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Guest Harrison Stands up

The first paragraph is so true, and the writer had no clue she was predicting the future.

Is Harrison Better of the it was in 1996?

Harrison, N.J., mayor fills big shoes

Apr 1, 1995 12:00 PM

Ward, Janet

Raymond McDonough may never be "The Mayor" of Harrison, N.J. Oh, he was elected to the position -- handily, as a matter of fact. And his stationery says "Mayor." And his secretary answers the phone, "Mayor's office."Peter higins will be though

But McDonough, who has been in office all of a few months, follows in the footsteps of Frank Rodgers, a legend in these parts. Rodgers was the mayor of Harrison, a small working class community of 14,000 people sandwiched between Jersey City and Newark, for 48 years -- 24 consecutive two-year terms. When he stepped down in january, Rodgers was the longest-serving mayor in the country.

McDonough, born and raised in the tight-knit community, is 45 years old. He has never known another mayor. So it surprises no one when McDonough refers to Rodgers as "The Mayor," as in, "When The Mayor was The Mayor...".

McDonough, who had served on the Harrison City Council for 17 years, had Rodgers' backing in the election, which turned out to be a no brainer; McDonough the anointed successor, a lifelong resident and a Democrat, swamped his Republican opponent in a town in which Democrats hold a 10-1 advantage.

But getting elected was the easy part. "It is kinda strange," McDonough admits. "Frank was the mayor my entire life. It feels strange even sitting here in his office. Those are big shoes to fill."

Rodgers ran the town like a benevolent fiefdom. He was on a number of state and county commissions and, in the days before industry deserted, was a one-man job-finding agency, making sure friends and voters found and kept gainful employment.

But the last 20 years have not been kind to Harrison. Worthington Pumps, Otis Elevator, RCA and Hartz Mountain left for greener pastures, and the economy soured. Consequently, one of McDonough's first acts as mayor was to form an economic advisory committee whose purpose is to attract new industry.

Additionally, McDonough has hired 14 new police officers and 12 new firefighters and is looking at refurbishing Harrison's downtown. What happened?

A plumber by day, McDonough wakes at 5 am. in order to be at work at 6. He fixes Harrisonians' pipes until 3 p.m., and heads to the mayor's office where he attempts to fix their other problems. "I'll leave the office at 6 p.m. to go home for dinner," he says. "But I'll come back if I have to."

So far it's working. "The adjustment has been fine," says Marion Borek, who has worked in City Hall since 1947, the last two decades of that as the mayor's secretary. "At least I haven't goofed up on the phone yet."

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