There are two New Havens.

In one, opportunities abound — thriving local businesses, beautiful green spaces, a bustling downtown. Our neighbors are engaged activists and loving parents. Our schools educate our children to be kind, transformative future leaders.

But not everyone gets to enjoy this New Haven. Many individuals in our most vulnerable communities are in crisis — all while City Hall has failed to proactively respond to and address the challenges faced by so many residents in a meaningful and lasting way.

I am running for mayor because I believe that city leaders should actively listen to and address the needs of all residents in every neighborhood, regardless of zip code. New Haveners deserve better.

I grew up in Connecticut. After working as a teacher and a foreign service officer, I moved to New Haven and attended Yale’s School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and School of Management. What I found in this city — diverse neighborhoods, a vibrant sense of community and people who genuinely care for each other — made me excited to stay.

However, New Haven faces more than its fair share of challenges. In 2009, done with being frustrated over New Haveners’ needs being ignored and forgotten, I decided to run for Ward 10 Alder.

On the Board of Alders, I was known for responsiveness, smart policy solutions and giving a voice to those who felt nobody was listening. I even gave out my cell phone number to everyone in the City (203-500-2969) because I wanted City Hall to be accessible to all New Haveners.

Being a true leader means that your responsibility to your constituents does not end once you are elected to office. Rather, it means continually renewing your commitment to accessibility and accountability at all times — regardless of whether or not they voted for you. I first ran for mayor in 2013 because I wanted to see our city’s leadership embrace these values, not avoid them.

Since my first mayoral run six years ago, my wife Natalie and I have been blessed with two healthy daughters who have fundamentally changed the way I look at the world. I have also had the opportunity to lead a community-based nonprofit that, through community gardening and experiencing the outdoors, engages residents throughout the city through both personal and professional development.

But while my life has changed a great deal in six years, New Haven has not. Individuals in some of the most economically challenged neighborhoods remain unheard. Thousands of residents are waiting for affordable housing options, activists are struggling to achieve more police accountability and parents have lost confidence in our public school system’s leadership.

In order to harness our energy and help New Haven become a better community with a well-planned future, we need to remember the incredible opportunities that New Haven offers. You are a resident of this city for at least four years — if you fall in love with it like I have, maybe even more. The election might not be until the fall, but you can get engaged in New Haven today.

Change starts at the local level, and your vote has the power to influence every neighborhood in this city. For too long, our leaders have listened to those with political connections over the needs of most New Haveners. It’s time to change this.

It is time for New Haven to elect a leader who amplifies ignored voices and adopts thoughtful policies that work to undo the systemic inequities in our city. As your mayor, I’ll work with everyone to make our government a more accessible and transparent vehicle for progress in all of our communities, finally creating one New Haven in which every resident can truly succeed.

Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 is a Democratic candidate for Mayor of New Haven. Contact him at or at 203-500-2969 .