More Articles Click

How Frank E. Rodgers Became The Mayor of Harrison

Jun 24, 2022
Mayor Frank E. Rodgers Harrison NJ

Frank E. Rodgers got the longest continuous streets in Harrison named after him.  Frank E. Rodgers Blvd runs north to south the entire length of the Town of Harrison.  Most new residents know very little about Frank E. Rodgers except he got a street named after him. Some think he is a famous cowboy and misspell his name, Roger. Others think he was the founder of Roy Rogers Restaurants.  Just kidding! For long-time residents, Frank E. Rodgers was the longest sitting Mayor in the United States.  A record that was only surpassed years later after Mayor Rodgers retired. 

Mayor Rodgers was at one time in the Guinness World Book of Records as the longest sitting Mayor in the United States as Mayor of Harrison from 1947 until 1994 a total of forty-seven years.  Before being Mayor he was a Councilman for 10 years.  So he was in public service for 57 years.  This longevity as Mayor is outstanding but when you consider that at the time Mayor Rodgers was Mayor elections were held every two years and not the four years now in place in the Town of Harrison.  That means that Mayor Rodgers ran every two years to retain his elected office as Mayor.

So how did Mayor Rodgers come to be the Mayor of Harrison?  It was not an easy task.  Then Councilman Frank E. Rodgers took on a then powerful Mayor of Harrison, Fredrick J. Gassert who had the backing of the most powerful politician in New Jersey, Frank Hague who was in neighboring Jersey City.  Frank Hague was known as “Boss Hague”.

Historian John Cunningham put it this way “Frank Hague was a guy with whom you dealt if you wanted to get anything done in the State of New Jersey.”  As the story was told Frank Hague called Frank Rodgers when he heard he was running for Mayor and suggested that he get out of politics.  A suggestion from such a powerful political boss would have deterred almost anyone else.  But Frank E. Rodgers was no ordinary citizen, Frank E. Rodgers had ten years of Town Council experience and three years in the armed services on behalf of the United States in World War II. Frank E. Rodgers stated “I will run for office because I am an American citizen.  I have a right to run!”  Frank E. Rodgers further stated that during his first run for Mayor, “It wasn’t easy to find somebody to walk [door to door] with during that [first] campaign.  None of the city [sic] workers would even talk to me.  Every once in a while though, I’d get a wink.”

Running for office in 1946 against incumbent Mayor Frederick J. Gassert was no easy task. Gassert was the Corporation Counsel for the County of Hudson and an attorney for the Newark Archdiocese.   Mayor Rodgers would later jokingly comment that running against Mayor Gassert was like a “double sacrilege”

Mayor Rodgers after being elected was among several elected officials who eventually joined forces to dethrone Boss Hague from New Jersey politics.  Boss Hague was legendary in the level of corruption he partook in.  One example of the extent of his corruption was a public works project funded by the Federal Government during his tenure that put in sewer lines throughout Jersey City.  Long after Frank Hague passed away, a developer went to tie into the existing sewer line and discovered that there was no sewer line.  What appeared to be a sewer line with manhole covers was only sealed manhole covers.  There was no sewer pipe laid underneath the manhole covers.  Frank Hague had billed for a sewer project but only put in the manhole covers.

Frank E. Rodgers was honored when the Council voted to rename then North and South 4th Street in Harrison to North & South Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. For those unfamiliar with Rodgers Blvd.  It is designated South Frank E. Rodgers Blvd (formerly South 4th Street) South of Harrison Avenue (in the direction of the Ironbound Section of Newark) and North Frank E. Rodgers (formerly North 4th Street) North of Harrison Avenue (in the direction of Kearny)

What is your Mayor Rodgers story?  Let Us Know Your Mayor Rodgers story on our Community Discussion Board.  If you have not signed up yet to participate you can Sign Up now.