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Interview with Alan Sagner - Center on the American Governor

Interview with Alan Sagner - Center on the American Governor

Interview with Alan Sagner - Center on the American

ong>Interviewong> ong>withong> ong>Alanong> ong>Sagnerong> Michael Aron: This is the Rutgers program on the governor. I’m Michael Aron of NJN News. We’re focusing on the administration of Government Brendan T. Byrne. Today is May 16, 2006 . It’s morning time, and we’re about to talk to ong>Alanong> ong>Sagnerong>. ong>Alanong> was commissioner of transportation in the first Byrne administration, 1974-77. He then went on the Port Authority and was chairman of the Port Authority on into the Kean administration. ong>Alanong>, you suggested that we start your story ong>withong> the election of Brendan Byrne. Why? ong>Alanong> ong>Sagnerong>: It’s interesting, because so many things in life happen because of remote events. I was ong>withong> Brendan the other night at the Newark museum gala, and he was talking to a reporter from the Star-Ledger, and he introduced me and he said, “ong>Alanong> is the man who’s responsibility for my being governor.” Because I was his finance chairman. He said that to me before, and he said it very graciously, that we had a six- or seven-person primary, and the fact that we were able to raise sufficient was why he won the primary and won the election. And I thought about it. Brendan is governor because my wife and my cousin in Baltimore, at the age of 16, went on a teen tour, because they met-- my wife, Ruth, from New Jersey, was on this teen tour ong>withong> my cousin from Baltimore, who lived next door to me, where I was raised in Baltimore, and they became best of friends, and went to college together. And Ruth starting coming down to visit my cousin, and we ended up getting married, and I came to New Jersey , and ended up being Brendan’s finance chairman. So if my wife and my cousin at 16 had not gone on the teen tour, Brendan would not have been governor of New Jersey . Q: You think life works that way? ong>Sagnerong>: I think it does. Remember the play Six Degrees of Separation? There is a connection, and how these dots and dashes get together is pretty amazing. That’s what life is. Q: How did you get to be Brendan Byrne’s finance chairman? ong>Sagnerong>: Well, I was active in the Jewish community in New Jersey , and developed a reputation as a fundraiser. I was chairman of the UJA campaign several times in New Jersey, and when I was president of the Newark Beth Israel Hospital, we undertook, ong>withong> great help-- well, really, Prudential was in the leadership of the greater Newark hospital development fund drive, where we raised money for the hospitals that were still in Newark after the riots, trying to rehabilitate and do things we had to do. I was active in that campaign and went on to become chairman of the hospital. I had never been involved very much in New Jersey politics. I was interested in national politics, and in our Essex County politics, ong>withong> Dick Debevoise and some others. But I had not got interested in the gubernatorial campaign until I got a call from Marty Greenberg, who was Brendan’s partner, who knew me from the community and said would I join the finance committee. I attended several meetings in their office on Evergreen Place in East Orange . Archie Alexander, Jr. was the finance chairman. We’d have meetings and he would bring in the needs of the budget and what we’re doing and how we should go about it. I went to a meeting one night, and he came in and said he’d gotten another memorandum from Dick Leone [ph?] on what the new budget had to be, and he could not work this way. He said, “I’m through.” Folded his portfolio and said goodbye. Q: What did he mean, he couldn’t work this way? ong>Sagnerong>: He couldn’t keep meeting a higher goal. I mean, Dick would tell him one week this is what we needed, then next week would say, “Scrap that. This is what we have to do.” And I became the finance chairman. Q: Two questions. First, what were you doing professionally at the time that enabled you to be president of the UJA and president of Newark Beth Israel? ong>Sagnerong>: I had gone into the building business. My wife’s father was a builder, had built mostly in Livingston and Bloomfield. My family was in the men’s clothing business, which I wasn’t particularly happy and/or fond of, and I met my brother-in-law, Martin Levin. He had just come out of the service, and we decided that we’d be partners and go into the one-family house building business together, starting on a piece of land that my wife’s father sold to -1-

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