The Elm City’s first female mayor is preparing for her second term in office after a landslide re-election win.
“A lady told me last night, she says, well we’ve had fathers of the city, now it’s time for a grandmother, so I’ll take it,” Mayor Toni Harp said in her first TV sit down interview since garnering 89 percent of the vote in November.
Mayor Harp first ran for office in 2013 on a campaign focused on economic development, education and public safety.
“I’m hoping that I got the 89 percent is that people really seen that we have followed through on what we promised to do and made a difference in our city,” she said.
Crime is down over the past two years in New Haven, Mayor Harp said, in part because the city has successfully implemented “cutting-edge” community policing.
“People have to believe that you are operating on their behalf,” she said, “that you are really their tool as police officers, that you really are part of their community.”
Soon after she begins her second term on Jan. 1, Mayor Harp will need to select a new fire chief after Allyn Wright steps down January 4th.
“What I want us to do is a national search,” Mayor Harp said, adding there will be an interim chief.
Mayor Harp said education will remain a top priority in her second term. She said she is focused on closing the achievement gap by putting an emphasis on reading.
“What’s most important is that the fundamental skill of reading is something that all of our young people have access to at grade level,” she said.
Mayor Harp replaced former Mayor John DeStefano Jr., who was in office for two decades until 2013. Mayor Harp served for two decades in the state senate and for 11 years she co-chaired the Appropriations Committee.
“I really understood what the state was up against,” she said, “In doing that, I brought that experience to the city and I think that has helped us maintain a balanced budget.”
During her first year in office, the controversial fence that divided New Haven and Hamden and inconvenienced residents since the 1950s was torn down.
“It felt like the Berlin Wall,” Mayor Harp said, “and I never could understand why it was there in the first place, so I’m just pleased everything came together to get that down.”
In year two, Mayor Harp faced the dilemma of the dilapidated Church Street South apartments. Mold and structural deficiencies are forcing residents to relocate.
“It’s not happening as quickly as we’d like,” she said, “but it’s happening. So it takes a little bit longer as you point out there are not a lot of apartments here in New Haven that qualify for Section 8.”
In terms of economic development, Mayor Harp said she is most excited about the new Alexion Pharmaceutical headquarters, which she says is spurring other growth.
“They’re attracting other bio-technical companies to this city and area, and so many young people work in that industry,” Mayor Harp said.