Joined: 09 Aug 2006
Location: Jersey City
|Posted: Mon Sep 04, 2006 4:06 pm Post subject: Irish Voice: The Man to See in Jersey City || |
Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy is the son of Irish immigrants
The Man to See in Jersey City
By Tom Deignan
Originally appeared in the Irish Voice on Wednesday, February 9, 2005
JERSEY City mayor Jerramiah T. Healy knows all too well that his first name is spelled in an, um, interesting way.
When Healy was born 54 years ago, his father, an immigrant from Kerry, spelled the name that way in the hospital.
"He said it was the Gaelic spelling," Mayor Healy told the Irish Voice with a laugh recently, "which is not true."
But in the end, the name stuck.
"He said, "Well, you'll be the only person with that name. He was right on that count," Healy said, following a busy day of meetings, as well as a press conference about a law enforcement initiative Healy supports.
Healy (whose Longford-born mother met his dad in Jersey) is now the leader of a city of nearly a quarter of a million people. Jersey City - often called "Wall Street West" for its high concentration of financial services workers - is already New Jersey's second largest city. According to Healy, Jersey City may even surpass Newark's population by the time the next census rolls around.
"It's very similar to the campaign, there's a lot of running around," Healy says when asked what it is like to be mayor.
A former councilman and judge, Healy survived a bruising campaign in which nearly a dozen people ran to fill the vacancy after Mayor Glenn Cunningham died in office.
At one point during the campaign, an embarrassing photo of Healy naked and unconscious after a rumored night of drinking was posted on the Internet. When asked about such campaign tactics, Healy has typically chalked it up to Jersey City politics as usual.
He has added that he's glad he chose not to run a negative campaign himself.
Apparently, voters were also drawn to Healy's campaign. Now that he's won the election, Healy says he aims to make Jersey City's streets safe for both people and their cars.
"Reducing crime and protecting the people of Jersey City is of utmost importance to me," Healy said last week, when he announced an initiative aimed at protecting taxi drivers.
In November 2004, taxi driver Rady Kheila, a 25-year old medical student who moonlighted as a taxi driver to support his family, was murdered.
Healy has also initiated a gun buy-back program which, thus far, has gotten 600 guns off of Jersey streets. Up ahead for Healy is the task of beefing up the number of cops on the city's police force, which Healy says it at an all-time low.
But crime is not the only problem with Jersey City's streets. Healy also faces a monumental pothole problem which he knows voters also consider a top priority.
All of this politicking and policy work is a far cry from what Healy thought he would be doing.
"Nine years ago, I would have bet you a million dollars I'd never run for mayor of Jersey City or any other office," Healy said.
But with his children (he has four with wife Maureen, who is a nurse) a little older, Healy found that he had more time on his hands as well as a passion for politics.
Healy, the fourth of five children, attended Villanova University. He helped to pay for school by working as an ironworker with Local 45 Ironworker's Union. After Villanova in 1972 he went to Seton Hall's School of Law. Healy then supported himself by tending bar in Jersey City.
Bar work was not new to the Healy family. In fact, Healy's father ran a bar for a number of years.
Tragically, however, his Father was killed when he was struck with a bat while breaking up a fight. Healy was just five at the time, too young to comprehend the loss.
"All I knew was that my Father was dead and he was killed," Healy said. He credits his mother for holding the family together, as they continued living in the apartment over the bar.
"She did everything," said Healy, who shared cots with his siblings when bedtime rolled around. "We had no money but we ate better than anyone in the area." Many of the Irish immigrants of Healy's parents' generation have either moved out or passed on. But Healy says the city "still has a core" of Irish and Irish Americans.
There will be an Irish festival in the city in September and the city just formed its first Ancient Order of Hibernians chapter two years ago.
Healy expects to work with the Jersey City Irish community in the coming months on a proposal to erect a famine monument on the city's famed waterfront.
Until then, look for Mayor Healy to continue working to get guns off the streets, "and asphalt in the potholes."
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