Call him Mr Mayor
“We are from a small country but we are doing some big things.”
By “we” Adrian O’Brien Mapp was referring to Barbadians in North America and some of the big things he had in mind were their key roles in government, business, education, medicine, entertainment and science.
Mapp, who left Barbados for the United States in 1977 in search of bigger and brighter things at the age of 21 years, is on the verge of being elected the next mayor of the city of Plainfield, a largely middle-class community in New Jersey which is less than 60 minutes from mid-town Manhattan.
He is so close to taking over the top spot in the bedroom community of New York City that residents insist it would take more than the high winds and rains of a hurricane like Sandy to stop him from assuming the municipality’s top position.
“Yes, I have to be elected in the November 5 election but having won the recent Democratic Party Primary nomination in a heavily Democratic community, it’s highly unlikely that I will lose the upcoming general election in November,” said Mapp.
Miguel Edgehill, a manager of a financial services firm in New York, a resident and voter of Plainfield and president of the Barbados-American Charitable Organization of New Jersey, was straightforward about it.
“He is going to be the next mayor of Plainfield, no doubt about that,” he said.
With a population of more than 50 000 people – 50 per cent of whom are black, 40 per cent Hispanic, seven per cent white and three per cent “other” – the city has a per capita income of US$47 000 (BDS$94 000).
Its crime rate is relatively low and its housing stock is a mix of lavish multimillion-dollar mansions, comfortable owner-occupied middle-income homes valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars and properties for the poor.
With a municipal budget of US$74 million (BDS$148 million), a school budget of US$149 million (BDS$298 million) and a Municipality Utilities Authority that looks after the waste and sewer system and needs US$25 million (BDS$50 million) to get the job done, Plainfield has almost 500 municipal employees, 1 000 teachers and school workers, 151 police officers, and 150 executives and workers at its utility company on the payroll.
“There’s quite a lot of affluence in the city but there are also pockets of poverty as well,” said the man who is now commonly called Mr Mayor although he has not yet been elected to the job.
“My biggest challenges as mayor are going to be spurring economic growth, bringing jobs to the city and improving the level of education. We have to find jobs for our young people coming out of school and we must ensure that public safety is guaranteed to all. We have to be concerned about all of our people.”
But concerns about the social and economic well-being of people didn’t begin with his move to Plainfield. He traced that interest to the 1970s when he worked on the election campaign of Barbados Labour Party (BLP) candidate Sir Louis Tull when he successfully contested the 1976 General Election in St George South.
“Back then I identified with the Barbados Labour Party and if I were in Barbados today I believe I would have a political relationship with the BLP,” Mapp said, never mind that his cousin is Adriel Brathwaite, Barbados’ Attorney General.
“The Attorney General’s grandfather and my maternal grandmother were brother and sister,” he explained.
Mapp, who was born and grew up in Greens, St George, attended the Seventh-Day Adventist Secondary School and worked at the Barbados Marketing Corporation’s supermarket in Bridgetown before emigrating, living first in Elmhurst in Queens before moving to Plainfield with his mother Marjorie “Sissy” Mapp in 1979.
A man with a passion for education, he returned to the classroom in Plainfield in 1981 and by the time he ended his school career, he had a Master’s in business administration from Farleigh-Dickenson University, a Bachelor’s in accounting from Rutger’s University, and academic and professional qualifications that made him a certified public accountant, a municipal finance officer and a qualified purchasing agent.
Today, he is director of finance and the qualified purchasing agent for the city of Orange Township, a position he is likely to keep after he becomes mayor of Plainfield.
“I haven’t decided on that yet because the mayor’s position isn’t a full-time one. But I intend to put in at least five hours a day in the mayor’s office.”