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 Perez Seeking To Be Trenton’s First Latino Mayor  Gulf War Veteran to Battle Crime and Joblessness

J.Smith/El Hispano

Trenton – Americans have historically been predisposed to honoring retired military heroes with elected office: Washington,

Andy Jackson, Zachary Taylor, Ulysses Grant, Rutherford Hayes, Benjamin Harrison and Dwight Eisenhower were among those highest in rank.

   On Tuesday, June10, voters in the city of Trenton will go to the polls with a similar opportunity to elect a retired U.S. Army officer and someone who has been described as a hero.

  In his April endorsement of Paul Perez, a leader of the African American faith-based community, Rev. Toby Sanders, said he saw in Perez a heroic figure who “represents unity.”

   “This moment, this time right now, we need a hero,” said Rev. Sanders. “This man is absolutely a hero.”

  Born and raised in Trenton, and one of fifteen children born to Puerto Rican parents who arrived in the city some fifty years ago, if elected Mr. Perez would become the city’s first Latino Mayor.

   After decades of service in the nation’s armed forces, and later working as an executive in the science and technology field, Paul Perez says he’s returned to the place he says he always “regarded (as) home.”

  A military resume that included seeing action in “Operation Just Cause” and “Operation Desert Storm,” and then as a Homicide Task Force Commander, Mr. Perez notes in his campaign literature that his experience has developed the type of administrative, executive and leadership skills that are necessary to “tackle multiple issues at the same time.”

  Citing his background in strategic planning, procurement, acquisition, budgeting and policy development, Mr. Perez contends that this capital city of 75,000 – that saw its last elected mayor ousted on corruption charges  – is in “disrepair, dysfunctional” and a victim of a “decade of poor decisions.”

  “We cannot afford to go back.”

   After praising Perez’s skill set as “unmatched by any current or former” Trenton mayor, Martin Perez, President of the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey referred to his “life experience: “What Paul brings to the table comes at a time when New Jersey’s capital city is facing its most serious and critical low point. It needs its own children to take its helm.”

    Interviewing Margarita Escobar – at the time of the ouster of the former Mayor Tony Mack,  she said the city’s Trenton high school is in such “bad condition it should be torn down.”  

    While agreeing on the need to “condemn” the city’s major high school as quickly as possible, Mr. Perez has also proposed investing in innovative and “evidence-based practices” to improve the city’s schools.

  ”Our community needs a quality connection with the school board and the superintendent’s office,” he said.

  Even before taking office, Mr. Perez has demonstrated an aggressive approach to economic development, reaching out to a number of corporate executives in the energy field and high-tech industries in Mercer County and abroad.

  In addition, he voiced his intention to enhance Trenton’s existing assets in order to entice business growth and investment: including promoting “tourism” to this historic city, creating a full-time ‘Economic Adviser and Marketing Specialist’ position and extending the River Line that ends at the Trenton Transit Center.

  “I believe everyone counts,” says Mr. Perez. “We must create the conditions to provide everyone the opportunity to prosper by embracing our diversity.”

   In a city that experienced a 15 percent spike in crime after a massive layoff of police officers, the former Homicide Officer is proposing a comprehensive anti-crime plan that would utilize camera technology in high crime areas, more neighborhood and “beat-foot” patrols, and “proactive” units to stem the flow of drugs and violence.  

  A non-Latino, Robert L. told El Hispano that he is leaning towards Mr. Perez because “he’s the only candidate I’ve spoken to.”

   Noting that Mr. Perez visited his Luther Towers Apts. in downtown Trenton, Robert described the mayoral candidate as a “problem solver” who listened to their complaints about the “removal of a bus stop.”

    Although it appears Mr. Perez ran into “bureaucratic” obstacles, explained Robert. “ “at least he tried and he was genuine. The other guy, Eric Jackson, I don’t know him.”

   Larry Jones, an African American said he thought it was time to “give a Hispanic a chance.”  He added, “I like his military experience and he’s old school.”

   “Jackson is part of the problem, he’s part of the machine in city hall,” said Mr. Jones. Perez’s opponent in Tuesday’s runoff, Eric Jackson was Director of Public Works.