The residents of Newark face a 2022 election year in which the West Ward will play a critical role in the political destiny of the city. With that in mind, InsiderNJ approached former West Ward Councilwoman Mamie Bridgeforth, the city’s first woman to represent a ward.
Dr. Bridgeforth represented the West Ward from 1998 to 2006, and during her time in office helped usher in more rental housing, more infill housing, the demolition of the Pabst Blue Ribbon site, and the creation of the West Side Village and Bakery Village. She also proudly welcomed a Dunkin Donuts to the West Ward’s commercial corridor. The long-serving chair of the Social Sciences Department at Essex County Community College also serves as the pastor of the Faith Christian Center Church.
Dr. Bridgeforth ran for and won the West Ward Council seat when then-Councilman (and Senator) Ronald Rice gave up his council seat (which he occupied from 1982 to 1998) to run against then-Mayor Sharpe James.
Ronald C. Rice, son of the senator and former West Ward Councilman, ran for the council seat in 2006 with the Booker Team and defeated Councilwoman Bridgeforth.
The younger Rice would go on to serve two terms as the West Ward Councilman.
In a wide-ranging interview this evening, Dr. Bridgeforth gave her views on the leadership styles, challenges, and accomplishments of former Newark Mayors Ken Gibson and James; and current Mayor Ras Baraka, who next year will pursue his third term in office.
She also provided insights into the particular needs of her fellow West Ward residents, who face the prospect of a key political battleground in their home ward, where numerous candidates are already going door to door.
What does the ward need in its next leader?
Where must it go?
What must he or she prioritize to improve the West?
What is the definition of an independent councilperson?
Dr. Bridgeforth this evening answered all these questions and more.
Sensing legitimate positive political energy in her city right now, the former councilwoman recalled with some emotion her question from 2014, which she posed to Ras Baraka’s brother Middy, about whether the Barakas were sure they could win citywide while giving up their key toehold of the South Ward council seat.
They would win, Middy Baraka told her, because the people, he said, “are hurting.”
For that anecdote and more historical context on the coming contests in Newark, please watch the Zoom interview below: