local government protects people and provides the best services we can. This past year has been so challenging. A health crisis was driving an economic crisis that shed light on a social crisis, that showed us that it is so important to show every person respect. To be an inclusive community, this has to be an intentional area of focus.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic forced you to adapt as a leader?

The COVID-19 pandemic has required us to constantly reevaluate and respond with agility, caution, creativity and optimism to a changing landscape. Communication – both for information and reassurance – has been especially important. I am so proud of everyone in the West Hartford community for coming together to take care of each other and continue to provide award-winning public education, be flexible to attract and retain businesses, raise diverse voices, meet fundamental human needs and offer all the services that provide an excellent quality of life during the pandemic.

What do you like to do outside of work?

When you’re mayor, you never stop working. You live in the work. Travel opens my eyes to opportunities that I can bring home to make our community better. I love to be outside hiking, running and biking. And of course I feel so blessed to have an incredibly supportive husband who is my best friend, and four wonderful sons and wonderful daughter-in-law.

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