Empower New Haven interim President and CEO Stephen Robinson has resigned effective May 2 but will stay on part-time through June.
Robinson was nominated March 5 to serve on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The resignation has caused some concerns within the New Haven Board of Aldermen but the full board still chose to renew the city’s agreement with the organization Monday.
“There have been a lot of challenges trying to do what this organization was set up to do,” Robinson said. “But I really have enjoyed it.”
Empower New Haven is a non-profit corporation separate from New Haven city government that distributes federal Empowerment Zone funds. Robinson has been interim manager of the agency since the end of 2002. His contract ran until May 31.
Yale Vice-President of New Haven and State Affairs Bruce Alexander, who serves on the board of the organization, praised Robinson’s work.
“He’s a very capable person and I felt that he did an excellent job during the period he was the director,” Alexander said.
Robinson said he will work twice a week as an unpaid consultant for Empower New Haven at least through May and June, and perhaps even longer if his judgeship has not been confirmed at that point. He also said he would like to continue his involvement with the organization, including serving on the board if it were allowed.
Empower New Haven’s new interim head should be named by May 5, Robinson said. The search for a new permanent president and CEO will begin next week, with a decision by early July. Robinson said he expected both internal and external candidates would be considered for the position.
“We’re going to engage a regional search for a permanent president and CEO,” Robinson said.
Some have raised doubts about whether this process will be easy. Ward 14 Alderwoman Robin Kroogman, the chair of the board’s community development committee, said heading Empower New Haven may be “short-term job” due to funding cuts. Kroogman said she has heard both ways about the future continuation of Empowerment Zone grants.
But Robinson said he was confident Empower New Haven has enough funding to continue at least until the end of 2004.
“It will absolutely continue on,” Robinson said.
The organization has been looking for a permanent president and CEO since Sherri Killins was fired from the position in October 2002. Killins said she thinks the lack of a permanent leader could negatively affect the goals of the empowerment zone.
“What has an impact is not having consistent leadership,” Killins said. “Its not a part-time job.”
While the board decided to continue the city’s relationship with Empower New Haven, the aldermen asked for a report in three months about who would be taking over the leadership of the organization. Kroogman said a hearing might be scheduled at that time if aldermen have more questions.
“I don’t think it was seriously in doubt,” Kroogman said of the board’s likelihood for continuing the relationship. “These were just some questions that rose up.”
Before heading Empower New Haven, Robinson had served as the United States Attorney for Connecticut from 1998 to 2001. He also taught trial practice at Yale Law School.