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Reuben Bradford '81 MPA
Commissioner of Public Safety, State of Connecticut

Career Changer Not Slowing Down

Reuben Bradford ’81 M.P.A. seems to have trouble accepting retirement as a permanent condition.

Perhaps it’s due to his military school background. Born in the Bronx and raised in Brooklyn, Bradford attended St. Emma Military Academy in Powhaten, Va., the only African-American military high school in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s. “My military school background gave me a new perspective, direction and discipline,” he says. “I learned how to set a goal and go about achieving it.”

It’s no surprise, then, that his long-time interest in law enforcement led to his leaving a career as an account manager for Blue Cross to realize his goal and enter the Connecticut State Police Academy. “I enjoyed my job, and I was starting a family,” he explains, “but I couldn’t stop thinking about becoming a policeman.”

He spent the next 22 years with the organization, moving to positions of increasing responsibility before retiring with the rank of major in 1996 as the Commissioner’s chief of staff. It was during his tenure with the Connecticut State Police that he enrolled in the University of New Haven’s Master of Public Administration program.

“Education expands your knowledge base,” says Bradford, who, along with many law enforcement officers in the ’70s and ’80s, took advantage of a federal program that paid for their education. “While most sought bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice, I wanted to learn about public administration because I knew it would help me to think differently. At UNH, I received a great education.”

When he retired from the state police, he was barely 50 and not ready to sit on a rocking chair just yet. “The National Football League was looking for an assistant director of security, and I submitted my résumé,” he says. “I thought it would be an interesting change, to experience security in the private sector and see what I could learn from them, and they from me.”

Turns out, it was quite a bit.

“I enjoyed learning how to operate in a non-government organization,” he says, “and how to apply what works in a governmental organization to the private sector. And I enjoyed the people I met. But toward the end, I was looking to find a career that had more problem-solving opportunities.”

Today he serves as the commissioner to the Connecticut State Police – a position he calls “challenging and worthwhile.”

His current job is not the only challenge he’s been presented with lately. About six years ago, he noticed he was having trouble with his balance. A series of tests revealed that he has a genetic condition called spinocerebellar ataxia, which affects balance and coordination. There’s no treatment or cure, but he refuses to let his condition slow him down.

“You have two choices when you are struck with a health malady,” he says. “You can curl up in a ball, or you can decide to move on.” For a man who won’t accept retirement, Reuben Bradford’s choice is clear.