Person of the Week
Helping his Hometown Thrive
Justin Teague, a software consultant by day, also volunteers on the Clinton Sustainability Committee and pursues his hobbies through his downtown shop Akiba Underground and travel. This picture was taken during a trip to Tokyo. (Photo courtesy of Justin Teague )
Justin Teague has long appreciated Clinton’s natural beauty, in particular the marshes and bird sanctuaries by the rivers. Earlier this year, Justin had a conversation with Town Council member Eric Bergman, who recommended that Justin look into joining the town’s Sustainability Committee.
“I’m concerned about a lot of issues relevant to the Sustainability Committee,” Justin says of his motivation.
While Justin mentions environmental conservation as a specific concern, the committee focuses on a much broader range of issues in town. The committee participates in a program called Sustainable CT, which is a voluntary program that encourages towns to improve best practices and quality of life by taking actions that include protecting the environment, improving planning, improving transportation, and improving infrastructure, among other actions. The towns can then be rewarded with grant opportunities to help with those goals.
The town had appointed a sustainability committee two year ago, but in summer 2020 the town decided to update the official charge of the committee.
Noting that the previous committee had accomplished a lot, Justin says the new committee is in assessment mode while it reviews the previous committee’s work and determines what the town still needs.
“Our job is to figure out what has been done and figure out and advise the [Town Council] on what we can do move toward the certification goal,” Justin says.
Justin says the committee works on the “full spectrum” of sustainability, focusing on aspects like the economy, supporting local businesses, and helping underserved populations in the community, in addition to environmental conservation.
For Justin, joining the conservation committee was a way to improve the place he has called home for essentially his whole life. Justin says that when living somewhere long term, it’s important to find a way to improve the community.
“If I’m going to live somewhere, I certainly want it to be a nice place to live and to see it thrive,” says Justin.
Justin says his favorite part of the committee is gaining new perspectives, and to see how local government works.
In particular, Justin says he finds the form of government practiced along the shoreline that allows for direct citizen involvement in the town to be interesting.
“Any person who lives in Clinton can just go to the meeting and express their opinion,” Justin observes.
Right now, Justin is only involved in the sustainability community in Clinton, however, he says he could see down the road possibly getting further involved in some of the other municipal boards in Clinton.
Besides his work on the sustainability committee, hobbyists in Clinton may know Justin from the store Akiba Underground, which he co-owns with his girlfriend Carolyn. The store is located in Post Office Square and carries Japanese pop culture items like anime, Magic the Gathering cards, and other collectibles like movies, Japanese fashion accessories, and more.
“We’re a hobby shop, but our particular twist is we also carry a lot of imported collectibles,” Justin explains.
Justin says he was always interested in the hobby and as a student as UConn he helped run the anime club and the table-top game club. Initially he and Carolyn opened the store hoping it would just pay for itself, but the store has become very popular. Justin points out there really aren’t too many similar stores nearby.
“It’s an interesting cross section of things we carry,” says Justin.
Running the store is a side job for Justin, who also works as a software consultant for a company that specializes in financial and distribution software for wholesalers. Justin went to school with an idea of becoming an English teacher. While at school, however, he worked on computers in the IT department and discovered he was skilled in that area.
“It’s just something I knew how to do,” he says.
In his spare time, Justin says he enjoys hiking in the Peter’s Woods as well as participating in the hobbies that Akiba Underground specializes in like card games and board games; Justin also says he has an extensive model collection. Under normal circumstances, Akiba Underground hosts events during the week and Justin looks forward to when the store is able to host those events again.
As for Clinton, Justin says that he likes that the town has pretty views and is a quiet place to live, while also providing access to other, more bustling, locations.
“I like that Clinton isn’t somewhere, but it’s close to a lot of somewheres,” he says.