Scene: The Parsipanny Hilton Grand Ballroom. A hall filled with red, white, and blue balloons and streamers, with approximately 200 people standing around, looking a bit dejected. A man in a pin-striped suit with perfectly coiffed, grey hair approaches the podium. (Loud applause.)
“Thank you. Thank you. I just got off the phone with Joshua Franklin and congratulated him on his victory. It was a close, hard-fought election, but it’s now official. Josh has won the election for the next Mayor of Parsipanny.” (Boos)
“Now, now. Don’t be that way. We’ve had a great run, and we have nothing to be ashamed of.” (The crowd calms down)
“It’s been my honor to be your Mayor for the last 20 years. That’s five consecutive terms, quite an impressive record. Some of the volunteers in this room weren’t even born when I took office, or were just getting out of diapers. Over the years, I’ve hopefully become a little wiser, and certainly a lot greyer. (Laughter, polite applause)
“But I’ve tried to serve the people of Parsippany as best I could.
“Before I go any further, I’d like to thank my wife and kids for all their help through my long journey. Beth, are you in here? Come on up.” (The candidate’s wife stands at the podium, to a loud round of applause.)
“Thank you for letting me share our lives with the 50,000 citizens of Parsippany, Honey. I certainly appreciate it, and I know they do, too.
“When I started out in politics, all those many years ago, the times were very different. Ronald Reagan was President. The Berlin Wall was still standing. Dirty Dancing was showing in the local movie theatre. We were listening to Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer on the radio. Of course, this is New Jersey, so most of you are still listening to that Bon Jovi song. Some things never change.
“But things truly were different back then. Twenty years ago, we were a town in decline. We were suffering from a high crime rate, rising unemployment, and a general malaise. Parsipanny was in a downward spiral. Now we have one of the lowest crime rates in the state, our unemployment numbers are the envy of New Jersey, and just a few years ago we were voted the country’s 17th best place to live by Money Magazine.” (Polite applause.)
“When I first started as Mayor, I was up against a Town Council that didn’t want to change anything. They were very stubborn, very old school. I pretty much had to force my will on them, and confrontation was common. In my first term in office, it was either my way, or the highway. What can I say? I had to knock a lot of heads together. The people of Parsipanny stood with me in those days, and over time things improved.
“Now Parsipanny has a wonderful Town Council, open to change and openly responsive to the changing needs of our town. The schools are constantly improving. There are new businesses moving in every day. Morale is high. I’m so proud of all our progress.” (More polite applause.)
“It took a generation for all these changes to take shape. I think that a new era is dawning in our town.
“Our new Mayor, Josh Franklin, rose up through the Town Council. He is an example of the new kind of leader this town has created, a leader who understands negotiation and compromise. I guess the time of the dinosaurs like me, autocrats who rule by force of personality, is coming to an end. If I had to lose this election, I’m glad it’s to someone I respect, like Josh.” (Applause.)
“I guess this is what Moses must have felt like when he rose before the Israelites at the start of the fifth book of the Bible, Deuteronomy, to address the people as their leader for the last time. Not that I’m Moses, mind you. Still, I imagine this is how he felt.
I’m proud of all that we’ve accomplished, and I see so much more that needs to be done. I wish I could be there to guide you, but I know it’s time for new leadership. I’d like to stand here all night and give you advice, but unlike Moses in Deuteronomy, who lectured for thirty-three chapters, I think my time is up.
“The good news is that after this speech, I will not be escorted to Mount Nebo to an anonymous grave. At least, I don’t think I will. This is New Jersey, after all, and politics can be tough. Seriously, though, I plan to be around for a while. Call me if you need me. My number is in the book.
“Thank you. Good luck, and good night.” (The Mayor exits the stage to loud applause.)
By Larry Stiefel