SADDLE BROOK, N.J. — Saddle Brook Mayor Robert White is perfectly happy making $1 a year as the top elected official of a township with residents who care so much about where they come from.
“A lot of people have great things to say and are considerate of every department. The public shows a lot of respect for our police, our DPW, fire, ambulance," he said. “We’re hiring a full-time recreation director. Last year we hired grant writers -- and they already paid for themselves.”
White, who retired as deputy police chief to run for the mayoralty, said his previous position gives him not just a pension but an advantage in his current job.
“I had 33 years on the department and I was at that point when I was ready to retire and try something different,” said White, who ousted incumbent Mayor Karen Chamberlain in 2014. “A police officer, like a mayor, is a hands-on job a lot of time.
"And the job is still to help people -- except as a mayor it’s on a larger scale. So this is really a perfect fit.
"Coming from an administrative position in the police department and knowing the town and how government works, that was a big advantage for me. I don’t know how a total outsider would even be able to take over," he said. "I think it would be very difficult."
The hardest part, he said, is not being able to make everyone happy. Just because you're mayor doesn't mean everything is in your hands.
"Sometimes you can’t help, and it’s not because you don't want to,” White said.
One item on the mayor's vision list is a township recreation center for Saddle Brook.
“This is something that’s been talked about since I was a little kid," he said. "We need a rec center, especially in the summer months and when school is off."
The former school board president also wants to see the council and school board work more closely.
"I want us to operate less as two entities," he said. "We’re a small town and everything comes out of the same pot of money. We might as well do what we can to work together."
White, 56, has a masters degree in criminal justice and graduated from the West Point Command and Leadership program, as well as the FBI National Academy and FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development program.
He's married, with two sons and a daughter, ages 25-31.
What he loves most is the opportunity to give back.
"Saddle Brook is all I remember; I moved here when I was two," White said. "This town has been very good to me. I’m privileged to have raised my children here and always be a part of the community here.
“I love this town."