Oakland Vice Mayor Talks About Leaving His Seat

What do you call a man who downsizes from two jobs to one in the middle of this rotten economy? How about... smart?

That's because Anthony Niedwiecki (on the left, with husband Waymon Hudson) is trading in two good jobs -- law professor at Nova and vice mayor of Oakland Park -- for what he thinks can be a great job: a professor at John Marshall Law School in Chicago, where he stands to get a nice pay raise.

Before his official resignation on June 1, he spoke with Juice about his big decision.

You're giving up two jobs for one job in a time when many are unemployed. How would you explain that decision to someone?

I think anybody would understand you make decisions that are best for your entire family, and that's the decision I made. At Nova, over the last year or so, there's been some adjustments that's taken away some of my income. I've been advancing in my career for about 12 years now, and [John Marshall Law School] showed an interest in me. We went back and forth about it, and they offered me responsibility, job security, and financing I couldn't get at Nova. It was really more about financial and job security and those types of things. When it comes to the job at the city, they don't hardly pay anything, so that doesn't really factor into it. What made the decision difficult is that I really enjoy the job as city commissioner. 

What's something you wish you could've accomplished as vice mayor of Oakland Park?
How about something I'm still hoping I can accomplish? One of the big things I want to accomplish is that I sit on the resource recovery board for the entire county. We're in the middle of finishing the contracts with Wheelabrator (a business similar to Waste Management) who incinerates the garbage for the entire county. Since I've been on the board, I've been trying to get them to lower they price they charge each of the cities to drop off garbage. The city is in the process of voting on that project. We realized that the contract itself is excessive in the amount of profit it gives the corporation. Every dollar or two that we lower it, we're saving millions and millions of dollars for the citizens. This company is making 40-plus percent profit on equity. I didn't get into this to be a garbageman, but I've learned more about garbage than I thought I ever would.

Do you and your husband have kids? 
No, we took in a foster son about three years ago. He was in the foster care system and raised by two gay men his entire life. They moved from Florida to Oregon, and when he turned 16, the State of Florida said he had to return to the state before he turned 17. The state wouldn't allow these two men to adopt this kid, and essentially this kid was left homeless by the state. Nova represented him, and they were looking for someone to take him in, so me and my partner took him in and got him into college. He's now doing work study in San Jose.

Politicians tend to get addicted to power and you're walking away from it. Was that a hard decision?
To me, that was the hardest part of this whole thing. With my career, the new job is one of the best jobs I can get in my field. What was difficult was walking away from my City Commission job. We are making a lot of progress, and I really think we changed the way Oakland Park does business and the way it operates. Doing that type of work is really fulfilling, but I never had big political goals. I just wanted to do what I thought was right and fix problems I saw.

Running for office [in Chicago] is not in my plan. My job is going to be big enough for me because I have a much larger position at this school than I do at Nova. I'll supervise a large amount of faculty members, expand programs, and speak all over the country and essentially be the face of the program.

Florida has a ban on gay adoption; does Chicago allow it?
Yes, they have a ban on gay people in general. If you're gay, you can't adopt, period. Yes, Chicago does. We don't know what the future will bring. We loved having Frank in our family, but when we get up there and see what our life is, that's always an option for us. His situation is a perfect example of the harm the ban does for children.

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