JACKSON – You couldn’t put a price tag on the experience Mayor Michael Reina had during President Donald J. Trump’s recent meeting of mayors held at the White House and the Eisenhower Executive Building. That is how Reina described being among around 50 mayors who attended the Jan. 24 session.
Reina was the only Ocean County mayor to attend the meeting which he said allowed for community leaders to meet with many representatives of key intergovernmental agencies for the theme of municipal infrastructure.
The Republican mayor will mark his tenth year as leader of Jackson Township in November. He is a strong supporter of the president and campaigned for him during the 2016 presidential election. That support helped him gain an invitation.
“It was an honor to be invited to meet the President of the United States in the White House as the mayor of Jackson Township. Just to be one of the mayors selected for consideration in the beginning was a great feeling but actually being there with the president and 50 other mayors was an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life,” Reina said.
The mayor took an early morning train to Washington D.C. to be present for the gathering which began at 2:15 pm at the White House.
“After making our way into the White House we were met by a Marine Corps musical ensemble who played for us while we waited to be seated. After a short while and some picture taking we were then escorted to our seats and waited for President Trump in the East Room of the White House,” Reina said.
“This invitation was more than just a personal meeting; it involved many facets of the federal government’s new outreach to cities and towns across the nation. The “Mayors’ Day at the White House” was announced as “A Conversation with President Trump.” The mayors chosen to be invited were from 50 major cities across the country,” Reina said.
Reina said that within minutes of his arrival, President Trump came in and “welcomed us to the White House, he thanked us for accepting his invitation and how delighted he was with us being there. The President said that one of his priorities was helping rehabilitate the nations aging infrastructure and decreasing the amount of red tape and time in getting answers on bringing in businesses and manufacturing.”
Several high-profile mayors of large cities such as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti chose to boycott the event, citing the president’s stand on immigration issues. The boycotts came after the Trump administration pledged to crack down on areas that maintain sanctuary policies for illegal immigrants. The Justice Department announced it was demanding a new round of information from 23 states, counties and cities.
“I think it was a poor choice for any mayor to turn down the invitation and not hear firsthand information and meet these representatives. It was very disappointing to hear de Blasio crying on TV. It was ridiculous. We all received the same e-mail invitation and the president spoke to us about our connection to our communities. It is very unfortunate that the mayors who rejected the president’s invitation chose their party politics over their residents,” Reina said.
“There were messages and interaction afforded us that we all were invited to hear that can and will benefit our constituents right now and down the down the road. So, for those mayors to snub this meeting I feel they did not snub the president but rather cheated the residents they swore an oath to represent,” Reina said.
Reina said the president addressed illegal immigrant issues including sanctuary cities. “He is not against immigrants; he talked about how we all came from immigrants, immigrants who went through a process to become citizens. There are concerns about sanctuary cities, “Reina said. He added that he felt programs that benefited undocumented immigrants living in the country were unfair to US citizens and imposes added costs to communities.
“Who funds us?,” he asked
Beyond the president’s stand on sanctuary cities, Reina said he also liked what he heard during his presentation before the assembled mayors.
“He spoke about supporting law enforcement agencies throughout the country and letting them do their jobs by giving them the tools and resources they need to keep us all safe. It was great to hear a president speak with pride about those who serve as mayors as well as strong support for our military and law enforcement. He loves our country,” Reina said.
Reina added that “it was very interesting to speak with mayors from big cities as well as small towns and get perspectives on the difficulties that we all encounter on a day to day basis.
Speaking with the mayor of Branson, Missouri or Mesquite, Texas, the stories went on and on as we learned as much as we could in a short time. Each conversation was more interesting than another but in the end we all agreed that making our cities and towns safe and attractive to families and businesses was the priority,” Reina said.
“We compared notes about what we our communities all have in common. We discussed things like our town demographics, medium income and tax rates,” Reina added.
Reina said he was encouraged by what the president said concerning the nation’s economy.
“Campbell’s Soup is coming back from Canada, 401 K plans are up and jobs for men, women and minorities have increased,” Reina said the president reported on the country’s low unemployment numbers and “how happy people are to be at work, stock market gains and bringing companies back into the United States such as Apple and Chrysler Motors. We had the president with us for 20 minutes.”
If hearing the president wasn’t enough of a thrill for Reina, he was pleasantly surprised to meet Vice President Mike Pence who entered the room and shook his hand as he entered the room.
“The vice president also spoke about the military and law enforcement,” Reina said. He also noted that the president and vice president had recognized that there were no levels of insulation for mayors.
The second part of the Mayors’ Day at the White House was arranged by the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. Representatives were available to talk to the mayors from several agencies, such as: Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation, Department of Education, and the Small Business Association.
“This was excellent opportunity for each of us to establish a foothold with the respective federal agencies available to us if we should need assistance in those key areas,” Reina said.
“President Trump and his Office of Intergovernmental Affairs did an outstanding job on reaching out to us. It was an opportunity of a lifetime and I want to thank the citizens of Jackson for voting for me as their mayor which allowed me to represent our community. It made for the best day of my life in politics,” Reina said.
“What we experienced is not what we see in news reports online, on TV and in newspapers,” Reina said. “You can’t put a price tag on what you heard and who was talking to you.”