Mayor-elect Toni Harp ARC ’78 tapped Matt Nemerson SOM ’81 for the role of economic development administrator on Thursday, announcing one of her first major appointments less than two weeks before she takes office on Jan. 1.
Nemerson backed Harp after ending his own bid for the mayor’s office in June, later joining the Harp campaign’s economic development team. He is a former president of the New Haven Chamber of Commerce and founding vice president of the business incubator space at Science Park.
Nemerson told the News Thursday that he sees all of his previous career experience as leading to this job in City Hall. He said he has been thinking about development and job creation in New Haven ever since he was a teenager living in Woodbridge, CT. Urban studies drove his academic pursuits both as an undergraduate at Columbia University and as a student at the Yale School of Management.
Nemerson will replace Kelly Murphy, who served for eight years under outgoing mayor John DeStefano Jr., and is stepping down after 20 years in office. Nemerson said much of his initial work will be seeing through ongoing projects, including the largest-ever downtown development project on the site of the former New Haven Coliseum.
“There is so much going on already. The immediate challenge is to make sure we don’t drop any balls,” Nemerson said.
Still, Nemerson said the new administration will make neighborhood development an early priority. He said working on the “arterioles” of the city — often neglected areas along Whalley, Grand and Dixwell Avenues — can make them regional economic destinations and improve local commerce. Broader development in New Haven neighborhoods was one of Harp’s principal campaign promises. Attracting small businesses by improving the aesthetics of the city’s corridors, while updating transportation and parking capabilities, will help the administration make good on that promise, Nemerson said.
He also said cooperation with Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy will be a mainstay of the city’s economic development work. Harp’s close alliance with Malloy and members of the state’s general assembly will allow the city administration to collaborate with the state on issues such as the expansion of Tweed New Haven Regional Airport and funding for highway projects, he said.
Harp has also announced that she hopes to tap Tomás Reyes, former president of the Board of Aldermen, as her chief of staff. Last week, she sent letters to a handful of current mayoral appointees, telling four of them she would like to keep them on and 10 of them that they will be out of a job come Jan 1. She asked Budget Director Joe Clerkin and Corporation Counsel Victor Bolden to stay, in addition to two mayoral aides.
Harp has also said that she hopes to retain New Haven Police Chief Dean Esserman. The terms of some top officials — including Erik Johnson, the head of the Livable City Initiative, and New Haven Fire Chief Michael Grant — do not expire until February.
“[Nemerson] has literally been preparing for this job for the past 40 years, and his extensive legacy of success over that time bodes well for a vibrant future for our local economy,” Harp said in a Thursday press release. “There is no one else in Connecticut who can bring to this position the combination of business knowledge, familiarity with local history, and effective techniques for promoting economic growth.”
Nemerson currently serves as the CEO of the Connecticut Technology Council, a statewide association of technology companies.