November 13, 2012 at 6:32 AM
CALDWELL, NJ - Funeral Director. Insurance Executive. Assemblyman. State Senate President. Governor.
And now, Richard Codey can add PSE&G Lineman to his resume.
On the freezing cold Tuesday night of November 6th, Election Night, Dick Codey was called into action by the Borough of Caldwell.
After the effects of Hurricane Sandy, the devastating, record-breaking storm that overwhelmed the Tri-State Area and cut power and services to most of New Jersey, Caldwell, and the surrounding towns of Essex Fells and North Caldwell were still without power in many neighborhoods.
According to Senator Codey, "Caldwell's Mayor Dassing called me around 7:30pm; she was upset and asked for help because the power was still out, predominantly along the Roseland Avenue thoroughfare which connects the area towns and she was hoping I could provide some assistance."
So Codey - who had been expecting to spend the evening watching the election returns and perhaps later to celebrate with some local pols - left his Roseland home and headed over to Caldwell.
"I went first straight up Roseland Avenue. As I got out of the car I could see there were two PSE&G workers near a transformer box attempting to repair it. I could see that 15 feet up there were a mess of wires; they shone their flashlight 40 feet up and there, dangling, was a yellow bullring. The two guys there couldn't repair it alone though - they needed another crew, and they weren't sure when that crew would be arriving."
The Senator got back into his car and drove up Roseland Avenue, past the rows of dark apartments filled with cold residents, to Caldwell's Town Hall. Inside, he was met by Mayor Dassing and some other town officials who were busy fielding phone calls from distressed residents wanting to know when their power would come back on.
After all it had been 9 days since the Oct. 29th storm knocked out the power - 9 days of darkness and increasingly colder weather. It was 24°F outside and in less than 24 hours a Nor'easter was on its way to pour 4 inches of snow on Caldwell and the surrounding towns.
The residents were starting to panic.
Mayor Dassing had promised the town that power would be restored by 6:30pm and now it was past 8pm.
The phones kept ringing.
Codey himself even started answering a couple of calls to calm people's fears. He let people know that PSE&G never told him 6:30pm was the restoration time.
"The Mayor must have gotten that information from PSE&G, but you don't know for sure when they give you times like that."
He explained that it was a laborious, time-consuming process to fix the problems and that it would take the arrival of the second crew.
Codey cautioned callers to not hope for a specific restoration time, but instead be re-assured that he cared deeply about their situations and would do his very best to ensure that PSE&G worked through the night.
Senator Codey was very frank: "If they can't fix this box tonight - the power won't be on tonight."
The Former Governor also got in touch with his personal contacts at PSE&G to let them know he wanted the power on for Roseland Avenue and the area streets.
PSE&G's response: They would try.
Dick Codey decided to go back outside and return to the site of the transformer and the PSE&G linemen.
"It was freezing cold and I knew the families were even colder waiting inside their homes for lights to come on along the street."
The next crew would hopefully be there in 20 minutes, the first crew had gone back into their warm trucks. They had to wait to get word that they could climb up to the top of the pole. They all waited.
The Essex Fells Police Department pulled up to check on the restoration progress and were surprised to see the Former Governor standing there waiting for the next set of linemen to arrive.
The original linemen got word that it was safe for them to climb the pole and start the power. They climbed up, worked on the wires, and nothing happened.
Codey remembered someone drove up and asked him, "What should I do now, Governor, should I go find someplace else to stay tonight or can I go back to my home?"
Codey told him to just wait for a minute or two. In the meantime, the linemen had decided to try another pole further along the road.
They climbed to the top - and this time the town lit up.
Power came on along Roseland Avenue and its connecting roads.
And it also came back well into Essex Fells.
Essex Fells Mayor Ed Abbot commented on the surprise of having those neighborhoods' power restored that evening; the Borough had been told power along Roseland Avenue neighborhoods wouldn't be back on until that Friday, November 9th.
"We're the smallest town in the West Essex area - the residents all understand that we are the lowest priority when it comes to these major power outages. However, by the time we got to Day 9, residents started to get extremely antsy."
Mayor Abbot stated: "According to PSE&G, the issue on Roseland Avenue is that it's one of the most antiquated circuit lines in the area." Going forward, Abbot is going to work with PSE&G to identify tree hazards throughout the town.
Once the power was restored, Codey called into the Caldwell Mayor's office and spoke to the Town Clerk Lisa O'Neill: "Tell the Mayor - we have power!"
The Senator then went home, tired and cold, and had some hot chocolate.
"It was Election Night, but I was tired. It's not about what party you belong to, not about who you voted for - I was there to help get power on for people who had been cold and in the dark for over a week, and I was glad I could get it done."
He decided he wasn't going out to any celebrations that night after all.
The next day, Wednesday, Codey hosted a meeting at Pal's Cabin. The CEO of PSE&G, Ralph LaRossa, was there to meet personally with area Mayors. They all discussed PSEG's response during the storm and made plans for opening a dialogue for future discussions.
Codey reported, "PSE&G offered to train town DPW workers how to safely cut trees near power wires. They will be happy to do it."
West Caldwell Mayor Joe Tempesta told The Alternative Press that he was "surprised that Senator Codey reached out to me since I'm no longer in his district. I want to thank him for organizing the PSE&G meeting, it was very worthwhile."