Trenton At-Large Council Candidate Jerell Blakeley: The InsiderNJ ‘Razor Sharp’ Interview (with Video)

Barber Shop

TRENTON – “Hey, Smart,” they all greeted the pin stripe-suited Jerell Blakely in the Razor Sharp Barber Shop, where he’s been coming to get his haircuts since he was a child. Baseball cap on backwards while he worked, one eye on the NBA playoffs on the big screen TV set, barber Bill Hackett smiled when he saw the 30-year old candidate for an at-large council seat cross the old fashioned black and white tiled floor.

“He’s out here,” Hackett said of his longtime customer. “A lot of people come around just because it’s election time. But people like Jerell has been around the whole time, so he knows what’s going on from an inside perspective.”

Born and raised in New Jersey’s capital city, Blakeley’s the kid who spent a lot of his time in the free public library reading the biographies of African-American leaders. He’s partial to Hosea Williams, one of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s trusted lieutenants. Immersed in Trenton politics at a young age and a former Eagleton fellow, he taught civics for three years at his alma mater, Trenton Central High School, and worked for the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) before becoming an organizer for the Healthy Schools New Coalition at the Work Environment Council.

He’s taking his first shot in this election season for a seat on the council, one of six candidates pursuing three vacancies – and the youngest in the field.

“We need new leadership,” said Blakeley, nine days before Election Day, running on the undercard of a mayoral contest for the seat left vacant by Mayor Eric Jackson, who opted not to pursue reelection in this crime-ridden, troubled city.

“If the trumpet makes an unfamiliar sound, who shall be prepared for battle?” the candidate asked, quoting scripture. “The fact of the mater is we need leadership in this city that will stay for the long haul, that will harness all the energy and all the enthusiasm.”

InsiderNJ joined Blakeley at Trenton Social in a room that steadily filled for the jazz group performing there on Sunday afternoon – one of the candidate’s favorite haunts. But he wanted to make sure to take a swing by the barber shop, that old school den of brotherhood, where they received him like a local hero, and where they celebrate his step toward the fulfillment of a citywide dream as he hopes to assume local elected office.

Hackett made the case for Blakeley while he cut hair, then, moments later, ran out of his shop to make one last point.

“As ambitious as he is,” the barber said on the sidewalk, standing next to Blakeley, “one of the things I love about Jerell is he stayed here. It would have been very easy for him to just go somewhere else, ride off into the sunset. But he decided to stay here and shine his light in Trenton.”

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