Jessie Cheung, Staff Photographer

Karen DuBois-Walton ’89 has not formally confirmed her candidacy for mayor in New Haven’s upcoming fall election. However, DuBois-Walton’s recent decision to temporarily step away from her role as president of Elm City Communities, or ECC, suggests she may be preparing for her mayoral bid. 

On Wednesday morning, DuBois-Walton announced that she would be taking a leave of absence from her position as president of Elm City Communities, the Housing Authority of New Haven, effective May 1. Du-Bois-Walton has held this position for 14 years, and her leave of absence is scheduled to end on Sept. 30. Senior Vice President of the Glendower Group — a subgroup of ECC which focuses on real estate development — Shenae Draughn will be stepping in as interim president. 

Earlier this year, DuBois-Walton launched an exploratory committee for the role of mayor in the city, and her funding announcement suggests strong support for her platform. A representative from DuBois-Walton’s committee, Will Viederman ’17, noted in an email to the News this month that an announcement about her candidacy will be made by the end of April — the same time her leave from ECC takes effect. As part of her exploratory committee, DuBois-Walton has been meeting with residents via Zoom in order to have “substantive conversations” about their needs and the future of the city. 

“This decision has come after long and hard consideration for New Haven’s future, and it is with planning and certainty that I step away from my post at Elm City Communities,” DuBois-Walton said in her press release on Wednesday morning. “I look forward to watching the continued success of ECC in the fight to provide affordable, safe, and high-quality housing to all.”

Shenae Draughn has led the Glendower Group since 2010 and joined the housing authority in 2009. According to ECC, Draughn’s work has brought $200 million in real estate development to the Greater New Haven area. 

In the press release, Draughn said that DuBois-Walton has “set this agency down a path for the better” and that under her leadership, ECC hopes to carry over the work from DuBois-Walton’s tenure.

“It is a tremendous honor to be appointed as interim president of Elm City Communities,” Draughn said in the release. “I am truly humbled by the opportunity to serve this diverse, vibrant, and unique community. Karen’s leadership at Elm City Communities has been nothing short of an inspiration.”

DuBois-Walton has reiterated that her committee is merely exploratory and is not a confirmation that she will be running for mayor of New Haven. In an email to the News, she noted that her leave — which will run until the end of September, two weeks after New Haven’s primary elections — is “the next step” so that she can dedicate time to her exploratory committee. 

“I’ve received a lot of questions about ‘when’ I’m going to announce a shift from an exploratory committee to a campaign committee,” DuBois-Walton wrote in Wednesday’s press release. “What has always been most important to me, however, is having an intentional and responsible process to ensure that Elm City Communities remains able to do its vital work.”

Before working at ECC, DuBois-Walton worked in City Hall under Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s administration as chief administrative officer, then chief of staff and then as chief operation officer for the city. During her time there, she was heavily involved in affordable housing policy. 

“I’ll have more to say about my next steps at a later date,” DuBois-Walton wrote in a statement to the News. 

The New Haven primary elections will be held Sept. 14.

Correction, May 3: The subheading for an earlier version of this story said Dubois-Walton has led ECC for 13 years. In fact, she has led it for 14 years. The story has been updated.

Ángela Pérez is City Editor of the YDN. She was a former beat reporter, covering City Hall and Women's Volleyball. She was a former editor and writer for the WKND desk. She is from Puerto Rico and plans to major in Architecture.
Owen Tucker-Smith was managing editor of the Board of 2023. Before that, he covered the mayor as a City Hall reporter.