Jelani Lawson will not seek fourth term

Ward 2 Alderman Jelani Lawson ’96 said Thursday he will not seek re-election to the city’s governing board this fall.

Lawson, a Democrat first elected to the Board of Aldermen in 1995, said he is leaving to attend law school, but has not decided where he will study.

Two potential candidates said they are considering running to replace Lawson, who represents the Dwight neighborhood located just west of campus.

Lawson said he would like Linda Townsend-Maier, an office manager with extensive involvement in the ward’s community organizations, to be his successor on the board.

Thursday night, Townsend-Maier said she was still making up her mind.

“I’m considering it very carefully and looking to get some feedback from people in the neighborhood and people on the ward committee about the possibility of my candidacy,” Townsend-Maier said.

Townsend-Maier, who said she has lived in New Haven since she was 3 years old and in the same neighborhood for most of her life, is former chair of the Dwight Central Management Team. She said during her tenure the community development group, which received a federal grant, produced a neighborhood plan and founded the Greater Dwight Development Corporation. She later went on to be president of the GDDC.

Lawson praised Townsend-Maier’s work.

“She is a neighborhood leader and activist who over the past 10 years has shown an ability to work with diverse sets of people and initiate projects,” Lawson said. “I expect Linda would continue that tradition as alderman.”

Joyce Chen ’01, a Jonathan Edwards senior who lives in the ward, said she is also considering running for the position. She stressed that any candidate should be serious about serving the residents of the ward.

“I think it’s a very important position, a position no one should take lightly,” Chen said. “If I were to run, it would not be used as a stepping stone for a future political career.”

Board of Alderman President Jorge Perez said he had not heard of Lawson’s decision.

“Until he talks to me, I think he’s going to seek re-election,” Perez said.

Ward 1 Alderman Julio Gonzalez ’99, who has worked with Lawson on several projects, commended his leadership.

“He’s been a very constructive and effective leader while at the same time being autonomous on issues ranging from fiscal discipline to civilian review,” Gonzalez said. “The board will miss him.”

Lawson was elected chairman of the board’s Black and Hispanic Caucus last year.

Gonzalez, who represents most of Yale’s undergraduates, and Ward 7 Alderwoman Esther Armmand, whose ward includes Pierson and Davenport colleges, have both announced they will not seek re-election.

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