Requiem for a Parsippany Diehard

Mayor Frank Priore

Parsippany is not a place that oozes charm. Known for highways and shopping centers, it is very much a collection of neighborhoods – among them Lake Hiawatha, Lake Parsippany, Mount Tabor.

But when Frank Priore, who died Monday night at 73, became mayor in 1982, he sought to do something about it.

Thus was born the phrase, “Pride in Parsippany.”

It may have seemed a bit corny, but it did have a certain ring to it and it is still employed today.

But Priore as mayor was more than a slogan. A flamboyant sort, he was a full-time mayor (a rarity for a suburban town) who oversaw just about everything. He was very much the public face of the town, which with a population of about 50,000 was – and is – the largest in Morris County.  So much so that at times he enjoyed using his vehicle to pull over unsuspecting motorists for traffic violations.

Michael dePierro ran for council on a ticket with then-mayoral candidate Priore in 1981. They both won and dePierro is still there.

“His heart was in Parsippany,” dePierro said.

In contrast to his constant visibility, dePierro said that in private Priore was a “good listener” who often accepted good ideas from others, himself included.

But everything was not always grand.

Priore twice tried to expand his political sphere outside Parsippany, running in back-to-back years for chair and then vice-chair of the Morris County Republican Committee. He lost both times

Far more troubling was his indictment and subsequent conviction on bribery, mail fraud and other charges in 1994. This sent Priore to federal prison for five years. Back home in Parsippany, it ushered in a 15-year period of Democratic mayors running the township.

Priore returned to Parsippany after his release from prison and opened a photography business.

And he remained visible in local political life. In fact, dePierro said he talked to Priore on Sunday, the day before he passed.

A few months prior to that, I ran into Priore at a fundraiser for then council candidate Justin Musella. He was no longer the center of attention but others still sought his advice.

Priore’s passing is an inevitable sign of life’s changing nature.

BettyLou DeCroce, a long-time Parsippany resident and former assemblywoman, observed that Priore now joins a number of other once-prominent township Republicans who have passed. That includes her late husband, Alex DeCroce, former Congressman Dean Gallo and former county Sheriff John M. Fox.

Arrangements for Priore at this writing are pending.

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One response to “Requiem for a Parsippany Diehard”

  1. A great mayor. Yea I know “he was a criminal”. Show me one politician who is not. You can’t, this was quite simply a political hit job, and please, 5 years? Drug dealers don’t do 5 years. Sure he was on the take, but he drove the renaissance of Parsippany. He was charismatic and engaging. Able to pull people in and get them involved, and get them to care. At least we have honest Jamie B in office now…..oh those were the days

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