As mayor, 2001 grad watches over citizens of Orange, N.J.
by Amanda Sandlin
A Rider alumnus who is now the mayor of Orange, N.J., aims to help the city prosper.
Eldridge Hawkins Jr., class of 2001, was elected in July 2008 at the age of 28 and now resides in the city. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration. After several previous occupations, he is eager to help better the city.
According to Hawkins, Rider provides the educational base to have intelligent conversations with people from many different backgrounds.
“As the mayor of the city, at the end of the line, I’m responsible for everything that happens here,” Hawkins said. “I don’t have to know everything, but I have to know enough about each area.”
Hawkins chose to major in business administration because it would leave him with the option to go in many different directions. He had originally thought of entering the political field, doing non-profit work or selling insurance.
“[Business administration] prepares you to go into any area,” Hawkins said. “I found that to be helpful because it gave me a foundation and information I can use in several different career types.”
After graduating, he took several different jobs before being elected as mayor. He began a job with Banker’s Life and Casualty and then moved on to work as director of operations for the Carlos Fund, a program that connects inner city
students with internships.
Hawkins served as an officer in the police department for four years. During this time, he received a distinguished service award. He then started to think of running for a position in government.
“There were things in the city that I wasn’t particularly satisfied with,” Hawkins said. “I’ve always been the type where, instead of complaining from the sidelines, I’d rather get out there and try to make a difference.”
Hawkins said that he considered running for city council, but instead chose the position as mayor of the city. It was a five-way race and he came out on top.
It isn’t only the educational and professional aspect of a Rider degree that helps him with his position, said Hawkins. The experiences he went through dealing with culture and teamwork have helped him as well.
As a former member of the track team and Phi Beta Sigma, a national African-American male fraternity, Hawkins said he knows all about what it means to work as a team.
“Being in those groups taught me not only about hard work, but it also taught me how to work together with others,” Hawkins said.
His advice to the current and future students at Rider: think big and strive for goals, even if they seem out of reach.
“Never underestimate yourself,” said Hawkins. “And don’t think that you have to be old to accomplish something. I won the election at 28 years old.”
He said he never imagined he would be such an inspiration for young people. Several men and women have approached him, explaining that they were inspired by his bold move of running for mayor.
“Since the election, I’ve had people anywhere from 16 to 30 years old approaching me and saying how empowering it is that I ran and was elected,” Hawkins said.
His first priority is to fix the city of Orange. Hawkins wants to get the city back on its feet and then hopefully run for another term. He said that his future is still up in the air and anything is possible.