By Shaheed M. Morris
TRENTON — Days after the last elected mayor reported to a federal prison, Eric E. Jackson took the oath of office as the 55th mayor of New Jersey’s impoverished capital city on Tuesday.
With one hand placed on the Bible, and joined by his wife, Denise, and son, Adrian, Jackson stood under sunny skies as he vowed to take on the challenges of his hometown.
After taking his oath on the steps of City Hall, the former public works director promised that “the best days are ahead” for a city where former Mayor Tony F. Mack’s tenure marked a four-year descent into crime, unemployment and hopelessness.
“For a kid who was born in this city, who grew up attending our local elementary schools, who spent years working in City Hall…. The opportunity you have given me is incredible,” Jackson, a Democrat, said in a five-minute Inaugural address. “I commit to you: the best days are ahead of us. The best is yet to come.”
Starting at 11:46, Jackson’s address was brief because of a state law that requires the mayor to be officially sworn-in office by noon on July 1 every four years.
On June 26, Mack began serving a 58-month prison sentence after being convicted on extortion and bribery charges on February 7.
Jackson, 55, briefly worked for the troubled Mack administration before taking a job in Plainfield as its public works director. Jackson first ran for Trenton mayor in 2010, missing the runoff by a handful of votes.
Jackson was the top vote getter on May 13 in a six-person field. On June 10, Jackson defeated Paul Perez, in a runoff election where he secured 5,637 votes compared to Perez’ 4410 votes.
In his first official action as Trenton’s mayor, Jackson relieved four of the city’s directors of their duties, including – Ralph Rivera, the former police director, Sam Hutchinson, the former business administrator, Walter Denson, the former director of housing and economic development director and former law director Caryl Amana.
The cabinet-level positions were filled by David Minchello will serve as the director of law, Terry McEwan as business administrator, Monique King-Viehland as director of housing and economic development and Ernest Parrey as the police director.
Jackson said that he hope that his interim directors will remain permanently pending approval by city council.
James Gee, a political strategist who directed Jackson’s campaign, was present at the Inaugural festivities. Gee is currently serving as Jackson’s transition team’s executive director. He is also speculated to be Jackson’s next chief of staff.
“I have been mandated by the community to work on the violent crime,” Jackson said afterwards when leaving his City Hall office. “I plan to re-open the city’s recreation department to bring jobs for young people.”
Last year Trenton broke its 2005 murder record with 37 murders with a depleted police force.
City Council members were sworn-in with Councilman Zachary Chester voted in as council president.