In Harp, Yale administrators look for new partner

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Photo by Ken Yanagisawa.

Ten months after the race to succeed Mayor John DeStefano Jr. began, University President Peter Salovey’s new counterpart in City Hall has finally been revealed.

After Toni Harp ARC ’78 won the New Haven mayoral election on Tuesday, a congratulatory phone call by Salovey to the mayor-elect marked the beginning of a new phase in the relationship between New Haven and the University. As Harp begins her transition into leadership of the Elm City, Yale administrators — who themselves sit at the tail end of a leadership change from the Levin era to the new Salovey administration — expressed enthusiasm for the new mayor.

Over the last 20 years, DeStefano and former University President Richard Levin built a collaborative relationship, effectively turning around Yale’s once-deteriorating relationship with the surrounding city. But whether Salovey and Harp will be able to recreate that dynamic remains to be seen.

“I’m very excited to work with her,” Salovey said. “I think Toni will be an excellent mayor for our city and a great partner for Yale University.”

Linda Lorimer, vice president for global and strategic initiatives, took a similarly optimistic tone, saying she has admired Harp for 20 years and is certain that the mayor-elect will continue a collaborative relationship with Yale.

On Wednesday morning, Salovey sent an email to the Yale community congratulating Harp and pledging to continue Yale’s strong relationship with the city. In the email, Salovey also thanked DeStefano for his decades of service to New Haven and commended Harp’s challenger Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 for his commitment to continue involvement in the Elm City.

Although he spoke briefly to Harp to congratulate her, Salovey said, he and University Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs Bruce Alexander ’65 plan to meet in person with Harp on Thursday. Though Salovey did not outline a specific agenda, he said he hopes to touch base with the mayor-elect and express his desire to work closely with her over the coming years. Alexander said he has worked with Harp for over a decade and is confident in her ability to establish a strong working relationship with the University.

Salovey said that he is especially interested in working with Harp on economic development and encouraging Yale students and faculty to start businesses in New Haven — a sentiment that several faculty and administrators also expressed.

“The key to New Haven’s continued recovery is to stimulate entrepreneurship, attract investments and create high quality private sector jobs right here in our city,” said School of Management Senior Associate Dean David Bach ’98. “Yale can play an important role as catalyst, but a broad range of actors has to come together for this to happen, and leadership from City Hall is the key.”

Throughout the election, senior members of the Yale administration remained quiet about their opinions on the candidates. When asked by the News last month, Salovey merely said that he had spoken briefly with both candidates and looked forward to working with whoever emerged victorious.

Beyond the senior levels of the administration, though, many Yale faculty and staff were deeply involved in the election — but whether these allegiances will impact the relationship between Harp and the University is yet to be seen.

Over the past months, Elicker amassed a significant amount of support over his competitor amongst Yale faculty members and students. Beyond visiting campus frequently, Elicker built a strong support network amongst the University’s faculty, with the names of professors such as Paul Bloom and Christopher Udry appearing on Elicker’s campaign finance releases, and several other professors — including Douglas Rae, John Simon LAW ’53 and Jacob Hacker GRD ’00 — hosting fundraisers for Elicker, who currently represents many faculty members as the Ward 10 alderman.

“I was disappointed,” Simon said of the election results. “I thought he was clearly the better candidate to be our mayor, and it’s too bad that he did not prevail. I hope he will prevail in the future.”

Others in the University, though, took the other side during the campaign. Deputy Director of Communications Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93 endorsed Harp over the summer and was seen at her victory party Tuesday evening. Enthusiastic about the result, Morand said he expects Harp to successfully work with Salovey as “fellow citizens of New Haven.”

“President Salovey and Mayor Harp will not skip a beat,” Morand said. “Now the mayor is someone who, like President Salovey, came to New Haven to study at Yale and decided to stay in New Haven.”

Though public support was split between Harp and Elicker on campus, Harp was endorsed by the Local 34 and Local 35 unions, which represent approximately 5,000 Yale employees.

Harp won 54.66 percent of the vote on Tuesday.

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