Past Newsletters

I won’t be your next Mayor

This is one of the hardest notes that I’ve ever had to write. Bear with me.

Growing up I used to watch the Christopher Reeve Superman films over and over. Like him, I wanted to be able to do things like rid the planet of nuclear weapons and help people in need. I’ve always had that hero complex. For most of my life, I’ve had to fight just for basic human rights for me and my friends in the queer community — a fight just to exist. At 43, I still don’t feel comfortable holding my partner’s hand in public or even just being myself sometimes. Unlike nearly an entire generation of gay men who came before me, I’m fortunate enough to both have survived and to have the opportunity to thrive and be happy. I really want the opportunity to thrive and to be happy. I’m not thriving these days and I’m not happy.

I grew up being bullied and beaten up and having my property vandalized. I didn’t fit in in the military and my church, after trying to convert me, made me feel like God had abandoned me. In an attempt to recover from those back-to-back traumas, I sought out acceptance in all of the wrong places and engaged in very risky behavior that could have but luckily didn’t result in addiction or disease. To some extent, I think I inadvertently ended up back on a path of seeking acceptance in the wrong place in terms of politics and it’s not a healthy one for me. In fact, I’m the most unhealthy I’ve ever been. My physical and mental health have been deteriorating for some time and I’ll say here what I said to Ben and my family and that is that if I don’t walk away, it isn’t even a question of thriving and being happy — it actually feels like it’s a matter of disease avoidance. I feel the light inside me flickering and that I have to protect it from going out.

That’s the reason for my note today: I’ve reached a point in my life where I want to make choices that give me the opportunity to thrive and to be happy and healthy. Becoming Mayor of Montclair isn’t something that’s going to make me happy. I’m also choosing not to run for re-election to the Council as this really is about stepping back from this very public lifestyle overall, after I’ve fulfilled my commitment.

Deciding to run for Mayor of Montclair was the wrong decision for me. On some level I think I made the decision in haste a few months ago to trap myself into a life that so many people have told me I should be living versus the kind of life that I want to be living. I ignored the churn in my gut that said it wasn’t right. I’m sorry that I did that. But it goes beyond that too. A life under the microscope just isn’t for me. The truth is, I derive no joy in seeking power, influence, fame, money or transacting. My soul craves wandering and relating — honest connection with humanity, animals, wildlife, and the higher power that connects us. I’m uncomfortable on a dais or behind a podium. I think social media is the anthesis of humanity. I’m most comfortable on the floor with a dog or with a camera around my neck taking photos of beautiful creatures and places or just talking to someone one-on-one, looking each other in the eyes. I don’t want more busy, light speed years to go by before I’m honest with myself about that and taking the steps to engineer that kind of life sooner than later. I want to slow it all down. I think there are better ways for me to be of service to our endless list of needs as a people and for the planet and I want to find one that brightens my light.

I also want to be honest with you and to the extent that this helps anyone else struggling; I want to share that I suffer from severe anxiety which I’m under treatment for. The traumas of my earlier years plus what I think is PTSD from being at ground zero after 9/11 are a big part of it. The pandemic exacerbated it. It takes real effort to leave my home sometimes, especially if it’s to go somewhere or do something where I have to be “on”. It affects my ability to drive and to sleep well in general. Because of my anxiety my default is to sometimes interpret criticism that I deem unfair or unwarranted in a painful way. Over the last year it has become crippling at times and I know that I have to make structural changes to my life in order to lead a healthier lifestyle in addition to all of the reasons above. That is a big part of this decision too and it’s why I know that even if this wasn’t for me, it’s certainly very doable for others who might not struggle with this like I do. I have a lot of tips for you, future office holders.

With almost nine months to go until the election, I wanted to communicate this decision now to give all of you and the town time to find the right person for the job and the right people for the rest of the Council too. I will be actively participating in that process as I want to ensure we’re all well represented going forward.

I will finish out my term and ask my colleagues and you the community to help me see a few important things through to fruition. And I’ll be here to keep communicating with so many of you and helping you until my term is over next summer.

Many of you will have the instinct to respond and I appreciate that about you. Just note that I’m taking some down time these next days and it may be a little while before I get back to you. I’ve positioned myself on an island in the pacific northwest where I can read, wander and indulge some of my other passions like nature photography — and maybe get some rest.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. How wonderful is it that I feel comfortable being honest with so many thousands of you. That’s a testament to who the vast majority of you are and what a truly wonderful place Montclair is with its underlying decency and kindness.