By her own admission, it’s been 13 years since Mary-Anna Holden held a paying job. The Tarrytown, N.Y. native and graduate of Manhattanville College has taught, worked in a library, for the Lifesavers company, and in the public relations and newspaper business.
Her re-entry into the workforce may be easier than she thinks: Shortly after this interview, , a six-figure position regulating energy, telecommunications, cable TV, sewers, and water. Her appointment is pending state Senate approval.
As she prepares to leave office since her to Democrat Bob Conley, Holden sat down with Patch to reflect on her time serving the people of Madison.
Patch: How would you assess the state of the borough?
Holden: The borough is in better shape today than when I started. There are so many projects that long-term had been on hold: the rehabilitation of Hartley Dodge Memorial. I was mayor of Bayley-Ellard for two years! We addressed the upgrade of sewer lines, many miles of roads, electric upgrades. At the same time all the departments went through a sea change, and a lot of the credit for that goes to Ray Codey. Mayor Jack Dunne left three sheets of legal-size paper of things he had wished he had done; it was a great guide. Since I became mayor [following Woody Kerkeschlager] we have been awarded county Open Space money of $7.3 million for the MRC and $1.75 million for the acquisition of the Bayley-Ellard Fields.
Patch: What about the Madison Recreation Complex?
Holden: The turf fields were another huge project. A lot of the opposition to development was political. It wasn’t until Rob Catalanello came on the council that was had the votes to get it approved. It wasn’t a matter of explaining the economics of it, it was totally political, just to see that I fail at any and all costs. Why? Because some people on the Council who are no longer on the Council thought the 49 Acres was their personal pet project and the Open Space money was theirs to spend.
Patch: There was stiff opposition?
Holden: Yes. You have to put effort into getting something done. I believe in doing what’s best, not what’s best politically. Leave the Republicans and Democrats at the door, you have to represent what’s best for people. People are still trying to block the project and play these games.
Patch: What else are you most proud of?
Holden: There has also been the agreement to bring Realogy to the former Verizon building, and keeping Pfizer in Madison. Pfizer is the largest employer in town and we put on a full-court press. People don’t know what goes on in back channels, especially with the settlement in the 49 Acres lawsuit. That happened because I knew the mayor of Florham Park, Scott Eveland.
Patch: How much did you earn as mayor?
Holden: No stipend for mayor, no benefits. It has cost me thousands to travel around.
Patch: How important is the Green Village Road School to the future of Madison?
Holden: The Green Village Road School is a huge project. We have had joint meetings with the Board of Education, had excellent communication with Superintendent Michael Rossi and President Lisa Ellis. Good collaboration we have never had before.
Patch: What do you make of the redistricting that put Madison in Democrat Richard Codey’s district?
Holden: As far as the [Richard] Codey influence, I like John McKeon quite a bit, he is opening a legislative office on Main Street. Having Ray Codey, his cousin, is obviously a plus. I am a political junkie, a policy wonk; I love shaping public policy.
Patch: How did you get into borough politics?
Holden: I was working as paralegal for John Dalena on Waverly Place for several years, that’s when I was asked to help out on the Republican committee and its Borough Council candidates. I never pictured myself running for council or mayor. But there were issues of the time, and I had a passion for historic preservation.
Patch:What did you not get to work on that you feel is vital to Madison’s future?
Holden: I wished I could have followed through in making the library more of a cultural center. And, I’d like to see us do more with the Colombian community. The question is, how do you get them involved?
Patch: Anything else on your to-do list?
Holden: One of disappointing things is the 30-40-year olds who are not engaged in the community. They just expect things to happen. Volunteerism is something you have to keep going, pass it along. It’s as easy as going to your neighbor and asking them if they want to get involved.