Reproduced from The Record
by Michael J. Wildes, Mayor, City of Englewood
2-10 N. Van Brunt Street
Enlgewood , NJ 07631
VIPs Visit Incoming Mayor
“I make no apologies for my ambition.”
MICHAEL WILDES, ENGLEWOOD MAYOR-ELECT
Jerusalem Boss, Dinkins at Fund-Raiser
By ANDREW GLAZER
ENGLEWOOD – Dozens of donors muscled their way through Mayor-elect Michael Wildes' living room Monday to shake hands and pose for a photo with former New York Mayor David Dinkins and the mayor of Jerusalem, the latest two luminaries he has hosted in recent months.
Wildes supporters applaud the councilman and immigration attorney for putting Englewood in the sights of high-profile players. But critics say the Wildes gatherings – Monday's raised money for a Jerusalem charity – and his extensive campaign fund raising suggest the mayor-elect already has his sights set for higher office.
Wildes, 39, who has represented the 2 nd Ward since 1996, declined to discuss his future political life. But he didn't rule anything out.
“I make no apologies for my ambition,” he said. “It's a major part of what distinguishes me from others, and my actions and character will determine my success. I know I'm doing the right thing by the citizens of Englewood .”
Wildes said Monday's event, held largely in a heated tent in his back yard, raised about $30,000 for Boys Town Jerusalem, a school for poor Jewish boys founded in 1948.
Hummus, pita, fruit, and champagne were served to guests, who included Assembly Speaker Albio Sires; Paul DiGaetano, Republican Leader of the Assembly, and councilmen from several Bergen County municipalities. Absent were Wildes' colleagues on the Englewood council.
Englewood City Council President Douglas Bern said he was skeptical of Wildes' motives for holding the elaborate fund-raisers.
“Until Governor McGreevey showed up, most leaders were from out of state and really limited in what they can do for community, but not what can they do for Mr. Wildes and his fund raising,” he said. “I'm at least pleased to see that the latest effort is for a good cause, which I have contributed to myself.”
Councilman Jack Drakeford, who said he could not attend the event because of a prior commitment, said the big names Wildes has brought to the city haven't bowled him over.
“I don't know if it does anything for Englewood ,” he said. “What does good for Englewood is lowering taxes and improving quality life.”
Shunned by the county Democratic establishment led by Joseph Ferriero, Wildes has tried to show his national clout with the party by hosting McGreevey, hosting Sen. Frank Lautenberg last month, and in the past throwing events for New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer, presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., and Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council.
“I hope my political ascendance will send a message to others that public service is in fact a public trust, and one that has to be worked on in between elections,” Wildes said.
The Englewood councilman also boosted his profile by raising more than $310,000 for his mayoral campaign-impressive for any race in a city of 26,000 but especially so when uncontested. Among the donors was pop star Britney Spears, who gave $250. In the past, he has received contributions from Yoko Ono, whose husband, John Lennon, was represented by Wildes' father in an immigration dispute.
“I think this shows Michael is not about to kowtow to party bosses,” said DiGaetano, a prospective candidate for governor in 2004, after a speech by Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski. “It shows he remains independent from them, and it's a sign of the extent of his political skill.”
Dinkins said he traveled from New York to meet the new mayors – Wildes and Lupolianski, who was elected in June.
“Michael and I just met. He's a likeable, energetic fellow, and he said, “Will you come?' and to me it was a no-brainer,” Dinkins said.
In a brief moment between interviews with local media, Wildes showed Dinkins a photograph of his father, Leon Wildes, posing with John Lennon. They were both wearing bell bottom pants.
“That's my pride and joy,” Wildes said. “John and my family developed a close relationship. He was supposed to come to my bar mitzvah, but his son Sean had an earache.”
Lupolianski arrived about an hour late, snarled in traffic on his way from a reception at Gracie Mansion . Asked why the Wildes home was a stop in his shot international junket, Lupolianski said he heard that Englewood had an important Orthodox Jewish community.
“Also, I heard they had a wonderful and efficient new mayor,” he said.
Wildes, standing nearby, smiled and looked at a television camera.
“Did you get that?” he asked.
Paid for by Friends of Michael J. Wildes, Claudia Colbert, Treasurer