Albert Ilg is something of a legend in Connecticut local government. With a career spanning more than four decades, including 32 years as Windsor’s town manager, Ilg paved the way for many initiatives and policies taken for granted today.
“Al was very much a trailblazer,” says West Hartford Town Manager Matthew Hart ’97 JD, ’98 MPA. “He did a lot of good things to empower the larger workforce to the benefit of the town and community.”
Connecticut Main Street Center CEO Patrick McMahon ’96 JD, MPA agrees. “Al was ahead of his time on issues such as sustainability and preserving open space,” he says. “Northwest Park in Windsor is a great example of Al’s contributions in this area.”
Ilg was also responsible for hiring Connecticut’s first female police officer in 1973 and one of the first Black police chiefs in New England in 1979; establishing pay equity for female employees in Windsor in 1984; and helping Windsor to become the first government in the United States to be managed by self-directed teams. In 1998, Windsor became the only town in the state to receive the Connecticut Award for Excellence, modeled after the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.
For more than 20 years, Ilg has shared his expertise and passion for local government with students in UConn’s Master of Public Administration (MPA) program, serving as a mentor and facilitating internships for MPA students, including Hart and McMahon.
“I interned with Al during my second year in the MPA program and it was a transformative experience,” Hart says. “Al’s love for the field and for public service was infectious and the internship inspired me to go into local government.”
McMahon was similarly inspired. “I owe the start of my career in economic and community development to Al,” he says.
In 2000, impressed with what he saw in UConn’s program, Ilg helped establish the Albert Ilg Fellowship in Local Government, which supports full-time graduate students in UConn’s MPA program. The fellowship helps support recipients during their year-long internship, which is a requirement for graduation in UConn’s 50-year-old MPA program. Three of the MPA program’s eight focus areas include public financial management and two new local government tracks in urban planning and state and local management. UConn is currently ranked 9th in the nation in public financial management.
Mohamad Alkadry, head of the Department of Public Policy says these tracks help funnel more people into local government careers, which is important to Ilg. “Al wanted to create a pathway to encourage more students to specialize in local government, and he has accomplished that with his fellowship,” he explains. “The Albert Ilg Fellowship in Local Government adds value to our efforts to prepare the next generation of local government public service professionals.”
“We need more people who have this type of background education,” Ilg says. “You can really see the difference between someone who has the experience and those who do not.”
Claire Morris ’14 (CLAS), ’20 MPA agrees. Morris, the 2020 Albert Ilg Fellowship recipient, interned with the Town of Southbury and now works as Southbury’s assistant to the first selectman. “It makes a difference when you have the education and learn how to run things more efficiently,” she says. “UConn’s MPA program armed me with applicable knowledge and skills I use in my career today.”
Joshua Kelly ’19 MPA, the 2019 Albert Ilg Fellowship recipient, says that the MPA program and fellowship gave him “an understanding of what it means to step up and take on these leadership positions.” In February 2021, Kelly was appointed town manager of Winsted following a career as Bolton’s town administrator.
“Al’s continued legacy through his fellowship, making sure others have the means to contribute to their communities, is wonderful,” Kelly says. “He has inspired me to think about the type of legacy you can leave and ways to help other leaders find their own paths forward.”
Ilg says that he looks forward to continuing his relationship with UConn and contributing however he can. “There is a lot of responsibility that comes with a career in local government,” he says. “The students coming out of the UConn program are well equipped to take on these roles.”