Randy Brown, the Republican mayor of Evesham Township, wants to make one thing clear.
“I never once said someone can’t ask questions at a meeting,” Brown said. “Never, ever, ever did those words come out of my mouth.”
Even Brown’s political opponents in Evesham agree that he didn’t specifically say members of the public aren’t permitted to ask questions at township council meetings — a purported assertion that recently earned Brown his 15 minutes of national notoriety.
What he said was that township council wouldn’t answer questions. People would still get answers to their questions from local government. Just not during the meetings.
Was it purely a procedural distinction that got blown out of proportion, as Brown maintains? Or was it, as his critics argue, an affront to the concept of governmental accountability enacted by Brown solely because he couldn’t refrain from yelling at people during the meetings’ public comment portions?
Whatever it was, the issue seems to have settled down for the time being. After two front page stories in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and an Associated Press mention that landed the story in national news outlets like USA Today and the Washington Times, council has dropped that policy and is once again answering questions during meetings.
Brown, for his part, continues to insist that the whole affair was the work of a small group of local Democrats — “people whose butts I kicked in an election.”
Brown knows a thing or two about take-no-prisoners competition. And about kicking.
In addition to working for United Title & Abstract Agency, which he co-founded with his father, he serves as the kicking coach for the Baltimore Ravens.
Brown, a former NAIA All American-Football, NAIA Academic All American-Football and College Player of the Year, said the schedule gets pretty tight during football season. Down in Baltimore Wednesday morning and back home on Thursday. Same routine on weekends for home games. For away games, it’s a matter of driving home from Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, sometimes not getting back until 6 a.m.
He said there’s “100 percent overlap” between football and politics. “It’s my team vs. their team,” Brown said.
When it comes to local politics, Brown insists, his team is winning. In November, he won re-election by 65 percent. The news media and local Democrats can attack him, he said, but Evesham residents in general must think he’s doing something right.
For all of the rhetoric about autocratic rule in recent weeks, Brown said, he’s a part-time mayor who earns a mere $8,000 a year — which he donates back to the town. He said he’d eventually like to have a township-wide referendum to make the post of mayor full-time, which he sees as increasingly necessary.
A part-time mayor may have made sense when Evesham had 4,000 people, Brown said. It’s now the biggest municipality in Burlington County with 50,000 residents and a government consisting of 200 employees working in 12 different departments.
Now, he maintains, it’s time for Evesham to take its place among Cherry Hill, Gloucester Township and Washington Township as a municipality with a full-time mayor. “If I could change it tomorrow, I would change it to full-time mayor,” he said.
This post is part of our South Jersey Politics Blog