Independent Gibbsboro Mayor Edward G. Campbell III was inducted into the platinum level of the New Jersey Mayors’ Hall of Fame for serving 30 years in office, but that wasn’t for Gail Peterson’s lack of trying to stop it.
The 62-year-old Campbell launched his political career in 1986 as a 27-year-old candidate for the borough council. He defeated Peterson, a Republican councilwoman by 93 votes; Peterson had also lost a bid for the Camden County Board of Freeholders on the same day.
In 1991, Campbell faced a rematch with Peterson, this time in a race for mayor. Despite a Republican wave election that followed Gov. Jim Florio’s $2.8 billion tax increase, Campbell won with 61% of the vote.
He was re-elected in 1995 as an independent after splitting from the local Democratic organization. He won his third race against Peterson by 72 votes, with Democrat Sonny Hamilton finishing 194 votes behind Peterson.
When Campbell sought his third term in 1999, he won 62% against Peterson. Democrats didn’t nominate a candidate that year.
By 2003, Peterson had become the Camden County Republican Chair and Campbell was re-elected without opposition. He ran unopposed again in 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019.
The record for the longest-serving mayor in New Jersey is held by Gerald Calabrese, who served as mayor of Cliffside Park for 50 years.
Calabrese was 30 when he won a Cliffside Park council seat in 1955, back in an era when the Hudson River town was politically competitive. He was elected mayor in 1959 and held the post until his death in April 2015 at age 90. He served as a Bergen County freeholder in the 1970s and 1980s, and served as the Bergen County Democratic Chairman. A former professional basketball player, he is the father of Cliffside Park Mayor Thomas Calabrese and grandfather of Assemblyman Clinton Calabrese.
Second on the list is Frank E. Rodgers, who served as the mayor of Harrison for 49 years. Rodgers, who also served two terms in the State Senate and as the Hudson County Clerk.
Rodgers was the 36-year-old town clerk and a World War II veteran when he was elected mayor in 1946 and was one of the last Hudson Democrats to run with the support of Jersey City Mayor Frank Hague before the Hudson boss’ ouster in 1947. He left office in 1995 after a knee injury impacted his mobility and was replaced by Raymond J. McDonough.
Earning silver level Mayors’ Hall of Fame honors for ten or more years of service: Tom Andes (Denville), Mary Ann Wardlow (Lawnside), Judah Ziegler (Leonia), Sam Morris (Mine Hill), ay Gillian (Ocean City), Owen Henry (Old Bridge) and Keith Kazmark (Woodland Park).