Have you ever wondered what it's like to run for public office as a Young Dem, much less to win? We wanted to hear about the experience of serving as an elected official at a young age in New Jersey, so we're sitting down with a different Young Dem holding public office in the Garden State every month.
This month, we spoke with Mark Goldsack, a Councilman in Rutherford, New Jersey who took office in January of this year. Mark is also an Associate at Archer & Greiner PC and formerly served as Associate General Counsel to the New Jersey Assembly Majority Office.
NJYD: What made you decide to run for public office in Rutherford?
Mark: There are a few reasons I decided to run for public office in Rutherford. First, two years ago I helped to campaign for two local candidates who were running for Borough Council. One of them, Councilwoman Stephanie McGowan, whom I have the pleasure of serving with now, was nice enough to sit me down and talk to me about the issues in town and what she hoped to accomplish if she were to get elected. She wanted me to better understand what she was fighting for so I would be able to better deliver that message to the residents who I would be calling and visiting on her behalf. Hearing her speak about her goals and what she believed our Borough could become struck a chord with me. Her words motivated me to want to get more involved, to do whatever I could to make a positive impact on the community that I live in. My second reason for running was my family. My wife grew up in Rutherford and her father served the Borough for 30+ years of his life as an employee and then supervisor in the Department of Public Works. My wife's family on both her father's and mother's side have deep roots in Rutherford. All have given their time and effort to the Borough in one way or another. They all have a deep love for the place they call home. I wanted to continue that legacy for them, I wanted to do whatever I could to take care of the place they love so much. Lastly, local government provides those who serve in it with a unique opportunity to have an impact on people's daily lives and, also help leave the place they call my home better for their children than the way they found it. I could not say no to that type of opportunity.
NJYD: What are some of the challenges you faced, running as a Young Dem, and how did overcome them?
Mark: One challenge that I faced, in particular, was the fact that I did not grow up in Rutherford. As I'm sure is the case in many other towns, residents who have lived there their whole lives are weary of people who move in and run for office. Although I had lived in Rutherford for six years prior to my running for council, the makeup of the council at the time, and historically, had been individuals who had grown up in town or had been there for some time. I can sympathize with this feeling as I had a similar experience growing up in Hoboken. "Home rule" becomes a part of who you are. There's nothing wrong with that, its only natural to want to protect your home. I was committed to overcoming that obstacle by talking to as many people as I could. Whether it was knocking on doors, town events or making calls, I took every opportunity to explain to people who I was and what I was about. I wanted people to know that I was committed to Rutherford, I was committed to making the Borough as great as it could be because this was the place I chose to live and raise my children. In a world where people are becoming more and more disenchanted with politics and government, I found that people appreciated someone who was honest, someone who wasn't afraid to receive criticism, and someone who promised that although I may not be able to deliver on every request, I'll be sure to have enough respect for you to tell you why what you wanted can't happen. I was true to the person I knew I was and that is who I sold to residents of Rutherford.
NJYD: Which developments taking place in Rutherford are exciting to you?
Mark: There are a number of developments taking place in Rutherford that are exciting. First and foremost, we have a theater on the main street of our Borough that has been the center of considerable amounts of discussion over the past few campaign cycles. This theater, The Williams Center, named after the poet William Carlos Williams, who was from Rutherford, has been falling into disrepair over a number of years. The building consists of a section that houses movie theaters, a section that houses a large live performance theater, and then another section that houses a smaller "black box" theater. The live performance theaters are where the issues lie. The theaters are old and have become run down and have been deemed unsafe. Bergen County owns the Williams Center and the Borough is currently in discussions with the County regarding how to move forward with the building. Both the Borough and the County understand how important the arts can be to a community. Not only will use of the entire theater complex bring much-needed commerce to our downtown, but it will also provide the Borough with a facility to use for things like arts programs, school concerts, plays, and graduations, among other things. These discussions are ongoing and I look forward to being a part of the final decision-making process because I know whatever we decide will have a lasting impact on our community. Beyond the Williams Center, we are working on making improvements to our parks and fields, specifically to make them more accessible to our special needs residents, we will also be working on improvements to our Borough website to make it the one stop shop for all things Rutherford, and lastly we are working on the implementation of a $150,000 grant that we received from the State of New Jersey pertaining to our tree planting and maintenance plan. We are the Borough of Trees so we are constantly looking for ways to improve how we go about ensuring that our tree canopy remains one of the best around.
NJYD: What's on the horizon for you?
Mark: Right now I am concentrating on being the best husband I can be, best father I can be, best attorney I can be, and best Councilman I can be. I have been married for 6 years to my wonderful wife Kerry and have two beautiful children, a four-year-old named Mark and an eight-month-old named Abigail. Before I was elected I was hired as a public finance attorney with a large New Jersey law firm so, needless to say, I am wearing many different hats. Despite how crazy my schedule can be I can honestly say I love everything I do. I make sure to spend as much time as I can with my family because children grow up fast and you can never get that time back. At the end of the day, it comes down to time management. If there are some nights where I don't get much sleep because I am working on a project for work or researching an issue for a resident then so be it. I signed up for this life because I wanted to do everything I could to take care of my family and my community. As opportunities arise, I will consider them just as any other person would, but no matter when the next opportunity comes and where it may take me, I will continue to serve the people of my community in whatever capacity that they may need.
NJYD: Do you have any advice for Young Dems that might like to run for office someday?
Mark: My advice for Young Dems that might like to run for office someday is to stay true to yourself and the person that you are. You will be tempted to go in the direction of popular sentiment but if that is not what you believe is the right thing to do then stay on the course you believe is the right one. At the same time don't be unreasonable. In today's polarized world of politics, people forget that the whole point of why our form of government was created was to compromise. You must always understand that you will come across people with opinions different than your own, hear them out and try to find a common ground. I believe it is critically important for the future of our form of government, and ultimately our country, for the next generation of politicians to be principled, yet reasonable.
To keep up to date with the bold measures being implemented by Mark in his role as Councilman, check out his Facebook Page.