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A local legend who thrived on a combination of independence, guts and old school street wiles, Irvington North Ward Councilman David Lyons has died.
“It doesn’t even seem real at this point,” said Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss, an ally of Mr. Lyons.
The councilman had been ill and in the hospital, the mayor told InsiderNJ.
Earlier this year he finished his memoir, The Boy Becomes a Man: Confessions of an Honest Politician.
With considerable texture and attention to detail, Mr. Lyons in his book describes what it was like to grow up in a little Southern factory town, endure the traumas and temptations of a young man on the move in the big city when he came north, including numerous intimate collisions with women, and find his destiny as an unlikely family man and leather-jacket-wearing tenant advocate in Irvington.
The coming-of-age book stands on its own as biography (related in a way to Get Up, You’re Not Dead, by former Newark Assemblyman George Richardson) and in the second half has a lot to recommend it to insiders who love Essex County politics. Lyons takes time in the book to chronicle the wars between the county party machine and his ally state Senator Ronald L. Rice and his own political battles with Team Irvington and former Mayor Wayne Smith.
Mr. Lyons always loved being in the system but not of it.
He holds to that line of thinking throughout the book.
He peppers The Boy Becomes a Man with jaded general observations about the political process. “Politics is a profession full of egotistical misfits making decisions that are usually based on their own selfish thinking, as opposed to decisions made with the people in mind,” the councilman writes. Then he contextualizes those observations into the bloodstream of his own local experience.
“I am of the belief,” Lyons writes, “that most of the council people who I have served with have not worked in the best interest of the people of Irvington. They have looked away at times to the actions of those who did not have Irvington’s interest at heart. It is one thing if you don’t know, but it is unforgivable in my eyes when you support those who do harm to my community for your own gain.”
The Rice-Lyons alliance against the county found Mr. Lyons on the front-lines of several significant fights to keep his North Ward seat. But finally, he found in his wife and in her strength a life partner and fellow warrior. He details their respective health issues (he had a heart transplant in 2010 and Charmin Lyons sustained more than one aneurysm). She was the one who got him into politics to begin with, told him he won his first race, and steadfastly supported him through the hazards of a local political life in one of New Jersey’s toughest towns.
Mr. Lyons’s book, and his life’s work, was philosophical, and always from the standpoint of a man schooled on the street.