Social Services Chief Resigns

Martha Okafor is leaving City Hall at a time when ambitious social programs she has helped put together — tackling domestic abuse and incarceration of nonviolent offenders, for instance — are taking shape.

Okafor’s last day of work as community services administrator (CSA), a top city position overseeing social services, is Friday.

Mayor Toni Harp said she has found a permanent replacement, from outside the current city bureaucracy, but can’t yet reveal the name. An interim director, probably deputy CSA Sheila Carmon, will probably serve in the meantime, pending discussions with union leaders, Harp said.

“She felt like it was time for her to leave,” Harp said of Okafor. “She’s done a really good job here. We wish her well.”

Okafor said she plans to stay in the area, at least for now, while she “pursue[s] other opportunities.”

She said she feels “grateful for the opportunity to serve and have really met tremendous people,” including city alders and not-profit leaders and neighborhood residents, in her four years on the job. “I’ve learned from them as well as hopefully contributed positively in their lives.”

Harp, who as a state senator had worked with Okafor, a native of Nigeria, on public-health legislation, recruited her from Georgia in her first term to take the CSA post.

Okafor oversaw the development of a program called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD). Modeled on a similar program in Seattle, it aims to divert drug users and prostitutes from prison sentences. It is being rolled out in Downtown and the Hill on a experimental basis.

Okafor has also been working with the police department on a domestic violence initiative for Harp’s new term, for which the city received a federal grant. She said she is also proud of efforts to combat food insecurity, to promote financial literacy, to train 300 grassroots people in mental health first aid, and to develop new parent leaders in six city neighborhoods. Under Okafor, CSA has contracted with churches to operate warming centers during winter storms and reworked the city’s approach to spending money on homeless services. She has at times clashed with others in City Hall, including a former grantwriter, Carmon, and the head of a prison reentry program, over job performance.

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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 9, 2018  6:06pm

Martha Okafor is leaving City Hall at a time when ambitious social programs she has helped put together — tackling domestic abuse and incarceration of nonviolent offenders, for instance — are taking shape.

Taking Shape where?No lost.

posted by: johndoe2018 on January 9, 2018  8:07pm

Dr. Okafor has done a great job trying to navigate the city’s bureaucracy and political landscape. In spite she has supported and increased every program under her leadership. It is SAD that the mayor feels the need to talk with the Independent prior to giving approval for Dr. Okafor to tell her staff. I guess this shows how the mayor plays ball.

posted by: RHeerema on January 10, 2018  2:30pm

Thank you, Dr. Okafor! I appreciate your good work in our community.

posted by: BNath on January 10, 2018  8:54pm

Thank you Dr Okafor for your commitment to serving the people of new haven, we are grateful to you for your leadership.

posted by: flash_demo on January 12, 2018  3:54pm

Really THREEFIFTHS?  No lost?

Indeed, this woman was one of the most qualified and focussed people they had working down there.  Her accomplishments were measurable and good for the city. How the mayor could replace her with a friend that some describe as “unstable” is unconscionable.  It is New Haven’s loss.