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Irvington Council President David Lyons, a six-term local official who once worked for baseball Hall of Famer Roy Campanella, died on August 13 after an illness. He was 69.
Gov. Phil Murphy said that Lyons’ “leadership helped fuel the City’s continued revitalization.”
Born in rural Georgia, Lyons moved to New Jersey as a college student and got a job at Campanella’s Harlem liquor store. He also worked for Doc Truman of the Harlem Globetrotters.
Lyons became an Irvington resident in 1984 and served as president of the Irvington Tenants Association. His arrest and acquittal on a disorderly persons charge when he addressed the audience and not the governing body during a 1994 council meeting catapulted him into a career in politics.
He was elected to the Irvington Township Council in 1996, winning a five-candidate race to become the first Black councilman from the North Ward.
In 1998, Lyons ran for mayor against incumbent Sara Bost. Boston won re-election, and Lyons finished third in a five-candidate race behind then-Councilman Bilal Beasley.
Bost didn’t seek re-election in 2002 after her indictment on federal corruption charges.
Council President Wayne Smith defeated Assemblyman Craig Stanley by 78 votes, 38%-37%. Lyons finished third with 15%, followed by Councilwoman Sandra Harte (9%). Beasley declined to run for mayor and instead won Bost’s seat on the Essex County Board of Freeholders.
He challenged Smith for mayor in 2010 but was unsuccessful. Smith Newark police officer Gene Etchison by a 47%-21% margin, with Lyons finishing third with 20% in a field of five candidates.
Not long after the May municipal election, Lyons had a hear transplant.
Lyons had some close races over the years to hold on to his North Ward council seat. He beat Etchison by 82 votes in 2004 and by only 24 votes, 451-427, in 2008.
His re-election bid in 2012 was even closer: he defeated Richard Williams by just 6 votes, 329-323, winning a fifth term with 32.9% of the vote in a five-candidate field.
By 2016, and now allied with Mayor Tony Vauss, Lyons won his last election with 74% of the vote against Cathy Southerland.
Lyons was a longtime political ally of State Sen. Ronald Rice. He helped Rice win a narrow 475-vote Democratic primary against Beasley in 2007.