MERIDEN — From his childhood in the Mills Memorial Apartments, newly appointed state magistrate and longtime resident Donald Green has sought to be a role model for youths faced with the same obstacles he overcame.
After 22 years in the Attorney General’s office, Green hopes his new position as a state judge will give him a greater platform to influence positive change.
“I loved what I did as an assistant attorney general,” Green said. “… But now, as a magistrate, it has given me an opportunity to be an even greater role model and reach an even greater number of individuals to hopefully be a positive influence on someone else, who can look up at the bench and say, ‘Hey this guy’s like me, he comes from the same background as me.’”
Former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy appointed Green, 52, as a family support magistrate. Green, who started Jan. 7, presides over cases involving paternity, child or spousal support petitions, and related matters.
Green pursued a career in family law, which includes some of the most delicate cases, because he enjoys “being in a position to effect change in the lives of our most vulnerable citizens, namely defenseless children.”
Green sees his new position as similar to his work as an assistant attorney general, where he prosecuted child abuse and neglect cases and parental right terminations.
“When I was in child protection at the AG’s office, I viewed my role as protecting the health and safety and welfare of children from abuse and neglect,” said Green, who will work in Hartford Family Court.
Green’s interest in helping youths dates back to his childhood in the Mills, a recently demolished low-income housing complex in downtown. The youngest of eight children, Green and his best friends, twins Scott and Stacy Dargan, always dreamed of living a life that would set an example for others.
“As kids, we always talked about working with the community ... getting out of the Mills ... just to show other kids that they could do it too,” said Scott Dargan, a retired correctional officer who has worked as public safety supervisor at MidState Medical Center for 20 years.
Over the years, Green has mentored troubled teens at the Meriden Boys and Girls Club and the Connecticut Junior Republic in Waterbury. He sees his investment in the Meriden community as a way of paying forward the support he received along the way.
“If it hadn’t been for places like the Meriden Boys Club, supportive teachers, my parents, and other role models and mentors … I could have easily ended up on the wrong side of the tracks,” Green said.
Green, the son of Edward and Lelia, was an all-state basketball player at Maloney High School and went on to play basketball at Trinity College, where he earned an economics degree.
“He had a willingness and desire to be successful and work hard, and when you have those pieces together, you have a combination for success,” said Gervais Barger, a teacher at Washington Middle School who mentored Green and the Dargan twins.
Green graduated from UConn Law School in 1993 and three years later was hired at the AG’s office. Green worked in child protection until 2004, when he moved to the office’s fraud and whistleblower unit. He held other roles before returning to child protection in 2012, primarily prosecuting abuse and neglect claims.
In his role as a family support magistrate, Green believes his upbringing gives him “a broader perspective in terms of where people are coming from with a similar background as me.”
Green’s journey from the Mills to the bench is seen as one of Meriden’s shining success stories.
“Don Green is the Rocky Balboa of Meriden,” said longtime Board of Education member Rob Kosienski Jr. “You’re talking about a kid who grew up in the projects in Meriden and took everything that was a challenge and turned it into a positive.”
Superior Court Judge Glenn Woods, long-time friend and mentor, said Green is “eminently qualified for the position.”
“It’s not just a position where you’re going up the ladder,” said Woods, a Superior Court judge for juvenile court in Middletown. “He wants the job, he wants to do well. He was ecstatic when he told me he got the job, so this is not a perfunctory act by him.”
A state law barring judges from political activity forced Green to resign halfway through a four-year term on the Meriden Board of Education.
Green was first appointed to the school board in 2015 after he narrowly lost a bid for an at-large seat on the City Council earlier that year. Democrats appointed Green to finish out the term of Michael Cardona, who was elected to the council.
Green was re-elected in 2017. Democrats last month appointed Wanda Eddy to replace Green until the next municipal election this November.
Kosienski, a Republican, said Green’s “connection to the community as a true role model to students” was his greatest asset to the board.
Green said he first got into politics to better the lives of Meriden youth, particularly young black men. One of Green’s biggest focuses was recruiting minority teachers because “when I was growing up, there weren’t a lot of people who, as teachers, looked like me.”
Green said he has mixed feelings about leaving politics and says he plans to stay active as much as he can as a magistrate.
“I used to love politics, I used to love it a lot. But now, with the way this political climate is, no, I’m not missing it at all,” Green said. “Will I miss the people on the Board of Education? Yes. But that just meanness and ugliness of politics? No.”