ORANGE – Dwight Holmes remembers the pride he felt playing football and running track for Orange High School. As mayor he would like to help restore that pride to a city reeling from scandal.
"I want Orange pride back in Orange," said the candidate. "When I was a kid it meant a lot to say you were an Orange Tornado."
His life-long history in Orange is important to the mayoral candidate. Forty-seven years old, he says he still holds the city schools' record for the 100-yard dash at 9.6 seconds.
"Having a mayor who's actually from the town, that's something Orange hasn't had in a long time if ever," said Holmes. "I have a stake in this city. I've purchased a home. I plan on being here awhile."
A four-year veteran of the planning board who served as board chairman for the past two years, Holmes said he has sufficient insight into Orange government to know how he would change operations for the better.
"The main point of my candidacy is making sure things are done right and for the right reasons," said Holmes. "I want to ensure that decisions are made in the best interests of the residents.
He added, "I believe some people are running to represent a special interest group that has encouraged them to run, while others are running just to have the power … then there's me."
A teacher's aide, Holmes first joined the planning board on the invitation of Councilwoman Tency Eason, who is now one of his opponents in the mayor's race. Mayor Mims Hackett appointed Holmes to the board. Now Hackett stands accused of taking a $5,000 bribe. The mayor resigned his Assembly seat last year, and last week officially made it known he is not pursuing mayoral re-election as he awaits a spring trial date in federal court.
"When I took out the petitions to run for mayor, over dinner we briefly talked about my candidacy," Holmes said, referring to Hackett. "He didn't mention to me that he wasn't going to run again."
The other candidates are At-Large Councilman Donald Page, West Orange Police Patrolman Eldridge Hawkins, Jr., Zoning Board Chair Janice Morrell, and activist Betty Brown.
A U.S. Army veteran, Holmes served six and a half years as a medic and behavioral scientist. In the late 1990s, he became involved as a coach in the Pop Warner Football League.
"I could see that the young people in my town were slowly slipping away," said Holmes. "My brother and I helped turn these athletes into gentlemen. I have a desire to make all of our youth responsible citizens, to let them know we appreciate their tremendous talents and will utilize their energy and talents."
Holmes, married and raising three young children in Orange, said, "It's the youth and betterment of the city that has kept me here over the years."