He’s managed swimming pools and now hopes to manage a city.
Certified Pool Operator Patrick Hall is campaigning to become mayor of Trenton, N.J., the state’s capitol.
Citing his experience as an entrepreneur and involvement with local organizations, Hall said he’d bring much-needed change to city hall, which is steeped in allegations of cronyism.
Hall, whose career in aquatics spans three decades and who has launched several business ventures including Hall’s Pool Service, is among five hopefuls vying for a seat currently occupied by Mayor Tony Mack. It’s unclear if Mack, who faces federal corruption charges, will seek re-election.
As mayor, Hall’s top priority would be to strengthen the city’s educational system, he said. Of course, given his background, safeguarding local swimming pools from closure also is on his to-do list.
Hall said budget constraints have threatened to close two public pools in recent years. Currently, the city does not charge for admission to any of its aquatics facilities. As mayor, he’d like to institute a nominal fee to offset operating costs, he said.
Political candidates often discuss ways to cut expenses, but Hall was proposing municipal cost-saving initiatives well before running for office.
Between 2005 and 2010, he oversaw 125 employees, mostly lifeguards, and a budget fluctuating between $200,000 and $400,000. During that time, Hall proposed that each of the city’s maintenance workers become Certified Pool Operators. (The city had only one CPO on staff.) He figured the move would save the city approximately $40,000 a year by educating existing personnel rather than hiring private contractors.
It would also help ensure that Trenton’s pools stayed open and safe. Facilities were occasionally closed because of poor water quality, Hall said.
The idea was partially implemented and today, some maintenance workers now are certified, he said.
Hall also advocated for a smaller lifeguard-to-swimmer ratio. State regulations required one guard for every 60 bathers, but Hall believed the number should be lower. “I had to finagle and negotiate with the city council and the rest of the administration to lower that to 1-to-30,” he said.
Hall, 50, is a big believer in giving young people a secure place to hang out and play. In a city riddled with crime and gang activity, the local pool, with its armed guards, free admission and convenient daytime hours, is a something of a safe haven.
“We had parents who would drop their kids off at 8:00 in the morning, and wouldn’t come back to pick those kids up until 5:00 or 5:30,” he said.
Being a CPO in an urban environment comes with certain challenges: gangs staking claim to certain pools, weapons checks, and plunging vehicles. The latter is an annual tradition, a prank committed by bored teenagers, Hall said.
“Those are things CPOs in other places don’t have to deal with,” he noted, “but that’s the reality in Trenton.”
It’s a reality, Hall believes, that could be improved with a better school system. “Right now, we have a broken society,” he said. “We have to rebuild our society, and the only way to do that is through education.”
Hall, who is running as a nonpartisan, said a number of organizations already are engaged in local schools that are actively working toward that goal. They just need the support of a like-minded mayor.
“They need more funding. They need more structure. And we need more push in that direction,” Hall said. “That can only come from the top.”
He no longer works for the city, whose current mayor is the subject of an FBI investigation. Of the current city administration, Hall said, “They don’t mind cutting corners and doing things that I find — if not unethical — illegal.”
Trenton’s mayoral elections begin in May.