Home>Highlight>The O’Toole Chronicles: When No One Takes Credit

Essex County Freeholder Jerome Greco rides in the Newark Columbus Day Parade in October 1984. (Photo: Ace Alagna Collection, courtesy of the Monsignor William Noé Field Archives & Special Collections Center, Seton Hall University Libraries, South Orange).

The O’Toole Chronicles: When No One Takes Credit

By Kevin O'Toole, April 04 2023 12:01 am

“Amazing what you can get accomplished when you don’t care who gets credit.” – Howard Kindig, former long snapper for the 1972 Miami Dolphins (17-0 Super Bowl Winners).

In this sometimes-self-absorbed world of ours, it appears that more and more individuals have this primordial need to take credit for anything good that happens. The general rule in politics when folks ask for favors, always say yes, and if the favor is answered, take credit; whether you had any real hand in getting it done or not.

In the legislature, you get called upon by residents seeking jobs, grants, judgeships, promotions, health waivers with Horizon, college admissions letters of recommendation, budget requests, just to name a few. The same theory applies: say yes, make a friend, and try and advance the request along.

Former Essex legend, Freeholder (now-County Commissioner) Jerome Greco was the exception. Jerome kept a list and followed up on each request. The former county legislator would keep an active list and he would invite the public to his annual civic association picnic each year to ask him that favor, and soon he had over five thousand in attendance. This explains why he was once the most popular elected official in Essex County (pre-Joe D).

During my time as a state legislator, in my legislative office, my former office manager, Renee, would keep a log of all constituent matters and would see each and every one to the end. Renee was dogged in her follow up with each department and each request was met with a decision, yes or no. A rejection to Renee meant that she needed to go higher up the food chain. Renee would also put a list of MUST calls in front of me to make to a Department Commissioner. Thanks to Renee, we had an extraordinary track record of getting the job done and moved on to the next open matter; never really trafficking our successes.

A few exceptions come to mind, like overturning a rejection from Horizon on a heart transplant or getting DCA to reverse a stupid rule that wouldn’t allow busing from one part of the county to another for a special needs student (this was an emotional and long of a battle as we had and finally prevailed many months later, even after the desperate family gave up).

The point is that we didn’t see the need to plant a flag and take credit for the successes. The reward is in the thank you email, the ecstatic reaction from the successful applicant, and the raw emotional reaction from your happy constituent. Those are the reasons why you get into this business, so when you lay your head on your pillow at night, you know you did something good for someone else that day.

In this world where many take credit for the sun coming up and an inevitable promotion to roll around, Howard Kindig was right to how much could actually get done if we just did it and moved on with our day.


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