In the weeks leading up to his Jan. 1 inauguration, Mayor Justin Elicker made a slew of administrative appointments, keeping some of his predecessor’s staffers while introducing a group of new faces to City Hall.
After defeating three-term incumbent Toni Harp in November, Elicker hired a transition team — diverse in background and experience — to evaluate priorities and goals for his new administration. One month after his election and into the transition team’s work, Elicker made his first administrative appointment and has rounded out his team with a total of 15 new appointees that bring a wealth of expertise to 165 Church St.
“Throughout my campaign I promised to hire people who are hardworking, ethical, have strong issue-area expertise and bring diverse backgrounds and lived experiences to the job,” Elicker said in a Dec. 27 statement. “I am confident that we have a very solid team who will be able to implement a vision of a New Haven where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.”
Of the appointments Elicker has the authority to make, three require approval by the Board of Alders: Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Community Services Administrator (CSA) and Economic Development Administrator (EDA). These are the top coordinator positions in City Hall and serve at the pleasure of the mayor, overseeing their respective departments. For CAO, Elicker tapped former Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson, who has had an illustrious career in local and state government and currently serves as Gov. Ned Lamont’s Commissioner of the Department of Revenue Services. Sean Matteson, Elicker’s pick for Chief of Staff, held the CAO position in Harp’s administration after serving as former Mayor John DeStefano’s Chief of Staff.
Ward 22 Alder and President Pro Tempore Jeanette Morrison told the New Haven Independent on Dec. 6 that she cannot decisively say whether she will support Jackson, but she is excited to work with any Elicker appointee “as long as their goal is to do the best for the city of New Haven,” she said.
Elicker’s picks for CSA and EDA are former Connecticut Department of Health Chronic Disease Director Dr. Mehul Dalal and Deputy Economic Development Administrator Michael Piscitelli, a holdover from the Harp administration. In addition to Piscitelli, Elicker’s team features two others from Harp’s tenure: Matteson, though in a new role, and Budget Director Michael Gormany, who will stay in his current position.
For his remaining appointments, Elicker drew from local and statewide talent. Policy Assistant and Community Liaison Omena McCoy worked in the Democratic Caucus in Hartford. Jackson works in the Lamont administration and Director of Legislative Affairs. Kevin Alvarez and Liaison to the Board of Alders Taijah Anderson both worked in the office of U.S. Rep. Joseph Courtney, who represents the most eastern third of the Nutmeg State. Ethics attorney Patricia King, who served on New Haven’s City Plan Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals and as Assistant Corporation Counsel, will serve as Corporation Counsel, the chief city lawyer. Both of Elicker’s administrative aides are longtime New Haveners: Maria Melendez is a native to Fair Haven, and Patricia Drax has lived most of her adult life in the Elm City.
Of the 15 appointments Elicker has made so far, 12 are individuals of color, 11 of whom are black or Latino. Two positions remain vacant: Director of Cultural Affairs, which requires consultation with the Cultural Affairs Commission, and Director of Parks. Elicker intends to appoint current Director of Parks Operations Bill Carone to the latter position.
The three coordinators — CAO, CSA and EDA — each oversee various department heads, all of whom are all in the middle of four year terms, meaning that Elicker will not make appointments to those positions.
Mackenzie Hawkins | email@example.com