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GFOA of NJ Day at the Races

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The voice of N.J.'s 565 municipalities says goodbye

Wednesday, July 1, 2015   (0 Comments)
Share | 06/29/15

Growing up, some people dream of becoming doctors or rock stars or famous politicians. Bill Dressel dreamed of becoming a city manager. So just out of college in the early 1970s, the Virginia native took a job with the local government of a Pennsylvania suburb. And about a year later, he answered an ad for an opening in the next state over: an administrative assistant position with the New Jersey League of Municipalities, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that lobbies in Trenton on behalf of the hundreds and hundreds of cities, towns, and boroughs in the Garden State.  "I told (the interviewer), 'I'd like to come to New Jersey because it's the most densely populated state, it's the most progressive state,'" Dressel recalled. "I said, 'I'd like to learn in New Jersey.' I saw it as a stepping stone." He got the job — but he never left. Dressel, 66, retires Tuesday after more than four decades at the League, the last 20 years as its executive director.

Over 41 years, he's been a fixture of the New Jersey political scene, serving as the voice of New Jersey's 565 municipalities, testifying at hearings, pushing for bills and occasionally issuing angry press releases. He has dealt with the administrations of nine governors, from Brendan Byrne to Chris Christie. "I feel a sense of accomplishment," he said. "A lot more can be done. But I believe it's time for someone else to pick up the ball and run down the field." "It's a tough job," said state Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex), one of the former governors Dressel worked with. "We've got hundreds and hundreds of mayors in this state. Satisfying everyone's not going to happen. It's just impossible."

Codey said Dressel "was able to navigate all those varying interests fairly well." In his job, Dressel organized the League's three-day conference in Atlantic City each year. It's the largest of its kind in the country, drawing thousands of local officials — and, at times, bad headlines for the parties and the dealings that that happened after hours. Dressel always stressed that stuff had nothing to do his seminars.

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