Two New Haveners join race for state treasurer
Two New Haven residents, Karen DuBois-Walton and Erick Russell, announced their campaigns for state treasurer last week after current treasurer Shawn Wooden announced he would not be seeking reelection.
DuBois-Walton is currently executive director of New Haven’s Housing Authority and chairman of the State Board of Education. Russell is an attorney in the public and private finance department of the law firm Pullman & Comley. Both DuBois-Walton and Russell say they bring the expertise and passion needed to manage Connecticut’s finances, including its debt, pension funds and other investments.
“The state treasurer is the sole trustee of state money, more than $44 billion,” Russell told The News. “I think we’re really lucky to have two strong candidates coming out of New Haven.”
DuBois-Walton: A History of Public Service
DuBois-Walton has long understood the value of public service – and public finance. His parents were both government employees and spent years investing in the state pension plan. They died early, when DuBois-Walton was 17, and never enjoyed the benefits of their hard work. But DuBois-Walton said those retirement plans paid for her and her sister to go to college and then graduate school.
“I don’t want somebody coming in and investing in these worrying about whether they’ll be there for them when they need them,” DuBois-Walton said. “It’s just hugely important to me, and that’s part of why I think that role and really strong pension fund management is so important.”
DuBois-Walton says her parents’ example also encouraged her to pursue a career as a public servant.
After earning her doctorate, she spent five years working in the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and then five years in New Haven city government. She became chief executive and then chief of staff under former mayor John DeStefano Jr., an experience she says prepared her for the responsibilities of state treasurer: making sure departments run efficiently, there is adequate investment in pension schemes and that the city’s capital borrowing and financing has supported its operations.
Since 2007, she has worked with Elm City Communities, the city’s housing authority, first as Chief Operating Officer and later as Executive Director. The job, she says, taught her how to manage a team of 150 employees — more, she noted, than the state treasurer’s office — and run asset-building and literacy programs. finance, which it hopes to extend to the state level. She said she sees the treasury as a way “to bring the kind of values that I stand for, democratic values, to the investment policy of the state.” DuBois-Walton also ran for mayor in 2021, though she dropped out ahead of the Democratic primary election.
“My goals would be to make sure that we have well-managed investments that will be there for the people…that that money is growing responsibly and that how we grow that money aligns with the values we have as than community,” DuBois-Walton said. “For us to grow by investing in things that are also environmentally friendly. Grow by investing in things that demonstrate good working practices, good governance, and respect the values of fairness. »
DuBois-Walton has already won the support of colleagues across the state, who cited her extensive experience in municipal government and finance.
“I think she has the skills to be an effective treasurer,” said Hartford City Treasurer Adam Cloud. “I think his experience not only in investments, but also in management, is critically important.”
Democratic City Speaker Vincent Mauro Jr. added that DuBois-Walton has the personality and skills for the job.
“She’s uniquely skilled at seeing the big picture and focusing on the finer details,” Mauro told The News. “She has been a strong advocate her entire career for things she is passionate about. … I think it will hold companies accountable for their treatment of workers, their investments.
Russell: Responsible Investing, Closing Wealth Gaps
Erick Russell’s business acumen started young. His parents owned a small convenience store in New Haven, and he said he “grew up in that store”, standing on a milk crate so he could reach the cash register.
These days, as a lawyer who represents municipalities and state agencies when they issue bonds, he has more experience with the intricacies of public finance. But he said those early experiences helped inform his decision to run for state treasurer – as did watching his parents sacrifice themselves so he could be the first in his family to get a college degree, then law school.
Russell has worked at Pullman & Comley for nearly 10 years, helping cities fund their investments in “critical infrastructure” like housing, transportation and childcare. He said he has seen the impact his work has had on the community, and he hopes to bring that passion for public finance to the position of state treasurer.
“We not only make sure that we are financially stable and healthy as a state, but that we also do this work in a socially responsible way,” he said. “I think it has a lot to do with being innovative in this role, showing leadership and ultimately making sure that we prioritize how to change the financial situation of the citizens of the state. .”
He referenced the recent work of current Treasurer Shawn Wooden to offer baby ties to low-income families, a program he said he wanted to help make a reality. Especially in a state with as much wealth inequality as Connecticut, Russell sees closing the wealth gap as key to the position of treasurer.
Russell also served as Vice Chairman of the Connecticut Democratic Party, although he would step down during his candidacy. He has already received outspoken support from several Connecticut politicians, including Ward 26 Alder Darryl Brackeen Jr.
“I support Erick because he is the most qualified candidate standing, he has demonstrated integrity, and most importantly, he understands the plight of the working class and centers the voices of disenfranchised people,” Brackeen wrote in an email to the News. “As a lawyer, he has the training and experience to be our [state’s] next treasurer.
Russell and DuBois-Walton know each other, and both candidates said they expect a friendly and respectful race.
Dita Bhargava, of Greenwich, is also a candidate for the Democratic nomination. The Democratic state convention will be held in May.