Who We Are
Better Manchester started off as quarterly print and digital magazine featuring local news, stories and the Department of Leisure, Family and Recreation Program and Event Brochure. The concept was simple – be a communication bridge between the community, policy makers and key stakeholders to create a Better Manchester.
We did just that. For ten years we published a quarterly magazine and an accompanying program and event brochure. View all ten years here!
Times, people, and communities change – and so do we.
Welcome to the Evolution of Better Manchester!
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Hey Neighbor! We’d Love To Hear From You!
Let us know how we’re doing! Send us an email or drop us a line! We always love hearing from you and appreciate the feedback.
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Hi, I’m Michelle! Communications & Civic Engagement Specialist by trade and travel foodie any other day. I’m always curious about different cultures, food, and understanding my environment to leave the best positive impact possible.
Fun Fact #1: Can speak conversational Korean.
Fun Fact #2: Have lived in 3 different countries.
Greetings everyone! I was born and raised in Manchester and a graduate of Howell Cheney Tech. I’ve worked part time with the Department of Leisure, Family and Recreation for the last 17 years as a Aquatics Director and a Building Director. Recently I was hired full time as a Recreation Supervisor and will be overseeing the Aquatics program, Community “Y” and various tasks throughout the town!
- Fun Fact #1 I was a Cast Member at Walt Disney World!
- Fun Fact #2 Married my High School Sweetheart who I met while working for the Rec Department.
RiseUP for Arts is Connecticut’s only state-wide Public Art nonprofit with a mission to help communities imagine what’s possible. We launched our CT Murals program in 2015 in response to communities and local artists’ need for support in creating more vibrant and positive towns and cities across Connecticut.
Fun Fact #1 We’ve completed over 25 murals projects across the state
Fun Fact #2 We love Manchester
Nico Arias is a Recreation Supervisor with the Department of Leisure, Family and Recreation. He oversees management and execution of Better Manchester Magazine and Better Manchester Online as well as numerous other marketing and communication initiatives for the division and department. He enjoys hiking, camping and all things outdoors.
Fact #1: Can complete a rubix cube.
Fact #2: Loves PIZZA.
The Manchester Early Childhood Collaborative is a diverse group of community members who strive to support the families of young children, ages prenatal to age eight by:
- Advocating for the advancement of young children’s learning
- Encouraging quality preschool services, programs and policies to promote the overall wellbeing of Manchester’s children
- Communicating about school readiness among families, schools and the community, and
- Developing programs that support families with young children.
Debbie Streeter has been a paraeducator in the Manchester School System for over 30 years. She has been involved in many school and community organizations during this time. In addition to the Manchester Greater Together Community Fund, she is also currently a member of the Second Congregational Church and MISAC.
Fun Fact #1: Debbie and her husband Dean have worked on racecar teams at Stafford Speedway for over 30 years.
Fun Fact #2 During the summer they like to take their camper to different racetracks throughout the northeast.
Art Füd with the mission of “art building community” is comprised of a volunteer group of artists, art lovers, and compassionate souls.
Our signature event, Silk City Fest, is an annual arts, music and beer fest now in its fifth year.
Assistant Director and Head of Children’s Services
Fun Fact #1 Mary Cheney Library Building turned 85 years old in 2022.
Fun Fact #2 The Whiton Branch Library Building turned 90 years old in 2022.
Darryl Thames graduated from Howard University in 1986 with a Bachelor of Arts and is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. He served on the Board of Education from 2012 – 2022. He was subsequently elected to board seats in 2013, 2017 and in 2018 he became Chairman of the Board. In January of 2021 he was elected to serve as Town Clerk of Manchester.
He made significant contributions on the state/local levels of government and has experience with community-based organizations in the nonprofit sector as well. He served as a grants administrator for Danbury and Hartford Public Schools, grants and contracts administrator for the City of Hartford and the Connecticut Department of Social Services, and Chief Operating Officer for the Greater Hartford Urban League.
His focus as Town Clerk is on digitizing and making available electronically the vital and important records compiled by the Town Clerk’s Office. He also works to ensure that the office recognizes and values that it exists to serve the community, holding paramount a commitment to extraordinary customer service and providing a welcoming and helpful environment for the public.
Born and bred in Manchester, Stacey Zackin returned to her hometown after a varied career in Hollywood, working as an Adjunct Professor in the Business Schools of UConn & Univ. Of New Haven teaching Career Development and Workforce Diversity and earning multiple degrees including a BS in Film/Photography, Masters in Social Work and Non-Profit Management and a PhD in Depth Psychology. She brings her experience in the creative arts, business administration and human behavior to her role as Manager of WORK_SPACE, the municipal Coworking, Meeting & Gallery space in the heart of Downtown Manchester. Currently working on transforming her dissertation on The Psychology of Hospitality: Creating Welcoming & Inclusive Environment into a book, Stacey is excited to work with the many people in Manchester who support creating hospitable spaces for people to come together to work and play and share meaningful experiences.
Fun Fact #1: Stacey has checked the following off her bucket list: attend the Academy Awards, walk a full marathon and hold a Koala Bear.
Fun Fact #2: Stacey’s mind is like her office….crowded, messy & filled with exciting discoveries.
Stephen was born and raised in Manchester and retired here five years ago. He and his wife Susan, an avid master gardener, have two adult sons (and their wives) and four grandchildren who live nearby. He is a passionate user of public libraries and sees a new modern library as an investment in the futures of all who live and work in town.
Fun Fact #1: Generations of his family have called Manchester home for over 100 years.
Fun Fact #2: The last time Manchester expanded its library facilities was in 1962 when Stephen was nine years old.
The volunteer group of passionate members from our community celebrate a High Holiday by cleaning one of our local waterways.
Shakir Leacock was born in Brooklyn, Ny. He found adventures, Heroes and Villains in the streets of New York and those experiences are what has shaped him to become the understanding individual he is today.
After spending a majority of his young-adulthood playing football, Shakir re-discovered his passion for writing and creative arts which helped him feel right at home in the rich imaginative culture of Manchester. Since being hired last year, working for the town has been a fulfilling experience and he looks forward to continuing to be a resource to the families of this community.
Fun Fact 1: Loves Sunday Night Football
Fun Fact 2: Author of 2 Books!
Hartford Cricket Club is a non-profit organization based out of Manchester, CT. We defer from all other clubs as our goal is to promote youth cricket and teach cricket to young teens and adults in Manchester and beyond. Our club is the only club in CT to have more than 10 youth on our Cricket team/club.
James Costa is the Neighborhoods & Families Coordinator for the Department of Leisure, Family, and Recreation. He began working with the division during his sophomore year at Manchester High School, and he is now a UConn graduate with degrees in Journalism & Film Studies.
Fun Fact #1: I won my car in a raffle during Manchester High School’s Project Graduation.
Fun Fact #2: My all-time favorite movies are All That Heaven Allows, Punch-Drunk Love & Twin Peaks: The Return.
As a Manchester native, I’m excited for the opportunity to make an impact on and be part of a prideful, thriving, and evolving community. My work focuses on establishing a vision and implementing initiatives to better inform, connect, communicate, and engage with the community.
Fun Fact #1: My first slice of pizza (ever) was at Randy’s Wooster Street Pizza
Fun Fact #2: I’m a proud plant mom 🙂
James Przybylski is a Recreation Supervisor overseeing the Division of Neighborhoods and Families. His responsibilities include progressing the Town of Manchester’s Diversity, Equity, and
Inclusion plan. James is a dedicated husband and father, he resides in Madison, CT.
Fun Fact #1: I’ve been rock climbing for nearly 25 years throughout the U.S. and abroad
Fun Fact #2: I can start a fire with an orange peel
Since 2015 Susan Barlow has served Manchester as its official and acting Town Historian. She leads history walks, conducts research, updates the Historical Society’s website www.manchesterhistory.org and Facebook pages, and produces a weekly Manchester history e-newsletter. Susan served as a Historical Society director for 10 years, public-access television producer for 19 years, event coordinator for six years, and co-chair of the Society’s annual history tours for school children for 10 years. She also serves on the Cheney Brothers National Historic District Commission, as a town appointed advisor on matters within the Landmark District. These roles have all provided wonderful opportunities to meet people, visit historic homes, and find out more about our Town’s rich history. Susan believe that through education and preservation, we can increase awareness of all that we have in Manchester, and improve our appreciation of the town’s past and present.
Bill Ludwig is a long-time Manchester resident. He is a prolific singer-songwriter and the current Official Manchester Town Troubadour. Bill is also a champion of the arts and has been recently named President of Imagine Main Street.
- Fun Fact #1 As of April, 2021, Bill has released ten albums of original music.
- Fun Fact #2 During the Covid-19 pandemic, Bill livestreamed himself singing to his chickens every weekday morning for over a year.
CAST children’s theatre is a regional nonprofit organization based in Manchester for ages 5-18. We are helping to preserve the arts in the Greater Manchester area and beyond with participants from many communities.
The mission of CAST is to enrich the lives of children through the magic of performing arts, thereby inspiring them to strive toward higher goals. We do this one line at a time, one show at a time, one child at a time
Missy has been a Recreation Supervisor at the Senior Center for 4 years and has been working with the senior population for over 7 years. She loves working
with people, the UConn huskies, and anything Disney.
Fun Fact #1 I have a twin sister.
Fun Fact #2 I’ve been to Disney World 10 times.
Design, color, and all things creative are my passion. Through the lens of my Nikon, I see what others neglect and collect moments that pass way too fast. The world is my canvas and the sands of a beach
capture my heart.
GMCC Leadership Academy graduate
Manchester Government Academy graduate
Manchester Police Citizens Academy graduate
SWAN Day CT
Manchester ARTS Commission 2018 inductee
Crimson ART Box
Fun Fact #1 I like to dig in the dirt and paint on walls
Fun Fact #2 Paparazzi for Beauty Queens and K9 First Responders
I am the proud wife of a combat veteran and mother of a 4 year old daughter and 3 year old son. The biggest lesson I have always taught and will continue to teach my children as they grow is that kindness comes above all else. I have been a full time Town of Manchester employee for twelve years now and love what I do, the people I work with and the town that I serve!
Fun Fact #1: I come from a Greek family where food is not only a conversation piece, or a way to celebrate, but a way to warm the soul and bring people together. I love to cook and even have an Instagram page dedicated to just that!
Fun Fact #2: I have been writing poetry ever since I was a child learning how to write a haiku.
Emma Petersen is the Principal Comprehensive Planner for the Department of Planning and Economic Development. She is responsible for leading the research, writing, and communication of the Town’s Plan of Conservation and Development and other plans and studies related to the development of the Town of Manchester.
Fun Fact #1: I love traveling and have been to India, New Zealand, Tanzania, Mexico, and Portugal.
Fun Fact #2: I am a first generation college graduate.
Kwasi (First name rhymes with Crazy but he is not) Ntem-Mensah is a father and a husband. He is a mentor, a Fatherhood Consultant and a member of the Fatherhood Roundtable. Kwasi is currently the Fatherhood Initiative Coordinator working with ECHN Family Development Center’s Healthy Families Healthy Babies program. He is the co-chair of ECHN’s Unity Collaborative where the work is focused on Diversity and Inclusion.
Fun Fact #1: Kwasi is a poet
Fun Fact #2: Kwasi is a shy person
Tana Parseliti is a former Downtown Manager for the Downtown Manchester Special Services District and Downtown Economic Development Specialist for the Town of Manchester. She is one of the original committee member of The Sculpture Project and has worked as a member of the committee since 2016. Tana lives in Manchester with her husband, Frank and enjoys volunteer work and frequent visits to the Manchester Public Library.
Fun Fact #1: I am working to introduce native plants into a small forest area in my yard.
Fun Fact #2: I traveled to Brazil as part of a Rotary Group Study Exchange and have vivid memories of an amazing country and people.
Rotary Club of Manchester Past President (2019-20)
Chair of Rotary Music Garden project
Chair of Rotary Pavilion project
Past President of ECHN Medical Staff
Urologist; retired in 2013
Trinity College 1964
Fun Fact #1: Medical practice in Manchester and Vernon for almost 40 years.
Fun Fact #2: Major, USAF 1973-75
I’m in office administration at the front of the office at the Weiss Center ground floor, we are located at 479 Main Street in Manchester.
Fun Fact 1: We are here for Manchester residents, of all ages.