This year, Eric G. Mason is back to wearing just one hat. The one that goes with his Cranford police chief's uniform. Last month ended his tenure as Interim Township Administrator, a role he held from September 2011 to December 2012, while also working fulfilling his police duties.
At one point, during that period, Mason was said to be retiring in May from police work, and there was a period of confusion. Reports leaked to the press of a new police chief selection following interviews, which caused waves in the community when it turned out not to be the case.
Commissioner Lisa Adubato summed it up in her comments during last week's reorganization meeting.
"We've faced many challenges in 2012. Yet, some things don't always go as planned," she said. "Particularly, I'm happy with the way the police chief-administrator-situation played out."
"I was serving as the police comissioner at the time," she added. "So that's on me, and I take responsibility for that."
Mason shepherded the township through two of the worst natural disasters ever to hit Cranford, with planning meetings and later recovery efforts. He's widely credited with playing a role in helping Cranford get back on its feet.
"The ability for the township to get FEMA funding, especially the home-elevation grant, in excess of $4.1 million, that was a significant thing," Mason said.
But he won't take sole credit.
"There's no way that we could have done anything without the help of everybody," Mason told Patch. "I have a hard time saying those are my accomplishments, they are community accomplishments."
But despite the accolades, Mason's time as Interim Administrator was marked by controversy, first upon his appointment and later when some residents questioned whether Mason was the right choice for the position, or if handling both jobs was too much.
"I never lost focus of my role as police chief," Mason said. "My passion has always been law enforcement."
Mason wasn't the first Cranford police chief to fill the position of township administrator, either. Chief Harry Wilde took on the role in 1999, following the retirement of John Laezza, before Marlena Schmid came on board.
Still, many felt Mason wasn't the right fit for township administrator. Cranford resident Frank Capece, an attorney, told the Star-Ledger he thought Mason wasn't qualified. It was a sentiment echoed by some Patch readers, too. "A graduate of the local police academy versus the former administrator, Marlena Schmid who was BRILLIANT?" questioned Marcella Wiles in the comments section of a Patch article.
Yet, upon Mason's retirement from the administrator position, commissioners shared only positive comments about his tenure.
"I've said many times over the last year, I really do appreciate the effort you put in," Commissioner Andis Kalnins told Mason during a meeting last month. Commissioner Kevin Campbell echoed the sentiment telling Mason, "You did a great job."
Mason is a 35-year veteran of the Cranford police force and became chief in 2003. He's Cranford-born and bred (his father is a retired Cranford cop, as well). "I believe that my role as police chief and my role at interim administrator were all intertwined with my belief in community service."
Mason is being succeed by ex-Rahway municipal executive and longtime Montclair City Administrator Joseph M. Hartnett.
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- Letter to the Editor: Cranford Can Do Better Than Part-Time Town Officials
- Police Chief's Retirement On Hold
- Mason's Transition To Township Administrator Still in Flux
- Confusion Reigns Over Mason Switch to Administrator
- Mason Will Take On Township Administrator Job Full-Time
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