Meet Toni Harp

Throughout her three terms as mayor, 21 years as a state Senator, and three terms on the then-Board of Aldermen, Mayor Toni Harp has been an innovative, results-oriented, compassionate advocate for the City of New Haven.

Mayor Harp’s commitment to equality, inclusiveness, and opportunity resonate across policy areas that have steadfastly remained her priority: public safety and criminal justice, public education to include early learning and post-secondary options, public health with an emphasis on access and affordability, and economic development and local job creation.

Toni Nathaniel was brought up in Salt Lake City in a family of six children. Her family was African-American and Baptist in a community that was primarily white and almost exclusively Mormon. Both of her parents worked – a rarity at the time – to support the family, and Toni learned what turned out to be a lifelong lesson about the responsibility of hard work from her parents.

After graduating from college in Chicago, Toni moved to New Haven to attend graduate school at Yale. She earned an advanced degree, got married and started a family, and in short order Toni N. Harp started putting down roots in New Haven.

Toni’s first public office was as a member of New Haven’s Board of Aldermen, and then for 21 consecutive years, Toni represented New Haven in the state Senate, advocating for state aid, infrastructure improvements, and social services funding. Over time, Toni earned a reputation as “the conscience of the Senate” for her tireless advocacy.

Toni served as co-chair of the Public Health Committee and then for 11 years, was co-chair of the budget-writing Appropriations Committee, never hesitating to balance fiscal responsibility with the obligations state government has to protect, educate, and assist its residents.


First elected in 2013, Toni is now the first woman to serve as Mayor of New Haven. Throughout her career in elected office, Toni’s priorities for her constituents never changed:

  • Full access to affordable healthcare, regardless of ethnic, cultural, or economic differences.

  • A responsive and effective public safety network working hand-in-hand with an equitable criminal justice system.

  • Maximizing opportunity for each individual student through public education, with particular emphasis on early childhood learning and development of reading skills.

  • Job creation and economic development so city residents can enjoy the rewards and responsibilities of productive engagement, and so a vibrant city can provide necessary services without putting an excessive burden on taxpayers.

Since the beginning of her career in advocacy, Mayor Harp made public safety a priority, reaffirming her commitment to community based policing and giving equal weight to crime prevention and law enforcement.

Under Mayor Harp’s leadership, the police department works as an extension of community members and all those it protects and serves. Mayor Harp’s approach, to supplement community policing with modern technology like shot-spotter, has resulted in steadily lower crime rates in all major categories every year she’s been in office.

In public education, Mayor Harp presided over ‘School Change 2.0’ in New Haven Public Schools, and initiated Restorative Practices to address disciplinary matters. The result is increasing enrollment, increasing high school graduation rates, higher college enrollment and retention rates, decreasing absenteeism, and dramatically reduced expulsion rates.

New Haven’s finances are strong because of Toni’s leadership as well. The city budget has been balanced each year of her time in office.

New Haven’s economy is strong and getting stronger. Over 2500 units of affordable housing has been created, and additional investors are constantly pursuing new projects to capitalize on New Haven’s bright future.

Mayor Harp has lived in New Haven for more than 40 years. She was a healthcare administrator at the Cornell Scott Hill Health Center, and she is a VERY proud mother and grandmother.