Taking Back Our Neighborhoods: New Jersey Mayor inspires Memphis leaders

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC-TV) - A New Jersey mayor who took some extreme measures to take back his neighborhood visited Memphis Friday to share his story with our community leaders.

It was Mayor Cory Booker's unconventional spirit that brought him national attention as an innovator and leader. As a young city councilman, the Yale graduate moved into public housing to fight for reform. As Newark's mayor, he lived out of a double-wide trailer in one of his city's most drug-infested neighborhoods in an effort to help citizens take back their community at a grassroots level.

"But they really were some of the most substantive years in my life because I got to be surrounded by some of the greatest leaders and Americans I've ever seen who did not give up...had choices to be other places, but chose to stick it out and fight for their neighborhoods."

On Friday, Booker spoke before hundreds of Memphis and Shelby County business and community leaders at an event organized by Leadership Memphis.

"Very unique, he's very talented," said Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton. "He's gifted, and again, he has a tremendous passion."

Booker, whose brother lives in Memphis with his family, says he admires the Bluff City."From arts and industry to education, even greening of a city...it's one of the most green cities of America. People don't realize that."
In fact, he says the Bluff City inspired his passion and enthusiasm as an elected leader in Newark. "There's so much that we saw in Memphis as inspiration for my work. That's why I feel a spiritual connection to this city."

And Booker's visit definitely made an impact on local leaders.

"If you've got a good product, you are going to have support across the board," said Shelby County Mayor A.C. Wharton. "And that's what I've tried to do here, and I think that's going to be the style of Memphis to come."

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