Steve Connor was raised in the village of Florence, Mass., on Garfield Avenue, a dead-end street in a wonderful neighborhood. His parents, Jim and Terry Connor, were lifelong residents of Northampton. Terry was a registered nurse at Cooley Dickinson Hospital for 43 years. From her, Steve learned a lot about dedication and empathy. Jim was a veteran during the Korean War. He taught Steve about service and devotion to duty, and he gave him the work ethic that Steve lives by to this day. Steve, a graduate of the Northampton Public School system, ran track, bowled in an evening league with his father, and learned to juggle - a skill that comes in handy with his current job as a veterans’ services officer.
Steve enlisted in the U.S. Navy after graduating from Northampton High School and served on the USS Midway, stationed in Yokosuka, Japan. After his military service, Steve moved to California and spent a year discovering what he was passionate about: people -- all people and especially those on the margins.
Steve worked at a visual and performing arts program for adults with disabilities. Many of the adults were recently released from state institutions. He learned so much from the students attending this program to include patience and focus. Steve discovered all people have abilities and contribute to our community.
Steve returned home to the Pioneer Valley to enroll at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where he earned a bachelor's degree in theater for special populations. He became a volunteer with the Hampshire ARC for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As a citizen advocate, he befriended a man who had spent most of his life at the Belchertown State School. Steve’s friendship with John was rich and reinforced for Steve the importance of building a sense of community where everyone can contribute and can rely on one another.
Steve worked for 10 years at the Hampshire Community Action Commission’s Headstart daycare program. During his time with the program, Steve was a cook and transported young children to their daycare providers. Steve knows how crucial good early childhood care is. It was not lucrative, but being able to work at the daycare where his children flourished was priceless. And like many workers, Steve had to stay at that job to be able to afford healthcare for his children. During these lean years Steve also worked as a janitor, bartender, and every summer taught at Camp Keewanee in Greenfield for low-income families and children with disabilities. He spent the last 4 summers there as Executive Director. Just a few years later Steve joined their board of directors, a role he just stepped down from in the fall as he began his pursuit of a Masters Degree in Public Policy.
Later, Steve returned to the field of disability services through United ARC of Franklin/Hampshire County. Steve became an educational advocate for nearly 20 families – a position that was both challenging and rewarding.
In 2004, Steve was asked by Northampton Mayor Clare Higgins to apply for the position of director of Department of Veterans’ Services for the City of Northampton. Steve believes that it is an honor to serve, whether it be serving your city, state, nation or community. Steve took all the advocacy skills he had developed in working in social services to the world of veteran services. In a few short years after Steve became director, his department grew to become one of the most active and engaged veteran service programs in the state. From his team’s success in reaching and serving veterans and their families in Northampton, Steve’s department expanded to become Central Hampshire Veterans’ Office, now serving 11 towns throughout the Valley.
For more than 40 years, Steve has led a life of helping others. Through his many years of public and community service, Steve has built a reputation across the state as a strong advocate for youth, veterans and for the intellectually and physically disabled. He is a problem solver and enjoys working with government agencies, non-profit organizations, and private agencies to deliver services and programs to those who are most vulnerable in our communities. Putting people first has been the greatest honor in his life.
Steve and his partner, Karen, reside in Northampton with their two pot-bellied pigs, Seamus and Raphael.