Sarah Eidelson is both a Democrat and a friend.
Let me explain.
As a Democrat, I support Eidelson’s re-election to the Board of Alders because of the work she’s done and the work that still needs to be done.
My first real experience working with Sarah came during the New Haven charter reform process in 2013. The city automatically begins a charter revision process every 10 years, so Sarah invited Yale students to work with her to figure out how to revise the charter in a way that would maximize the opportunities for New Haven residents.
Importantly, however, the conversation was not driven by ideas about what we thought would be best. Instead, it was about how we could help amplify the voices of New Haveners in a way that would give them a larger say in their own government.
After discussing the issues more with the community, Sarah eventually helped us find the most useful way of engaging with the reform process: supporting New Haven high school student seats on the New Haven Board of Education.
It was, in many ways, a perfect match: Community leaders wanted more information about how school boards with student representatives worked, and many Yale students could offer their experiences serving on local school boards in high school.
Over the coming months, Sarah helped a coalition of students organize official testimony at charter revision hearings and then returned to educate Yale students about the changes they would be voting on that fall. In the end, our strategy did not rely upon Yale students riding in on white horses to save New Haven schools; rather, we wanted to give New Haven students agency in affecting change in their own communities.
In this process, Sarah proved her worth as an effective leader. Having already established the trust of her fellow alders, she was able to connect students and policymakers to ensure that interests were aligned and students would actually benefit from the changes. But like any good local leader, she also obsessed over the details — trying to figure out term lengths, rotation schedules and eligibility requirements — in order to turn big ideas into concrete reform. It was a model for how the Ward 1 alder can and should operate in the city.
That dedication to public service alone is reason enough to vote for Sarah. But some of the most inspiring moments for me happened when Sarah put aside the politics and just became my friend.
Over the past six months, I struggled to figure out my role in the Ward 1 primary. After a bit of a tumultuous summer, I was at a breaking point. Two of my good friends, Sarah Eidelson and Fish Stark, were both vying for the same position, and it was taking a severe emotional toll on me. I believed then, and I still continue to believe, that both were doing so with the best of intentions. But both were also pushing me to my limits. Both very clearly wanted the endorsement or implicit backing of the Yale Dems, and I very clearly did not want to offer it to either at that stage.
After a few testy exchanges with Sarah over the summer, I finally just met up with her in New Haven. I couldn’t help it; in the middle of Cross Campus, I just broke down crying. I’ll never forget that moment because I saw Sarah put aside her copy of the New Haven Register, complete with a large headline about the New Haven jobs crisis, and just give me a much-needed hug. For the next half-hour, we talked — not about city politics, or the Yale Dems or her work on the Board of Alders — but about my own mental health. She wanted to know that I was getting the help I needed and told me to simply take the summer off from local politics.
Until that day, I never truly considered Sarah Eidelson my friend. We had worked on projects together in New Haven, sure. But we had never talked as openly and honestly as we did that day. Her small gestures of kindness and sincere concern about my well-being that summer inspired my confidence in her as a human being far more than any piece of legislation she could have pushed through the Youth Services Committee.
Sarah has endured an unrelenting barrage of criticism on campus and, frankly, within the pages of this very paper. But as Sarah runs for re-election, I’m proud to stand beside her once more as she works to build upon the progress she’s already made in this city. Sarah approaches her work in this city with humility, she works with a team and she ultimately works to empower the voices of each and every New Havener because she cares.
Sarah has proven she can navigate complex situations with passion and resolve. She has fully integrated herself into the New Haven community far more than any Yale alder before her, and I, for one, am proud to say I will be casting my last ballot here at Yale for the re-election of my alder and my friend.
Tyler Blackmon is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .