Gary Jenkins has served as a U.S. Marine, news anchor, commercial actor, city spokesman and church founder. The Kansas City, Mo. native said he now hopes to add the title of Mayor of New Haven to his resume.
In an interview last week, Independent candidate in this year’s mayoral race, Jenkins acknowledged he does not have as much direct governing experience as incumbent mayor and gubernatorial candidate John DeStefano Jr., who has served six consecutive two-year terms. But as a former deputy public information officer for DeStefano’s office and a former New Haven public safety information officer, Jenkins said he is qualified to lead the Elm City.
“The only candidate that has more experience than me is John DeStefano,” he said.
Jenkins said that throughout his campaign, he has stressed the city’s relationship with Yale and the need to address the recent surge in crime effectively.
“New Haven is a vibrant and beautiful city,” he said. “We shouldn’t let crime isolate the students. We need to do what we can to work together to curtail crime.”
But Tyrone McClain, DeStefano’s campaign manager for the mayoral race, said the DeStefano’s tenure has helped bring about substantial improvement to the Elm City.
“His record of achievement speaks for itself,” McClain said. “He’s always bringing more business to the downtown area, the drop-out rate is down. He’s eliminating blight from the city”.
Jenkins cited his military service and his public safety work as experiences that have strengthened his commitment to addressing New Haven crime, along with his safety concerns as the father of seven children.
While he describes himself as compassionate and a man of strong faith, Jenkins said he is also assertive.
“Because of my background, I can be tough when I need to,” he said.
Some of Jenkins’ strongest supporters are members of Sword of the Spirit Ministries, a church he founded in 1990.
Church member and New Haven resident Frank Kelly said that Jenkins has earned the mayoral seat.
“I think he would straighten some things out,” Kelly said. “DeStefano has been in too long.”
Marcella Jenkins, who has been married to Gary Jenkins for 10 years and is managing his mayoral campaign, said she is as much a part of the campaign as Jenkins himself.
“Because I live with him, I can help him put things into perspective,” she said as her husband sat next to her. “I am his right hand.”
Jenkins agreed that his wife plays a major role both in his political and personal life.
“She is that and much, much more,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins came to New Haven in 1985 to work as a news anchor for WTNH-TV.
After returning from Vietnam as a veteran sniper, Jenkins served as a Marine guard for President Richard Nixon at Camp David and then as a reporter for American Forces television in Japan. He left the Marines in 1977.