Friday, November 9, 2007

On My Retirement from Partisan Politics

As many of you know, four years ago I decided to see how local politics really operates and became Chairman of the New Providence Democratic Party in New Jersey. New Providence had not elected a Democrat in nearly fifty years. I promised to serve a maximum of four years as Chairman and, keeping to my promise, I retired on November 7, 2007. I now no longer serve in any political capacity and am thus able to devote my full energies to my family, work and this column.

We have made significant progress for the residents of New Providence during the past four years. When I first became Chairman, we announced a platform of openness, accountability and transparency and, during the past four years, have seen our issues take center stage and many of our proposals later adopted by the Council. We proposed ethics reform, including "Pay to Play," which limited the influence of campaign contributions on governmental decision-making. This was later adopted by the Council. We championed competitive bidding for contracts, which is in the process of being adopted by the Council this year. We proposed televised Council meetings, which are slated to occur in 2008. One of many lessons I learned through this experience is that on the local level, a nonpartisan agenda that is focused on creating a more responsive and responsible government can both advance positive change as well as develop a base of support for any political party. Given the nonpartisan agenda we developed in New Providence and our success in such a short period of time, local political parties of all partisan affiliations should consider such an agenda in their towns.

We have also made significant strides in creating a viable alternative for voters in New Providence, where Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than a 3-to-1 margin. During the past four years, our average meeting attendance has more than quadrupled and our active membership that could be counted on one hand when I started as Chair, today is over a hundred. We have proven that the Democratic Party can be viable in New Providence and we have fielded solid slates of local candidates each year. Through this experience, I also learned that with hard work, patience, and grassroots activity, a minority party in any town in New Jersey can have a voice and eventually be in a position to elect representatives to the local governing body.

While we have accomplished a great deal, there is more work yet to be done. This has been left in the capable hands of our next Chairperson. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the residents of New Providence and I thank them for the opportunity to do so.

Michael M. Shapiro, founder of, is an attorney who resides in New Providence, New Jersey. He currently serves as the Editor of The Alternative Press Contact Mike at