John DeStefano, Jr. was sworn in as New Haven's 49th Mayor on January 1, 1994, and was recently reelected to his sixth term in office. Since his inauguration in 1994, Mayor DeStefano has cut crime in half, rebuilt the city's schools, and revitalized its downtown. New Haven has been awarded the highly regarded "All-America City" prize twice during DeStefano's tenure, in 1998 and in 2003. In 1999, based on the city's success as a federal Enterprise Community, New Haven was named a federal Empowerment Zone, one of just fifteen cities given that status out of the 119 communities that sought the honor. In 2000, the city was recognized by numerous national newspapers for attracting high-tech and biotech companies to New Haven, drawing more than $1 billion in private investment.
An innovative and progressive administrator, Mayor DeStefano has been a consistent public policy leader in Connecticut. He has prioritized strengthening neighborhoods by cutting crime, rebuilding housing, and investing in education.
"An innovative and progressive administrator, Mayor DeStefano has been a consistent public policy leader in Connecticut."
Crime has been cut in half through a nationally recognized community policing initiative. In 2003, he appointed Francisco Ortiz, Connecticut's first Latino police chief. And New Haven's police force reflects the city's demographics-over half of its officers are African-American or Latino and it includes a larger percentage of women police officers than any other department in the state.
The DeStefano administration has reduced the vacant structures by 70 percent through his creative Livable City Initiative. He spearheaded the transformation the Housing Authority of New Haven (HANH), which was on the verge of a federal take-over when he first became Mayor in 1994. HANH went from being one of the lowest performers nationally to one of the highest, earning two HOPE VI grants. The City's own homeownership programs and its partnerships with other institutions and agencies have helped thousands of New Haven families become homeowners since 1994, both stabilizing neighborhoods and creating wealth.
DeStefano's aggressive magnet school program has been recognized statewide and nationwide for successfully racially and economically integrating schools in the Greater New Haven area: the New Haven model was recommended as the solution to racial and economic integration in the Connecticut Supreme Court's landmark Sheff v. O'Neil decision. DeStefano's $1 billion school construction project has also received national and statewide attention for effectively leveraging the state's matching funds to create smaller classroom sizes for New Haven's schoolchildren. The Mayor's Early Childhood Initiative has increased the accessibility and quality of early education in New Haven, and he used lessons learned in New Haven to craft the National League of Cities Early Childhood Challenge, which has been adopted by hundreds of cities and towns across America. Under DeStefano's administration, the high school dropout rate has been cut in half through aggressive community-based initiatives.
Under DeStefano's leadership, the city has been recognized as a state leader on environmental issues, ranging from tackling childhood asthma rates to creating bike paths to purchasing renewable energy. New Haven is Connecticut's first municipality to substantially purchase renewable energy.
The Mayor has consistently been Connecticut's leading advocate for property tax reform and smart growth. He was chosen by his colleagues to chair Connecticut's Blue Ribbon Commission on the subject. The commission outlined a detailed proposal for reform, and its recommendations are being championed by chief elected officials throughout the state. Reflecting his commitment to organizing for social change, DeStefano founded an advocacy group - 1000 Friends of Connecticut - that is bringing together statewide officials, businesspeople, and grassroots activists to push for reform.
Mayor DeStefano is the immediate past president of the National League of Cities - the nation's oldest and largest organization representing some 18,000 American cities and towns - and is a past president of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities. He is widely credited for effectively prioritizing early education and homeland security issues for America's cities and towns, while helping to win key funding battles on these fronts.
Born May 11, 1955, Mayor DeStefano is a lifelong New Haven resident. Prior to his election, he served in City government for more than 10 years as Deputy Controller, Chief Administrative Officer and Development Administrator. John and his wife, Kathy DeStefano, met at the University of Connecticut when both were undergraduates. They were married while John was a graduate student completing his Master's Degree in Public Affairs at the University of Connecticut. Kathy is a kindergarten teacher and they are the parents of Dan and Jim. Dan attends the University of Connecticut and Jim is a freshman at Providence College.