Cory Booker: Quintana will be Newark's next mayor

By David Giambusso/The Star-Ledger
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on October 22, 2013

Cory Booker is meeting with all of his department directors and senior administration officials to discuss his imminent departure. Friday October 18, 2013. Newark, NJ, USA.


NEWARK — After seven years as head of the state’s largest city, Mayor Cory Booker will have two jobs in the weeks ahead: setting up his U.S. Senate office and gathering a staff in Washington, and working through a difficult transition in Newark’s splintered government.

"There are three urgent areas (where) there has to be a seamless transition," Booker said in an interview at his campaign office today.

In rapid-fire order he listed crime, development and the city budget as areas in which his successor "can’t miss a beat."

"We’re one of our biggest distances down in shootings that our city has been in a long, long time," Booker said.

He said there were lucrative development projects in mid-negotiations: "I’m not exaggerating — there are billions of dollars of development on the table now."

And after years of deficits, "We’re now on the five-yard line," Booker said of the city budget, promising surpluses in 2015 and 2016. "But next year we’re going to still have this gap to close."

Speaking at his campaign headquarters, wearing a pair of blue jeans and nursing a diet cola, Booker made it clear that although he would be getting his bearings in Washington in the days and weeks ahead, he would be taking an active role in what happens next in Newark.

Despite an abundance of jockeying in City Hall, Booker seemed confident that Council President Luis Quintana would be selected interim mayor by the council, enabling him to get a lot of work to be done over the next eight months.

"The next mayor has to every day get up and look at the data," Booker said. "Quintana and I are going to hopefully have a summit meeting this week."

Booker has been encouraging his department directors to stay on after he leaves for Washington, but a few important players, including Adam Zipkin, the development director, and Samuel DeMaio, the police director, are rumored to be leaving sooner rather than later.

"A lot of them have really good private sector offers," Booker said, adding, "I’ve been talking to people — as many as I could — about not leaving when I leave."

Beyond looking at what he was confident would be an orderly transition at City Hall, Booker also gave a preview of what kind of senator he wanted to be.

"I’m a very focused person on the deliverables I need to get," he said. "What I’m going to Washington to do is to find ways to empower people here at home."

Asked if he would maintain a high-profile lifestyle or keep his head down and learn the ropes, Booker was circumspect.

"Everything now will be a filter for how I am helping New Jersey people economically," he said. "How am I helping to make our state safer. How am I helping to empower kids and their pathway to a 21st century economy. Does that mean going on ‘Meet The Press’? I don’t necessarily see that it does."

Booker said he was grateful to have Sen. Robert Menendez, whom he called "a lion of the Senate," to show him around.

"I think I’m one of the luckier senators because I’m coming into my freshman short term having a mentor like Sen. Menendez, who not only knows the ropes, but is one of the leaders of the United States Senate," he said.

So far, Booker has made two key hires, making his long-time chief of staff, Modia Butler, his state director, and bringing in Louisa Terrell, a special assistant for legislative affairs at the White House, as his chief of staff.

He reiterated his vow to be a senator for "all of New Jersey," and said his background made him uniquely positioned to do so.

"I’m a kid that grew up in the suburbs in a small town — right around the corner from me there was a farm ... I grew up in a predominantly white community and I’ve been in a predominantly minority community," he said. "If there’s anybody that understands the different dynamics of our state it’s really me."

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commented 2013-12-28 11:18:22 -0800
Thank you