Smith ’98 joins City Hall

Current_Ward_9_Alderman_Matt_Smith_98_top_is_facing_a_tough_primary_challenge_from_former_union_organizer_Jessica_Holmes_bottom_r650x390_1
Photo by YDN.

Matt Smith ’98 became the latest Yale graduate to join Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s team this week.

Former Ward 9 Alderman Matt Smith ’98 began work as DeStefano’s legislative aide on Monday, resigning his seat on the Board of Aldermen with less than a month left in his term. Smith, who lost his seat to Jessica Holmes in September’s primary election, will fill the position vacated by Elizabeth Benton ’04, who was recently appointed City Hall spokeswoman.

Benton, who held the position for a year and a half, said the legislative aide is responsible for informing aldermen about the mayor’s submissions to the Board, which include budgets, policy initiatives and economic development agreements. Smith will also serve as the “point person” for aldermen seeking to bring constituent concerns to the attention of City Hall, she said.

Benton added that Smith’s past experiences in New Haven, including on the Board, will help him succeed in his new role.

“I think [Smith] is a perfect fit for this position — he’s a life-long New Haven resident and a graduate of Wilber-Cross High School, and his experience on the Board of Aldermen gave him a great working knowledge of issues facing the city and the city legislative process,” said Benton. “He’s absolutely perfectly placed to succeed in this position.”

One of the demands of the job, Benton said, is finding a way to work with a variety of personalities and interests of all 30 aldermen.

Smith said his role as legislative aide is also important because of the outlook he brings to the mayor’s office.

“As a former alderman I understand what it’s like to be at the forefront of constituent services and be in touch with what people really care about,” Smith said. “I think it’s an added perspective that I can bring to the mayor’s office.”

Though many on next year’s Board have established themselves as harsh critics of the DeStefano administration, Ward 22 Alderwoman-elect Jeanette Morrison said she thinks the mayor and Board will have a collaborative, not combative, relationship.

“He’s in his role and he’s going to act on his role, and as alderpeople we’re going to act in our role,” said Morrison, who is one of 18 incoming aldermen who will take office in January. “I think any relationship the Board has to encounter is going to be a good one because we have to work together.”

Smith said he agreed, adding that DeStefano is ready to work with the new Board.

The mayor will likely select Jessica Holmes to serve out the remaining few weeks of Smith’s term, Smith said.

Smith lost to Holmes 438-305 in the Sept. 13 primary election.

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