New Canaan resident James Yao is seeking the endorsement of the Republican Party for a seat on the elected Town Council. We put some questions to Yao about his candidacy. Our exchange follows.
New Canaanite: Tell us about yourself—how long have you lived in New Canaan, what have you been involved with here in town and what has led you to seek elected office?
James Yao: Over 12 years ago, my wife Katrina gave this former architecture student the thoughtful birthday gift of a Glass House tour. After lunch on Elm and a walk through our town there was no turning back. Combined with New Canaan’s reputation for strong community, strong education, and strong athletics, this was the first place we looked for a home. Max (8) and Adalind (6) soon joined the picture and eight years later the Yao family could not imagine living anywhere else. I have been a passionate, thoughtful, and intentional advocate for children and families in New Canaan. Through this work, I have attended town meetings, corresponded with council and board members, and witnessed two town budget cycles. This process has also exposed me to some of the inner workings of our town government. I feel New Canaan needs and would greatly benefit from a fresh perspective, increased transparency, and a renewed focus on the community. I genuinely believe I can improve our town and feel an obligation to support a community that has provided my family with so much.
What qualifies you for the office you are seeking?
As a financial regulator, I review the governance and controls of financial institutions to ensure their safety and soundness. I would bring this experience and perspective to our town budgets as well as to the oversight role a town council should play. My years in structured finance at UBS required not only hard work but an ability to bring parties with competing incentives together through clear communication and mutual compromise. I believe that lack of communication and understanding is at the heart of many of the most divisive issues that face our town.
What is your vision for the elected body for which you are seeking GOP endorsement at the July 20 caucus?
My fresh perspective and analytical acumen would greatly improve the functioning of our Town Council and will complement its members’ good intentions. I would work to refocus the Town Council’s attention on all the voices in our community, promoting transparency and greater communication between all the Town bodies, so that our constituents can remain well-informed. Town Council members should encourage open dialogue with the community and seek to understand and address differing perspectives on our Town’s most divisive issues. If elected, I will work to ensure that our Town Council will embrace its responsibility as the independent oversight of our Town’s budget. Recognizing that doing so might involve decisions that are not always easy but should always be based on sound fiscal footing and the wishes of the community, I will never view our $155 million town budget as simply a “rubber stamp.” To do so would only cast doubt on the Town Council’s value and the integrity of the budgeting process. I believe that members of the Town Council must represent an independent voice on issues that affect our community’s families, seniors, and businesses. The Town Council is bestowed with great trust, and it often serves as the last safeguard for many members of our community. This responsibility should be taken seriously, and hard decisions should never be avoided by “passing the buck” or claiming, “it’s not our lane.” Under that pretext, the Town Council would be unable to resolve, or even comment on, most issues that affect our town. Therefore, I would make it my duty to bolster responsibility and accountability within the Town Council, and to promote our sense of duty to the residents of New Canaan. I would greatly appreciate your support on July 20th, and I would consider it a privilege and an honor to be afforded the opportunity to serve on the Town Council. Thank You.
[Editor’s Note: Between June 28 and July 9, NewCanaanite.com is publishing Q&As with local Republicans seeking party endorsement for elected offices in contested races at the July 20 GOP caucus. We will publish letters of endorsement for the Republican caucus and Democratic endorsement meeting through July 9. Comments are disabled on this post.]