(ABOVE: Image via City of Hoboken)
Dawn Zimmer was never a Hoboken politician. And yet, she’s been Mayor since 2009.
To become the first female Mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey was a significant feat. To brawl that long in the muck-filled trenches of Hudson County politics is a significant feat. To serve in that role for eight years without an indictment is a far more significant feat—her predecessor only made it three weeks before being arrested by the FBI.
Earlier today, she announced that she will not seek re-election this May, despite sitting heavily endorsed as the current front-runner.
“It has been an honor serving as your mayor and I am extremely proud of all that my team and I have accomplished with your help. When I made the decision to run for City Council ten years ago and then for Mayor eight years ago, I wasn’t looking to start a long career in politics—I wanted to help my community at a time when we were facing major challenges and making important decisions about our future,” said Zimmer, adding, “I believe I have accomplished that task.”
When Dawn Zimmer rose to the forefront of Hoboken politics, she did so in a town that absolutely loathed outsiders. Unless you were born at St. Mary’s Hospital, you had no business telling people in Hoboken what was good for Hoboken. The machine was in place, and IT would decide how things would proceed. Zimmer challenged that, and won.
What made Zimmer such an anomaly is that she was never afraid to be unpopular. She has been a polarizing force in Hoboken politics, throughout her ascendancy and tenure.
Whether or not she was doing what was best for Hoboken is certainly subjective. However, most people will tell you that she was doing what she thought was best for Hoboken.
Most astute observers would also agree on her tenacity. Much of her administration was spent locked in battles of attrition with a Hoboken City Council that was split into two camps—yes and no. As she looks to step away from City Hall, Zimmer leaves a number of political pillars in her wake—several of whom cracked under the weight of her resolve.
With her departure, Hoboken is left with a race that features a palpable degree of personal ambition among the remaining contenders. The tone of the race to date has been to stay prone and snipe at the perceived shortcomings of the Zimmer administration. Because it’s always easy to point out what’s wrong—just ask anyone in the media.
What will be interesting to see now is who has what plans to address these issues—continued flooding woes, growing risk in the face of climate change, striking a balance in Hoboken’s development, addressing long-neglected infrastructure, invigorating small businesses, and catering to a cosmopolitan public that has very divergent opinions on how this city should continue to evolve.
For better or for worse, Zimmer put contemporary Hoboken in the spotlight, giving “outsiders” input on how their hometown should be managed.
Now it’s up to Hoboken’s residents—born n’ raised or brand new—to head to the polls this November and take advantage of that opportunity.
Christopher M. Halleron is the Publisher/Editor of hMAG.
As a columnist and journalist, he has covered various aspects of life here in the ‘greater Hoboken area’ and beyond for the past two decades.
His opinions are his own.