From Long Branch with Love: Mayoral Candidate Avery Grant wants NJ to Smile (with Video)

TRENTON – The son of a church pastor from Memphis, Tennessee, Avery Grant had polio as a child, but went on to be a star high jumper and make lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army off a tour of duty in Vietnam. At the six-month point of his combat service he met his wife in Hawaii and she told him when he mustered out she wanted the family to stay in Long Branch, so he did, and they did, and now, the Long Branch Board of Education member, St. Luke’s Methodist Church elder and executive director of the local Concerned Citizens Council, in his second campaign for the mayoralty of his beloved seaside city, has a simple message: smile.

“If I’m elected, I want to start a smile campaign,” Grant told InsiderNJ today in Trenton, his eyes twinkling, after he attended a site remediation hearing of the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). “I want people to look at one another and just smile. You don’t have to talk. Just acknowledge. Just smile.”

Long Branch lost that infectious joy at one point, he said, his Veterans of Foreign Wars cap on the seat beside him in the DEP cafeteria. We lost that abiding sense of connected community; our fragile individual egos and irritability getting in the way of just pleasantly interacting. For Grant, the development of the waterfront contributed to that divide, which is partly why he’s running. He maintains that the sitting Schneider Administration enabled the development of Pier Village without sufficient community input, with the heavy hand of eminent domain and insufficient affordable housing.

“The developer said he wanted ambiance,” said Grant – a former city engineer and Department of Public Works head in East Orange. He smiled quizzically and added, “I said at that point, ‘I can’t waste time with this.'”

He challenged Schneider in 2014 and lost by fewer than 250 votes. This year, he’s running in a three-man contest, with the additional candidacy of Long Branch Councilman John Pallone. Schneider has City Hall. Pallone has substantial labor support. Grant lacks the money and conventional organization in this campaign.

But he has a message.

“My campaign is bringing back the Long Branch we knew,” Grant told InsiderNJ. “We need to make Broadway more receptive to the people. We had a nice shopping district on Broadway. …The mall killed Broadway, but we need to strengthen the UEZ program to help them build their storefronts. The present government is not responsive to people and I want to make the government more responsive.”

And he wants to do that with a smile.




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One response to “From Long Branch with Love: Mayoral Candidate Avery Grant wants NJ to Smile (with Video)”

  1. Long Branch is lucky and constituents would be wise to elect Mr. Grant. In all ways, he has earned their support.

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