Angelo Callis: An Advocate for Norwich Youth and Unions

Council 4's Meet a Member profile focuses on AFSCME Local 2422 member Angelo Callis, who retired last month after 34 years with the City of Norwich. If you know a Council 4 member you'd like to see featured, please contact Larry Dorman at [email protected].

Just prior to his retirement as Program Coordinator for Norwich Youth and Family Services, Angelo Callis joked that he was having a party with 1,200 of his closest friends when NYFS held its 16th annual Family Day at Mohegan Park. 

That so many people turned out for the event – a full day of recreational and educational activities, as well as free food – was a reflection of how the department has grown and evolved to meet the needs of the Norwich community.  

It was an unofficial but fitting send-off for Callis, who officially retired Oct. 18 after 34 years of extraordinary service. 

Much of that work was on display during Family Day, which has become community mainstay with its array of recreational and educational activities, along with free food. 

“Life is hard,” Callis said, “but we have a lot of good [city] agencies that help enrich people’s lives. Events like this weave the community together.” 

Helping run a municipal youth services department is akin to raising a family, whether targeting mental and behavioral health, or alcohol and drug prevention. Callis, a licensed family therapist, often describes NYFS as a hub for community-building and family-stabilizing activities. 

“Our job is to do whatever is necessary to promote the well-being of the youth of Norwich,” he said.  

Callis and his colleagues have touched countless lives. He has many success stories to share, including that of a teenager who was referred to NYFS after three suicide attempts. He got therapytreatment, and placement in a nurturing foster home, thanks to NYFS.  The young man went on to attend college and eventually started a chain of health food stores. 

“We often work with people who have been dispossessed and badly beaten and traumatized,” Callis observed. “The system is broken and intent on beating them. We try our best to fix the system.” 

NYFS has also been adept at building community coalitions to deal with teen homelessness, the opioid crisis and other societal issues. Callis is proud of these collaborations, and the working relationships that have been built with other city agencies, like police and fire, to address the needs of Norwich residents.  

Callis is a passionate man who believes strongly in the power of unions to lift up local communities:

Unionism is the framework and basis of democracy. There has to be a counterweight to corporate power and money. Unions are that counterweight. Unions represent fair wages and benefits, and respect. 

Nearly 10 years ago, Callis and fellow Local 2422 member Susan Goldman (now retired) led the push to bring the Norwich City Employees Union into the AFSCME family after years of representation with an independent union. 

Angelo Callis testified before the Norwich City Council to oppose cuts to vital city services and staff.

“The level of support and organizational structure made AFSCME the right choice. It’s worked out extremely well for us,” he said. 

Callis’s positive impact was evident during a retirement party organized by Norwich Director of Human Services Lee-Ann Gomes. The event includes heartfelt tributes from co-workers, a special recognition plaque presented by State Sen. Cathy Osten and Kevin Ryan, and a tribute (with union-made gifts) from Council 4 Collective Bargaining Director Kevin Murphy and Chief of Staff Troy Raccuia. 

Callis leaves public service with a feeling of accomplishment that will be carried on by his fellow AFSCME members as he embarks on a new chapter of his life. 

“We make a big difference. It’s easy to despair over the big picture," he reflected. "The need is overwhelming. But wherever we’ve gone, we’ve made things a little better."