THE “ENERGIZER BUNNY MAYOR”
B y K E I TH R E E D
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Newark’s Cory Booker may be America’s most popular mayor, but only a few years ago, he was an upstart candidate trying to unseat the entrenched mayor of one of the nation’s most troubled cities. Less than a
year into his second term, New Jersey’s Superman is making headway and headlines. The 41-year-old stars in a Sundance Channel documentary series, Brick City, and is the kind of hands-on mayor who jogs through neighborhoods and personally uses Twitter to determine which areas of his city need shoveling. Between
helping little old ladies and balancing his city’s budget, the Stanford, Yale Law and Oxford grad gave EBONY an exclusive glimpse into his thoughts on governing, his single status and what he has learned.
EBONY: People consider you to be part of a new generation of Ivy League-educated Black mayors who are not directed by so-called “racial politics.” Still, others including Adrian Fenty of Washington, D.C., lost re-election bids. Why were you successful where others weren’t?
BOOKER: We have these great senior leaders, many of them holding mayoral offices, who were involved in the Civil Rights Movement and are still active. We still need them, but time just marches on and there are
always going to be new leaders emerging in every sector. It’s the same thing in politics: You may
see some people rise and then lose elections, but no matter what, as time marches on you’re going to see great leaders from the next generation emerging, because that’s what America needs [and] demands.
EBONY: How many terms do you plan to serve?
BOOKER: It’s too soon to make a decision about a third term. I want to be loyal to a purpose and not a position. I will have to make an educated decision in a few years about whether that means staying in office. If there’s
a compelling reason to stay, I will stay and run for a third term.
EBONY: When was the last time you got to slow down and reflect? What did you discover?
BOOKER: At the end of [last] year. It was the first Christmas and New Year’s that I spent away from my mom and dad and family in a long time. It ended up being a valuable few days alone. I found a lot of ways in which I was not in alignment with the person I want to be or, even worse, the person I purport to be, and I put together strategies to do something about that.
EBONY: You’re probably the most social media-savvy mayor in the country. Where do you draw the line on
people having access to you?
BOOKER: To be honest, the issue I have is how to balance this job as a whole so [I] stay nurtured and nourished and not burned out. That’s one thing I don’t think I’m good at yet. I’m a single guy who does a 24-hour job, and I’m still trying to find balance.
EBONY: What was Newark’s biggest challenge before you were elected the first time, and is that challenge the
BOOKER: I think the biggest challenge for any American city, and probably for our nation as a whole, is bringing people together from different backgrounds and different perspectives and getting them to work together toward a common goal or aspiration. Where you do that is where you get breakthroughs.
EBONY: The Washington Post called you Newark’s “Energizer Bunny mayor.” How do you recharge?
BOOKER: I made a big mistake last year; I gained a tremendous amount of weight. I’m definitely making a decision this year to exercise more. I have to take more time to develop a personal life. I would like to find my soul mate, it’s just going to have to become a focus for me.
EBONY: You’re young, single powerful and accessible. Do the ladies in Newark ever try tweeting you for reasons other than constituent services?
BOOKER: [Laughs out loud] It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. It’s about finding the right person, and it’s also about taking the time to get to know somebody. We young guys sometimes think we’re invincible and want to live these lives in which we just pour everything that we have [into our work]. There comes a point when you realize that you have to live a full life.