Hutchinson Mayor Jade Piros de Carvalho said she won’t be moving or having to give up her seat on the Hutchinson City Council after being hired to a new position at the Kansas Department of Commerce.
Her appointment as director of the new Office of Broadband Development and that of former Hays Daily News publisher Patrick Lowry as director of Marketing and Communications at the agency were both announced Tuesday by Lieutenant Governor and Commerce Secretary David Toland.
Piros de Carvalho, 44, said she signed a lease this week on an apartment in Topeka and will initially be staying there at least three days a week.
“I’ll be working hybrid for a while,” she said. “Eventually, it will be more remote.”
She resigned last week from her job at independent rural internet provider IdeaTek of Buhler, where she worked for the past 6 ½ years as director of industry & community relations.
“The purpose is basically to work towards universal broadband connectivity for Kansas,” Piros de Carvalho said of her new post. “So, I will be in charge of administering broadband acceleration grants as part of the 10-year Kansas Comprehensive Transportation Plan passed in 2020. It will distribute $ 5 million the first year and $ 10 million annually the next seven.”
IdeaTek received one of those grants in early May, enabling it to expand into eastern Seward County. The company will receive $ 260,000 in state dollars, which it must match, to build fiber internet infrastructure for more than 220 homes. It was one of 11 grants awarded around the state.
She’ll also be overseeing the administration of $ 103 million in capital project funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act allocated to Kansas, as well as a yet-to-be-determined pot of money from the state’s share of the broadband portion of the federal bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Among her first tasks, Piros de Carvalho said, will be hiring five staff for the office.
“Right now, it’s just me and one other employee,” she said. “The biggest responsibility will be putting together grant allocation programs and then overseeing the process… The biggest piece of this job, really, is working across the state with (internet) providers and cities and counties, bringing broadband to areas that do not have it yet. ”
“I’m excited to be in this role,” Piros de Carvalho said. “It’s really an opportunity to bridge the digital divide in Kansas. I think we can do it with the funding coming down. “
“We’ll work with providers to see it gets done right and gets done as quickly as possible,” she said. “I bring private industry experience and a passion for the mission of universal broadband connections. I’ve been doing it for 6 ½ years. Now I can do it for the entire state.”
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In the announcement, Toland called Piros de Carvalho “a seasoned broadband executive with experience in government affairs, community relations, business development and marketing.”
“Along with managing advocacy efforts for broadband expansion policy (at IdeaTek), Piros de Carvalho also spearheaded digital equity efforts for the company. She will direct Commerce’s efforts to drive growth and expansion of broadband throughout the state.”
“I’m thrilled to welcome Jade to our Commerce team,” Toland stated. “Her breadth of knowledge and experience with broadband development will take us to the next level. Jade will work tirelessly to ensure that we have the programs in place to expand broadband access across the entire state. ”
Piros de Carvalho is in her third term on the Hutchinson City Council, having served nine years, and is currently serving a third term as mayor. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wichita State University and recently completed her Master of Public Affairs degree from the University of Missouri, Columbia.
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Lowry has extensive experience in the marketing and communications industry, having served as the longtime editor and publisher of the Hays Daily News. His most recent roles include being the director of communications and government relations with the Kansas Community Care Network and the director of strategic communication and engagement with the Kansas Health Institute. Lowry holds an MBA from Benedictine College and will be based in Topeka.
“Patrick has an impressive track record of success as a marketing and communications leader who has a collaborative style and will ensure we market Kansas effectively to the world,” Toland stated. He will hit the ground running to promote our record-setting business development and recruitment efforts, workforce development initiatives, broadband opportunities, and community development efforts. Pat will be instrumental in telling the Kansas story to audiences near and far. ”
Lowry will be instrumental in Commerce’s efforts to create a best-in-class marketing and communications strategy, working with internal and external partners to market Kansas as the best place to do business, the release stated. Lowry will focus on maximizing communications efforts and channeling the communications team to support the overall strategic direction, coordinate messaging across platforms and ensure the right stories are being disseminated at the most opportune time.
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“I am thrilled to join the Department of Commerce and help share the powerful message that is Kansas,” Lowry said. “The number of developments announced just in the last few months reveal the increasing strength of the Kansas economy – and the successful implementation of the Department’s strategic plan. I look forward to becoming part of a group of professionals working so diligently to ensure Kansas is a great place to live, work and play. ”