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IRVINGTON – InsiderNJ sat down this week with Mayor Tony Vauss, the local leader of this urban Essex County town, and asked him to share the best political advice he ever received from a book or person.
Some people may feel inclined to roll out the quote by Aristotle or offer a tidbit from Machiavelli or The Art of War.
But not Vauss, a longtime on-the-ground political operative here who won his first mayoral term in 2014 and easily won a walkover reelection last year. To this day, Vauss has one main political mentor, Team Irvington icon D. Bilal Beasley, who died a few months after his acolyte became mayor.
Mr. Beasley served as a councilman and freeholder, and ran unsuccessfully against Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-28) in 2007.
Asked in his second floor office about memorable political advice, Vauss immediately began talking about his mentor.
“I could run down the list of things he told me and taught me,” the mayor said. “The thing about it too as hen he was teaching me I didn’t know he was teaching me.”
But what was the most valuable piece of advice Mr. Beasley gave him?
“He said to me, ‘Tony, in this business, you help as many people as you possibly can,'” Vauss remembered. “He said, ‘where people go wrong is when they help themselves.'”
What else does he recall?
“He would always say, ‘getting elected is one thing but being prepared to govern is something else.'”
Just as enduring, Vauss said, was the temperament of Mr. Beasley, a devout Muslim.
“I don’t care what happened, he wasn’t rattled,” Vauss said. “Even when he ran for senate and lost, he said, ‘it’s okay, we’ll go back to the drawing board.”
A prominent poster of Mr. Beasley surrounded by other Team Irvington players and allies hangs in the mayor’s office.
Pictures of the late Freeholder Lebby Jones (who died earlier this year), and the late Councilwoman Sandy Jones (who died just last week) adorn the space around the central image of Mr. Beasley.
“When I came on, when I started getting involved, they were the leaders,” Vauss said, referring to Bilal Beasley, Lebby Jones and Sandy Jones.
The late threesome didn’t allow ego to interfere with the people’s business, the mayor said, and he hopes he lives up to that credo.
“Some people can’t function in politics without an enemy,” said Vauss, who has a 6-3 advantage on the governing body, which includes Council President David Lyons, a longtime former Team Irvington antagonist. “They come into office with the attitude of ‘I need someone to bully.’
“But I want peace,” he added. “Let’s be in peace time instead of war time.”
InsiderNJ talked to Vauss a day after the failure in Trenton of recreational marijuana.
Vauss backs the legislation’s passage.
“I’m in support of it,” he said. “The social injustice piece is a big part of it. Originally the bill talked about ‘virtual expungement,’ and I was not comfortable with that. But by the time the bill came together I was convinced the social justice element was strong, so I could support it.”
At the end of the interview, Vauss accompanied InsiderNJ outside and proudly showed off the statue that adorns the courtyard in front of Irvington City Hall.
It’s a statue of the late Freeholder D. Bilal Beasley of Irvington.