As mentor, Voigt was influential

Ward 27 Alderman Philip Voigt, an army veteran, longtime public servant and engineer in Yale’s Department of Utilities, passed away Wednesday at the age of 62 after a brief illness.

During his ten years on the Board of Alderman, Voigt, a Democrat and committed supporter of local unions, was a staunch advocate for the establishment of a living wage ordinance in New Haven, and waged successful fights to keep the U.S. Repeating Arms firearms company, which provided many jobs to local residents, in New Haven.

Many of Voigt’s peers in local government said they will rember him for his commitment to labor issues.

“He was a working class guy who cared about making lives better for working class people in this city,” former Ward 1 Alderman Ben Healey ’04 said. “He was an honest broker and man of conviction who truly cared about New Haven.”

Voigt served on numerous committees and delegations during his tenure on the board, which began in Jan., 1996. For the past six years, the Westville area representative chaired the board’s Finance Committee, the body in charge of reviewing the city’s budget and taxes. He also served as chairman of the Human Services Committee.

“Phil was a work horse,” Board of Alderman Chairman Jorge Perez said. “He was somebody that we relied on.”

When he was not meeting with his fellow alderman or working at the University, Voigt kept busy mentoring politically-active Yale students such as Healey and current Ward 1 Alderwoman Rebecca Livengood ’07.

“For Yale students, Phil was really generous with his time and attention,” said Alyssa Rosenberg ’06, the ward 22 co-chair for the New Haven Democratic Town Committee. “It is sad to lose him at a time when there are new aldermen coming on to the board that he could mentor.”

Healey, who served on the Finance Committee under Voigt, said he looked up to the veteran alderman and often drew on his knowledge about New Haven politics and issues. Voigt, he said, achieved an exceptional balance of pragmatism and idealism that was worth emulating.

“He was a friend, mentor and the person to whom I turned to understand the board and figure out what the right thing to do was,” he said. “Everything I learned about how to be alderman I learned from Phil Voigt.”

Many aldermen said they will remember Voigt as an official who was fair, honest, straightforward and effective. As an person, Voigt’s friends and colleagues said he was friendly, admired, approchable.

“He was our conscience,” Ward 10 Alderman Edward Mattison said. “It was inconceivable that Phil Voigt would do anything not upright and not to the benefit of the city of New Haven.”

Voigt was slated to run unopposed for his 6th consecutive term in the upcoming Nov. 8 elections. Although no arrangements for his replacement have yet been made, Perez said he expects the seat to remain vacant until the elections, during which time the Democratic Party might select a new candidate.

Voigt is survived by his wife Susan, the chairman of the New Haven Democratic Town Committee, and his four children, Clara, Rose, Chloe and Claudia.

His memorial arrangements will be handled by the Iovanne Funeral Home on Wooster Place.

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