Forty years a Paterson cop, the last seven of which he spent as chief before the wars with Mayor Jose "Joey" Torres mounted and tolled, Larry Spagnola on the outside of City Hall and taking his daily constitutional walk, admitted he may want another crack at Torres in the political arena.
"I have not made up my mind yet, but I'll definitely pick up petitions before the deadline next Thursday,"theformer chief who ran against Torres and lost in 2006 told PolitickerNJ.com in a telephone interview."I have to sit down and think about it. Every reaction is a reaction. Iwant to be involved and make a change. I've got a lotI want to give back. This has been a good city to me and my family. Iwas part of it for over 40 years."
Back at the beginningof his career, Spagnola stepped out of his Marine Corp uniform and three months later donned the cap and dress blues of a police officer for a swearing-in ceremony on Valentine's Day, 1968.
"As a police officer and police chief, I've already represented everybody in this great city andI represented everybody equally," Spagnola said."Everybody got a fair shake. Nobody's going to come forward and say that's not true. Equality is my whole life. That's what I've done for 40 years, and if I runI'll get that out to people who don't know me – but hopefully their parents know me.
"They criticized me when they came into office, said 'he's from the old school,' and I said,'that's right, I'm from the old school. I've got values. These senior citizens – and I see them when I walk, and we talk – what they've forgotten, these guys willnever know."
The 62-year old Spagnola, who received 6,000 votes to Torres's winning 7,200 tally four years ago,said he has asimple question for voters.
"Are you happy? If you're happy, fine;but if you want to change, that's where my candidacy starts," said the Ward 2 resident, who warred with Torres during the mayor's first term before the mayor finally canned him for insubordination.
"That's what they finally called it, but he charged me over 100 charges, they might have had me on the hill in Dallas for all the charges they leveled against me," said Spagnola. "Insubordination? Yeah,I refused certain ordersI thought wereunethical.I wasn't going to cross that line."
Despitehis acrimonious history with the two-termmayor, Spagnola said his interest is the city and only the city.
"I don't take things personally," he said."I didn't make it personal what happened to me. Itake personally what happened to the city. We don't have control of the city any longer. This is a city run by the state. If I were mayor, Iwould open up that table and have the seats there for everybody – everybody has to feel part of the city. Their voice counts. They have to understand they are important to the city. Certain groups feels alienated.And I have proven Iam someone you can reason with. If you can show me a better way, I willlisten."
As Torres seeks to defend his place in City Hall, the field of challengers and would-be challengers expands.
Council President Jeffrey Jones is already in the race. Ward 6 Councilman Andre Sayegh plans to get in next week.
Spagnola, Councilwoman Vera Ames, and the wife of the Rev. James Kuikendall (himself a former candidate are all hovering at the edge of the contest.
In reference to Spagnola's potential run, Jones, also a veteran of the Marine Corps,said, "You can't be a law and order candidate if you didn't keep law and order in the city."
But Spagnola maintains that major crime went down every yearhe was chief with the exception of 2001 when the attacks on the World Trade Center reprioritized the police department.
Hailed by Gov.-elect Chris Christie during the gubernatorialcampaign at a Paterson rally, Spagnola also knows his adversaries will try to brand him as a Republican – political death in Paterson.
But he said for the record, "I've never declared myself a Republican or a Democrat. I'vealways voted for the best person. I'mindependent. Ilike to be an independent. Nobody's going to tell me who to vote for,and thatwon't change now or in the future."