McKENNA RETURNS TO RIVERCENTER

ed-mckennaFormer Mayor Ed Mckenna at his Broad Street law office Wednesday. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Amid a tough times for retail and changes to how it does business, Red Bank RiverCenter has enlisted one of its founding fathers to help fulfill its mission.

Political magnate and former mayor Ed McKenna was named to the independent agency’s board earlier this month.

It was a sensible move, as the agency is focusing more heavily this year on attracting shoppers and businesses to move into town, all while trying to help established merchants succeed in this sludgy economy, said Nancy Adams, Rivercenter’s executive director.

When he was mayor, McKenna helped found RiverCenter as the non-governmental organization charged with promoting and developing downtown, and later, West Side businesses.

“He has such a long-standing relationship with RiverCenter,” Adams said. “He’s still very involved and cares very much about Red Bank, but he’s not able to serve in a public office position.”

After talking with McKenna about the possibility of bringing an oyster fest to town, Adams floated the idea of having him fill an open seat on the board, she said.

“It’s just to help out any way that I can,” said the new-look McKenna, who shaved his cloud-white moustache and recently lost 40 pounds. “If I can help the business community, I’ll do it.”

McKenna, an attorney who also serves as chairman of the State Planning Commission, is largely credited with helping drag Red Bank from its economic nadir in the 1980s to a trendy, bustling destination. It’s that experience, plus his long list of connections locally and statewide, that makes him a key addition to the board, Adams said.

“I’m looking forward to working with him for his expertise,” she said. “His expertise and being able to get things done.”

McKenna, too, thinks his résumé will be a boon for the agency.

“I would hope that people know the job that I did as mayor and that shows my care for Red Bank, and that would carry over with RiverCenter,” he said. “I want to sit down with the board and find out how I can help.”