This week brings Mayor Jerry Fried's final days in office. On Sunday, July 1, a new mayor, Robert Jackson, will be sworn in. Patch asked Fried about his time as mayor.
Q) What have you been most proud of these last four years?
A) Bringing in outstanding new senior staff (Manager, Attorney, Judge), appointing a transformative Board of Education, using Montclair's first BOE advisory committee, investing in our future (South Park Street in particular), promoting "smart growth" development through Gateway redevelopment plan and projects like CentroVerde/assisted-living facility/Hillside Square and others, lowest tax increases in memory, reassessment to rebalance tax burden after years of appeals, preserving Montclair's quality of life and values despite budget challenges (through volunteerism/fundraising for Township activities/restructuring local government/management efficiency/budget cuts), getting weekend NJTransit service, adopting the State's first Complete Streets policy three months before New Jersey adopted its own, and various sustainability initiatives like our Sustainable Jersey certification/grants, outreach to kids (via "Energy Ambassadors" initiative), more bike/pedestrian advocacy. And visits from dozens of Chinese kids who stayed with Montclair families and learned about America right here in town while we learned about China from them.
Q) What projects do you hope the new council will carry on with?
A) All of the above, particularly working with NJDOT to extend "Transit Oriented Development" all the way through our Central Business District through implementing a pilot "local shuttle" (we were not awarded a NJTPA grant this year, but should be able to get it in 2014).
Q) Were there things in the last four years you learned that surprised you?
A) Learning that the main enemy of progress in local government is not disagreements over policy direction. It is really paralysis, which afflicts legislators who shy away from change because of fears of creating conflicts, overconfidence in existing methods/staff, and valuing loyalty over skill/experience.
Q) How will you stay involved once you leave office?
A) I have applied for a future seat on the Environmental Commission (I don't think there are any vacancies at this time). I'll stay involved in regional efforts through Building One NJ and my transportation-related job at Rutgers/NJDOT.
Q) You've said that your job really isn't a thankless job, as some might think. Do you believe people have appreciated what you and the council have accomplished?
A) Many have, many haven't. If a mayor or elected official hasn't upset several people along the way, he/she probably hasn't accomplished very much.
What would you like to ask the mayor before he leaves office? Let us know in the comments section below.