Daniel Zhao

According to mayoral candidate Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10, City Hall leadership needs change — change he can provide.

The former New Haven alder and current executive director of the New Haven Land Trust is running for City Hall’s highest office, six years after his initial run.

“I’m running for Mayor because I want my daughters to grow up in a city that provides everyone the education and opportunities they need to be successful in life,” Elicker’s campaign website reads.

Elicker added that his commitment to “lifting all New Haven’s neighborhoods together,” paired with his experience in local government and in a nonprofit, makes him the right person to represent New Haven.

The 43-year-old Democrat first moved to the Elm City 11 years ago to attend graduate school at Yale and met his wife in New Haven while they were both volunteering for Friends of East Rock Park. Elicker represented Ward 10 on the Board of Alders for four years before assuming the role of executive director of the New Haven Land Trust. He took over after the organization faced an embezzlement scandal and financial deficit due to poor leadership.

The trust has since quadrupled in revenue and has new programs that address “systemic injustices in New Haven,” including a youth jobs training program and a sailing and coastal exploration summer camp — according to Elicker’s campaign website.

Before his involvement in the Board of Alders, Elicker worked for five years as a foreign service officer in the U.S. State Department. He was posted to the nation’s capital, Taiwan and Hong Kong. In addition, he worked as an elementary and high school teacher for at-risk youth and served for three years as an adjunct professor of education policy at Southern Connecticut State University.

In Elicker’s initial 2013 campaign, he exceeded expectations. Only 38 years old at the time, he competed against Mayor Toni Harp, who represented New Haven for 20 years in Hartford. After losing in the Democratic primary, Elicker ran again in the general election, ultimately losing to Harp by a margin of about 2,000 ballots. She won 55 percent of the vote.

In a January press release, Elicker highlighted several of his reasons for running, such as his desire to tackle the city’s financial issues, improve living conditions and bring back fiscal responsibility.

“The prosperity we see physically manifested through Yale and Downtown hasn’t made it to our neighborhoods,” Elicker said in the release.

In a May fundraising event for his campaign, Elicker said Connecticut politicians typically “wait their turn” for a seat above them to open up and then run, according to the New Haven Independent. He told attendees that he’s not going to wait around for an opportunity to make a difference.

“Now is that opportunity,” he said. “I’ve spent five years learning how to be a leader at the [New Haven] Land Trust, and I see in so many examples around the city ways that City Hall could be serving the people of New Haven better. I could wait another two years, another four years, another six years, but I’m not on this earth to wait and just watch and be passive.”

Caroline Moore | caroline.moore@yale.edu