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The Early Career of Mayor Frank Hague

Chapter 2 - Hague’s Alliance With Wittpenn
Part 3

By Mark S. Foster

Copyright 1967

Web version, edited by GET NJ.
Copyright 2002

Having worked hard for Wittpenn’s election, Hague lost no time in collecting his reward. His eye was focused on a seemingly insignificant appointment as City Hall Custodian, at a salary of $2,000 per year. The salary itself was of secondary importance to the experienced constable. What intrigued him more was that he would be working directly under the eyes of the young mayor-elect in the same building. Hague dreamed of spending happy hours with the mayor-elect, counseling him on such matters as advisable appointments of ward two followers and politically advantageous public projects in his bailiwick. In addition, for the first time, Hague would himself be in a position to appoint directly twenty to twenty-five janitors. Being in a position to hand out jobs, Hague realized, was an extremely enviable position for any politician. Finally, since the Republicans had won control over the state assembly, Hague was certain to lose his position as sergeant at arms.

Two things stood in the way of his receiving this appointment. First, the mayor-elect was a man with a mind of his own. Not about to be rushed into any politically dangerous appointments, he promised on that he would “sweep City Hall clean.”7 This was hardly surprising since the government was due to change hands from Republican to Democratic rule. Nevertheless, the fighting for the softer appointments was fierce. Second, Wittpenn and Davis were both restricted in their freedom of movement by a complicated political situation. Briefly stated, the situation was as follows. Davis was the recognized leader of the county organization. In this position, he controlled appointments for county jobs and he also controlled the nomination of delegates to state Democratic conventions. On the other hand, as mayor elect, Wittpenn would control city appointments, which were more numerous. Also of note was the fact that Davis had been removed from his former job as city collector four years before, when Fagan was elected mayor. This job paid the princely salary of $5,000 per year, and Davis needed a steady salary himself. As mayor-elect, Wittpenn controlled this nomination. Davis did not want to place himself under Wittpenn’s orders but he needed the money. Wittpenn had no desire to sacrifice a political plumb to a potential troublemaker. At the same time, he realized the need for party unity. A farcical comedy ensued. Both men loudly proclaimed their primary loyalty to the party, but neither would make the first conciliatory gesture.

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