LIVINGSTON, NJ — Two months after a record 18,448 Livingston voters cast ballots on the Nov. 3, 2020 general election, the Livingston mayor and council honored Essex County Clerk Chris Durkin for his “long and incredibly hard work addressing the needs of Livingston voters in the face of an enormous turnout.”
In an official proclamation declaring Jan. 11 as Chris Durkin Day in the Township of Livingston,” the township council acknowledged that Durkin went “beyond the normal Call of Duty” as he “faced an unequal challenge in 2020 and met the need for special regions for mail-in voting and restrictions made necessary due to the pandemic.”
“When you first became county clerk in 2006, you probably never would have expected what happened in 2020,” said Mayor Shawn Klein. “And who knows, maybe you would have chosen a different office if you knew that that was coming; but it was you who helped to make sure we had access to voting. All of our votes were counted no matter who we were supporting. You did an intense and prolonged amount of work to make sure selection ran smoothly and the people of Livingston appreciate your efforts.”
In speaking about the election process, Durkin explained the 2020 election cycle “was managed by the greatest team [he has] ever been a part of” and that it was also “a bipartisan effort” between officials from all 22 municipalities in Essex County.
“Two weeks before Election Day, we had a spike of COVID cases in the election offices, and we knew that the public couldn't come into the building,” said Durkin. “ [Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo] went right to work with the parks and public works [departments] and set up a one-stop-shop in the lobby of the Hall of Records that allowed people to come in and check registrations to apply for a ballot and to vote on the ballot right there.”
Despite a heavy storm that then threatened the ability for hundreds of residents to safely cast their ballots, Durkin explained that the county executive was able to secure three “enormous, heated tents” with clean air and proper social distancing measures in place to allowed voting to continue.
“It was challenging, but it was inspiring,” he said. “There is no greater bond than the bond created through shared sacrifice, and every resident has had to sacrifice through this pandemic; but through sacrifice, it was never lost on the Livingston voters the importance of their duty to partake in our most valuable freedom. There was a direct correlation between voter engagement and the health of the community…
“We witnessed a record 18,448 Livingston voters who cast ballots in the Nov. 3, 2020 general election, and they did so in the privacy of their own homes or the privacy of their polling places without fear of intimidation or fear of reprisals; and in doing so, they utilized their greatest rights as Americans in voicing their opinion as to the direction of their town, of their county, of their state and of their country.”
Durkin also expressed gratitude toward the township council for “acknowledging the great work and efforts of [the] Essex County team in promoting democracy.”
“The people of Livingston are fortunate to have your leadership, and they're fortunate because each and every one of you understand that you're fortunate to have the privilege to serve the good people of Livingston,” he said.
According to Klein, Durkin “always has a good joke” and is also “one of the kindest, most generous and decent human beings” that a person would “ever want to meet and have as a public servant.”
“When we invited you to come on [our Zoom meeting], it was clearly before the happenings at the Capitol building [on Jan. 6],” the mayor said. “Your team are the people who make democracy happen, and you are literally the exact opposite of those people that tried to break into the Capitol and say that the election wasn’t fair. It just shows you how lucky we are to have people of your capability.
After graduating from Rutgers University with a degree in political science, Durkin then attended the Essex County Police Academy and became a detective for the Essex County Sheriff's Office. Durkin was elected as Essex County clerk in November 2005, and has since been reelected in November 2010, 2015 and 2020.
In addition to excelling in his position as Essex County Clerk, Durkin also currently serves on the board of directors for the American Red Cross and has officiated marriages for 630 couples in the area.
Following his most recent election, the Township of Livingston has proclaimed that Durkin “has earned the gratitude and recognition of the citizens of Livingston for his service and leadership” and that his “vision and commitment to his profession, his constituents and to all of Livingston have contributed to the betterment of [the] community.”
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