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Spotlight on Camden Mayor Dana Redd

Glenn Townes | 2/29/2016, 2:42 p.m.
Mayor Dana Redd is one tough lady.
Dana L. Redd

Mayor Dana Redd is one tough lady. She is outspoken and seldom backs down from a spirited discussion when it comes to defending her place as the head of one of New Jersey's biggest and ethnically diverse cities--Camden.

Redd, 48, is the only African American female mayor of a major metropolitan city in New Jersey and one of only a handful of others in the country. She has sat at the helm of Camden since 2010 and is imbued with a passion to reinvigorate and reunite a city that has long been besmirched by politicians, educators, law enforcement agencies and residents. Redd is quick to admit that her city has long been mired in an often unflattering and ungracious image. “We have had our problems, but we are working on restoring our city and making Camden a wonderful and prosperous place for people to live and grow,” she said in a recent interview with South Jersey Journal.

Some of those persistent problems have included political corruption, urban blight, financial woes, an out of control crime rate and double digit unemployment. However, under Redd's steely direction and focused initiatives, the tide of negativity and uncertainty has indeed started to change for the South Jersey city. After years of being at or near the top of national law enforcement and crime statistic lists calling it one of the most dangerous places in the country to live, crime has decreased—a trend that started in 2012. According to recently released stats from the New Jersey State Police, crimes in most categories decreased statewide across the Garden State in 2015 compared to 2014, Camden was listed as one of the municipalities seeing a drop in crime—due in part to Redd's push to form a comfortable alliance between law enforcement and the community. For example, last year, Redd attended an intense meeting between members of the Camden County Police Department (CCPD) and various community leaders. At the time, the meeting was inspired, at least in part by the social unrest and riots in Baltimore, MD. Community policing and diversity were at the forefront of the widely publicized meeting. As a result, at least in part, in June the CCPD promoted its first Hispanic female officer to a commanding rank. Camden has a population of about 77,000 with nearly half of its residents African American.

Redd touts economic development initiative

Another success of the Redd administration is the Economic Opportunity Act (EOA)—a state funded program that offers sizable tax break incentives to some of New Jersey’s most impoverished communities for various special projects that will spur and promote growth, development and entrepreneurship in New Jersey's poorest municipalities. The city of Camden was the top benefactor of the program—receiving more than $1.14 billion in approved tax breaks for more than a dozen or so projects across the city since the program was revamped in 2013. “I'm especially proud of the program as it will bring more businesses and create jobs in the community,” she said. Redd added that several of Camden’s largest employers including Cooper Health Systems and American Water Works Company Inc., are among the largest participants in the project.

As for the future, Redd, who will end her second her term in December 2017, says she will remain focused on guiding the positive momentum her city is experiencing. “If we continue on this trajectory, {economic development and diversity} you'll continue to see a renaissance in this city,” she said.

The Upcoming Presidential Election

Redd supports Clinton for President---Redd said she not only supports Hillary Clinton because she is a woman, but because, “Hillary Clinton is the most qualified of all the candidates and would do the most for our country.”