New Haven’s mayor was in China Monday pitching potential new local investors and sealing the deal for a new sister city.
New Haven’s mayor also welcomed the governor to Wilbur Cross High School Monday.
New Haven’s mayor has in recent days toured the Great Wall and the Beijing Opera. New Haven’s mayor has also met with department heads in New Haven City Hall and represented the city at the Criterion Cinemas at a preview of a new film about a legendary local pooch.
No, Hermione Granger has not become our city’s chief executive, managing to work in two far-distant spots at once.
Instead, we have an elected mayor and an acting mayor both engaged in official duties, on opposite ends of the globe.
The elected mayor, Toni Harp, is on a 10-day official trip to China. Her mission: Talk up New Haven’s attributes to businesses considering investments in our region of the country; and carry out the final step to make New Haven and Changsha sister cities. (Click here and here to read more about background to the trip.)
Usually when a mayor leaves the country, the president of the Board of Alders steps in as acting mayor, to represent the city at events and be present in case of emergencies (like the historic 2013 blizzard that hit New Haven when then-Mayor John DeStefano was in Ireland; click here to read about then-board President Jorge Perez’s stint as acting mayor).
But Board of Alders President Tyisha Walker is accompanying Harp’s delegation on the China trip. That has left the next in line, board President Pro Tempore Jeanette Morrison, officially in charge.
Morrison has remained in her day job as a supervisor for the state Department of Children and Families (DCF). But she has made a point of showing up after work to check in at City Hall, where she has received briefings from, among others, local government’s acting budget director, community services administrator, and legislative liaison.
She also filled in for Harp welcoming Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to Wilbur Cross High School for an announcement about statewide graduation rates. She’s touting New Have Restaurant Week, which is underway. She welcomed World War I reenactors on Temple Street Sunday for the preview screening at the Criterion of Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero. The animated film tells the story of a New Haven-bred rescue dog who ended up as a decorated life-saver in the war. It was the opening event of a year-long local commemoration of the war’s end.
“He was so unassuming,” Morrison said. “He came from the rough and had the biggest impact on the world.” She said Stubby made her think of the Board of Alders, whose members “all come from different backgrounds” and make a difference.
Morrison made the remark on the latest edition of on WNHH FM"s “Mayor Monday” program, where she occupied Harp’s usual seat.
Morrison, who grew up in Newhallville and has been a social worker for 25 years, has an undergraduate degree from Morgan State University, a master’s in social work from Boston University, and an MBA from Southern Connecticut State University.
From teaching “Politics 101” at annual MLK youth conferences to serving as a state union steward to volunteering with her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Morrison in her busy life outside her job embodies what the political scientist Douglas Rae calls “civic density.”
She has served as an alder since 2011. In that capacity, she has helped lead the charge on the board and in the community for the $15.5 million project to rebuild a bigger new version of the old Dixwell Community “Q” House, where she studied gymnastics as a kid. She has also led the charge for a “Democracy Parking” program that now enables attendees of government meetings to leave their cars for free at an Elm Street lot (between Orange and State). As acting mayor, she signed off on a press release late last week that reminded the public about the program.
Morrison said serving as acting mayor reminds her of a prior assignment as a hotline worker at DCF, when she needed to be on call 24 hours a day. “You can get called at anytime if there are emergencies,” she said.
A caller asked Morrison if she plans to run one day to serve as mayor on a permanent, not acting, basis.
“I don’t know. That’s a very demanding job,” she said.
She did get accepted to the incoming 2018 class of Women’s Campaign School at Yale.
Morrison said she doesn’t see the class as a first step for running one day for mayor. “But maybe it will be the first step for running for something else in the future.”
Click on or download the above audio file or the Facebook Live video below for the full episode of WNHH FM’s “Mayor Monday.”
This episode of “Mayor Monday” was made possible with the support of Gateway Community College and Berchem Moses P.C.