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The Mayors of Harrison NJ

Apr 01, 2022
Town Hall of Harrison NJ Christmas Wreaths

In 1904, the then Governor of New Jersey, Governor Franklin Murphy signed into law legislation entitled “An Act to Provide for the Election of Mayors in Incorporated Towns and to Regulate Their Duties”.  Under the new law, Joseph P. Riordan ran in Harrison’s Democratic Primary in 1904 and at the November General Election was elected the First Mayor of Harrison.  Mayor Riordan was Mayor from 1904 to 1915.  Mayor Riordan was also the only Mayor to lose an election and then win the following Mayoral Election serving a second term from 1920 to 1926.


Harrison Town Hall Council Chambers Audience View

The Second Mayor of Harrison was John J. Daly who served from 1916 to 1919 having defeated Mayor Joseph P. Riordan. The Third Mayor of Harrison was Matthew L. O’Brien from 1926 to 1931.  The Fourth Mayor of Harrison was Frederick J. Gassert from 1931 to 1946.  The Fifth Mayor of Harrison was Frank E. Rodgers from 1947 to 1994. 


Mayor Frank E. Rodgers

Mayor Frank Rodgers was the longest-running Mayor in the United States of America at one time serving 48 years.  Mayor Rodgers ran for office every two years and was elected 24 consecutive times. Mayor Rodgers was a Councilman for ten years before he ran for Mayor against the will of Mayor and Political Boss Frank Hague from neighboring Jersey City.  As one political observer put it “It’s hard to imagine how young Frank got up the nerve to stand up to the most powerful political machine (the Hague Machine) in New Jersey and possibly in all of the United States.”  Councilman Rodgers stated that “I will run for office because I am an American citizen.  I have a right to run!”


Mayor Raymond J. McDonough at Town Hall Mayor's Office

The Sixth Mayor of Harrison was Raymond J. McDonough from 1994 to 2014.  Mayor McDonough was a Councilman of the 2nd Ward before Mayor Rodgers supported his candidacy for Mayor upon Mayor Rodger’s retirement in 1994.  On February 12, 2014, Mayor McDonough suffered a massive heart attack while at the Harrison Town Hall.  Mayor McDonough was 65 years old at the time.  Mayor McDonough was working with a limited staff on February 12, 2014, which was a Town Holiday for Lincoln’s Birthday.  Emergency EMTs were unable to save him and his wife, family, residents, council members, town workers were in shock.  The loss was unexpected and on the verge of fulfilling the dream of the redevelopment of Harrison’s former Industrial Zone now fondly called SOHA (Southern Harrison).  The initial Redevelopment plan was envisioned by Mayor McDonough and his friend former Councilman Peter Higgins.


Mayor James Fife Praising then Councilman Anselmo Millan on Harrison Fest 2017

The Seventh Mayor of Harrison was to be an interim Mayor but has stayed in office beyond his interim period.  Mayor James Fife was appointed by the Council as interim Mayor and was sworn in thirteen days after Mayor McDonough’s passing on February 25, 2014, at a fifteen-minute Town of Harrison Mayor and Council meeting with the consent of the eight Town Council members to complete the rest of the late Mayor Raymond McDonough’s term.

Mayor Fife requested to extend his interim term for an additional four-year term for the reason that he wanted history to record that he was an elected Mayor not just appointed.  The eight Town Council members agreed with the condition that Mayor Fife would at the end of his additional four years as Mayor, would allow an open Democratic Primary.  Mayor Fife was to renege on that promise seeking a 2nd Four Year Term in 2018.  Mayor Fife is up for re-election this year (2022) and preemptively announced in 2021 that he would be seeking a third term in office.

Photo Credits:  Mayor Raymond J. McDonough at Desk, Doug Bauman/Jersey Journal