Hausladen: the road to Transit Chief

Last week, when snow was once again blanketing the city, Doug Hausladen ’04 was running around New Haven helping to enforce a parking-ban on the odd-numbered side of the streets and meeting with city officials and plowing crews by the hour — he would not get to sleep for the next 46 hours.

For Hausladen, this day is emblematic of the way he does his job as the newly appointed Elm City transit chief. Hausladen said coffee is the crutch which maintain a seemingly endless schedule.

“I could take a more hands-off approach, but that’s not my style,” he said.

Though he has thrown himself fully into his job, a life of transportation schedules and city governance was not the future he imagined for himself as a Yale undergraduate. When he arrived on campus in the fall of 2000, Hausladen was a molecular biophysics and biochemistry major, and took mostly science and pre-med classes for all four years as a student in Davenport College. Looking back, he said he now regrets not taking more classes akin to one of his favorite classes freshman year: “Study of the City.”

“I never really put two and two together that I would go into that career,” he said. “I wasn’t intellectually mature enough to realize what the freedom of a Yale education gave you.”

While he did not take many Urban Studies classes, Hausladen called his efforts to expand the community service program at his fraternity — Beta Theta Pi, which is no longer on campus — his proudest achievement at Yale. He was also a student coach and co-captain of the Yale men’s water polo team and still volunteers to coach both the men’s and women’s water polo teams.

After graduation, Hausladen took a roundabout path to public service. Hausladen and his friend Mark Holden ’03 decided to start their own franchise of a hotel furniture liquidation business in Florida. After getting multiple tickets for improper signage on his business’s land, Hausladen’s interest in local government was piqued.

“I remember … being very confused,” he said. “Then I started learning about zoning, learning about public space management. I remember going to the Building Department in Pinellas Park, Fla. every day for a few weeks and learning more and being very fascinated.”

Hausladen’s interest in local government and his desire to move back to New Haven led him to return to the Elm City in 2006, where he assumed leadership roles on the Downtown Wooster Square Community Management Team. He then met Ward 7 Alder Bitsie Clark, who suggested he run for her seat on the Board of Alders, which he won in 2011. Clark said that she eventually realized Hausladen’s skill set fit the ward’s unique demographics, which was mainly populated by merchants, developers and young professionals. This demographic was interested in economic development and biking safety — progressive issues that distinguished the district from others in the city whose patrons were more interested in “saving a tree or picking up garbage,” Clark said.

But when Hausladen arrived at the Board, he quickly realized he was inexperienced.

“I had very little idea of how to be a legislator,” he said.

Though he was still trying to learn the ropes, Hausladen said he focused on increasing transparency in government. He said his priorities included putting the city’s budget online and remaining extremely responsive to constituents.

Though he is proud of his record on the Board, Hausladen said he did regret the outcome of the formation of the political group Take Back New Haven, an effort to counteract the power of union-packed representatives on the Board of Alders.

He said it  proved more short-lived and ineffective than he anticipated, adding that the resignation of two members from Take Back New Haven, Michael Stratton and Anna Festa, soon after its founding, was a “shot in the foot.”

In July 2013, according to the New Haven Independent, the Take Back New Haven launch featured some blunt criticism of the city’s largest union, Locals 34 and 35, that made it seem like the group was formed to blame Yale’s unions instead of presenting solutions for the city.

Then candidate for Ward 19 Alder Michael Stratton said in an interview with the Independent that the unions were “abusing their membership” and “improperly using members’ dues” in order to use the Board of Alders for their own political purposes, which has been speculated but not substantiated.

Alders had mixed reactions to Hausladen’s Take Back New Haven experiment, ranging from disgust, to apathy to praise.

Ward 2 Alder Frank Douglass said he did not work with Hausladen much during Hausladen’s short tenure on the Board of Alders, but after the formation of Take Back New Haven, he found the prospect of doing so much less appealing. Ward 22 Alder Jeanette Morrison said the movement did not play a major role in her relationship with Hausladen as a colleague. Ward 1 Alder Sarah Eidelson did not return multiple requests for comment.

But Clark said she found the formation of Take Back New Haven, even with its faults, to be a “courageous” act and an effort by Hausladen to get more New Haven residents involved in the civic process.

However, Hausladen was adamant that no one could dispute his constituent work, which was, according to him, his proudest set of accomplishments as a member of the Board of Alders.

Yzvonne Gore, who lives in Ward 7, said Hausladen once personally accompanied her to inspect Section 8 Housing near her Ninth Square residence. He also lobbied for better treatment for her granddaughter when she felt she was being unduly harassed, resulting in the officer reported being suspended without pay.

“I can’t think of anyone I could possibly imagine who would be as concerned as Doug,” she said.

Former Ward 10 Alder and current New Haven Land Trust Director Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM’10 — whom Hausladen supported in the mayoral race — said Hausladen’s temperament will continue to serve him well in his current job as the City’s Director of Transportation, Traffic and Parking.

“Just in general Doug is someone that asks a lot of questons who’s naturally curious and has strong integrity,” he said. “He loves people, and he’s this combination of a very social guy and a tech-nerd.”

Hausladen said he is satisfied with his present job and feels that he is doing what he is “supposed to be doing right now.” Hausladen added that he would like to go to graduate school at some point, but he has been unable to narrow his interests to one field.

Until then, Hausladen has his work cut out for him.

Correction: Feb. 28

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the year Hausladen was elected. It also misstated the year of his return to New Haven. 

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