By John Murray

Waterbury Alderman Greg Hadley, left, helps raise a Pan-African flag at City Hall yesterday as part of the ceremony honoring him as the African-American Mayor for the Day. His wife Karen is on the right, and two of his grandsons are lending a helping hand.

After the flag raising, the ceremony continued inside aldermanic chambers where Karen Hadley sang beautiful renditions of The Star Spangled Banner, and the black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

   Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary commended Greg Hadley as one of the hardest working elected officials in the city of Waterbury.

   Greg Hadley is the sole African-American on the Board of Aldermen and plays a key role in acting as a liason to the Board of Education. Hadley has directed the WOW/NRZ Community Learning Center on Walnut Street for the past ten years, and when funding for the center was cut last year. Hadley continued to perform his duties as a volunteer.

   Hadley graduated from Crosby High School and attended Naugatuck Valley Community College. For many years he worked at the Department of Children and Families at the Long Lane School in Middletown where his work focused on youthful offenders. Hadley was the employee of the year in 1986 at Long Lane School.

   During the ceremony yesterday morning in downtown Waterbury, Hadley reflected on two defining moments of his public work in Waterbury. He recalled the effort of black community leaders to get a Dr. Martin Luther King Day in Waterbury. When the effort was rebuffed by the school board, more than a 1000 black students stayed out of school on King’s birthday. Eventually city officials relented. “Here in Waterbury Dr. King’s birthday was first a school holiday,” Hadley said.

   The other moment Hadley talked about was his election to the Board of Aldermen in November 2011. “I still can’t believe how many votes I got,” Hadley said.

   Hadley spoke of the divisive state of the local chaper of the NAACP, and said the community needed to get its house in order. “We need to fix that problem, and we have to do a better job of working together,” Hadley said. “We have an aggressive mayor – and I mean that in a good way – and we can no longer sit back and wait. We have to develop strategies and plans to work with the Mayor. We are either part of the solution, or part of the problem.”

   The Hadleys have been married 34 years and they live in an historic Scovill home in the WOW neighborhood of Waterbury. They have three children; Gegory Jr., Gaylynn and Geoffrey, and three grandchildren: Savion, Greysean and Zyaire.

State Representative Larry Butler gave Hadley the oath of office. 

There was a great turn-out for the ceremony and Hadley ws later honored with a celebration at the Goodwill Lodge of Elks on North Elm Street. 

Near the end of the ceremony State Senator Joan Hartley, right, arrived from Hartford to pay her respect to Hadley. Hartley made her way to the front of the room and dropped on one knee in front of Hadley in a gesture of deep respect. The chamber erupted in applause, and Mayor O’Leary quipped, “She has never done that for me.”

For anyone who thinks the mayor for the day ceremonies are trite, they only need to look at this image of Alderman Greg Hadley tearing up at the podium to realize the significance the honor holds. “It’s the top honor in the African-American community,” Hadley said. “I was humbled, and overwhelmed by my emotions. It was a proud day.”