A list of the top ten out-sized New Jersey mayors posted this morning on PolitickerNJ.com sparked considerable reaction and debate among readers who offered their own thoughts on the subject in emails and text messages. Of those mayors not on the list who should have been, one name emerged as the consensus choice.
That was the late Thomas G. Dunn, mayor of Elizabeth from 1964 to 1992.
A WWII hero, Dunn built a rep as a wharf front tough guy, who often crossed the aisle to endorse Republicans.
His much publicized support for Richard Nixon’s 1972 presidential candidacy earned him the Benedict Arnold Honor from Democrats, who couldn’t get rid of him (despite trying behind an unsuccessful 1980 challenge by Ray Lesniak).
The Democratic Party cringed again four years later when Dunn became the New Jersey Chairman of Democrats for Reagan in 1984.
Reagan’s “Tear Down this Wall” speech was evidently lost on Dunn, who once suggested building a Berlin Wall along the Newark border to keep hooligans from driving their stolen cars into Elizabeth with police in pursuit at high rates of speed.
One former veteran reporter told PolitickerNJ.com today, “I can’t tell you how many cop briefs I wrote when I was at the Daily Journal that started: A high-speed police chase that began in Newark ended in Elizabeth early this morning.”
Dunn died in 1998.