‘I bet you know Pat Colligan’
by Editor and Publisher Mitchell Krugel
Or here is what you should know about the personable, good-humored, good-natured, courteous, committed, creative, gregarious, knowledgeable, energetic, quick-witted, effusive new NJ State PBA President.
Stop me if you heard this one:
A police officer walks into a bank…
OK, stop me if you heard this one:
Franklin Township Police Officer Pat Colligan walks into a bank in town. Three elderly women have a table set up off the lobby where they are selling afghans as a charity fundraiser. Pat walks up to the table. He is dressed in civilian clothes but wearing a Local 154 shirt. The ladies notice his police logo and start to chat him up. One of the ladies begins by saying:
“Hey, are you a police officer?”
“Yes, I am,” Pat replies.
The lady comes back with: “I bet you know Pat Colligan.”
“True story,” says Pat Colligan, your new NJ State PBA President. “They had never met me. I didn’t know them. No joke.”
Life can be funny, and it often is for Patrick Colligan, who brings a bevy of refreshing skills to the PBA’s top level of leadership. Not the least of these is gifted sense of timing to make light of situation by oozing a one-liner that elicits a laugh, creates an instant bond and can even lift the tension.
Talk about perfect timing. Stop me if you heard this one: Pat Colligan walked into a meeting at union headquarters in Woodbridge on Sunday evening, June 22, and walked out as the next NJ State PBA President.
And it very well may be his refreshing outlook, glass-is-always-half-full philosophy and fraternal fanaticism that can lift the organization through what he calls the biggest fight in the history of the PBA.
“I had a dream that I was PBA President last night,” Colligan quips when beginning his first sit-down interview as president with his official magazine. “Then, I woke up, went to the bathroom and said, ‘holy s_ _ _, I am President.’”
Know this about your new president: He is clever, creative and committed. And there’s a lot more where that comes from.
“If you have read my articles, you know I don’t hide too much; I’m a pretty open guy,” Mr. President says. “I try to keep my sense of humor no matter what’s going on. You have to keep a smile on your face. The union can be aggravating at times, but I try to look for the silver lining. There’s always something positive about everything in life.”
A word you will hear come up often in conjunction with President Colligan is “affable,” which makes him friendly, likable, personable, simpatico, good-humored, good-natured, courteous, gracious, approachable, amenable and gregarious, among other executive qualities. It also makes him simpatico with the theme that introduces the PBA’s new leadership duo, for which we will make you read through only one Butch Cassidy reference and that is to another memorable line: “You just keep thinking, Butch. That’s what you’re good at.”
“At the end of the meeting, Tony told me, ‘you were brought here because of your business sense and your personality,’” President Colligan related. “My personality is what helped me get here. I have a lot more responsibility, but my personality is not going to change.”
Timing is everything
So you want to talk about perfect timing: When the announcement was made to the Board of Delegates that Pat Colligan was being named Executive Vice-President in the wake of Keith Dunn’s resignation and, in effect, be the next PBA President, he wasn’t even there.
That was the morning of June 24 in Atlantic City. As Colligan noted, he was suddenly called to a meeting at the PBA office on June 22 where he was informed about Dunn’s decision and retiring President Wieners’ subsequent choice to move up Colligan. Wieners told Colligan the announcement would be made Tuesday, and Colligan replied that his daughter was graduating from high school that morning.
“I told Tony that I would pass up the graduation,” Colligan said, “but we agreed that was not the way we wanted to start this thing.”
Now, you really want to talk about perfect timing: When Colligan graduated from the academy and joined Franklin Township in 1992, he was assigned to a patrol coach on his first day. His guy happened to be Darren Russo, then the Local 154 State Delegate. That also happened to be the time when five Franklin Township officers had been indicted and were pending trial.
Colligan soon started writing letters on the officers’ behalf that wound up as editorials in the local paper. The handwriting was on the wall for him at that point.
“Those guys were on the verge of being finger-printed for prison, but when I saw how the union got involved I was like, wow, this is the right thing to do,” he said. “I had an instant love for the union. When I was at the academy, one of the captains who hired me said I was going to be the next chief. If I got in the car with somebody else besides Darren that morning, I might have gone to take a promotional exam, worked my way through the ranks and never realized how important the union is.”
Patrolling with Russo provided a daily lesson for Colligan in many aspects of PBA works. In 2001, he became the Local 154 State Delegate. He joined the State Executive Board and rose to Sixth Vice President by 2013.
As part of working in Woodbridge, Colligan was able to watch Wieners at work up-close, an opportunity that not only left him knowing what needed to be done and how to do it but how big a task was really at hand.
“I have some big shoes to fill,” he admitted. “Literally. Tony wears size 13s.
“He had a passion for the job that will be tough to equal. Despite the challenges he faced, he made some incredible changes, especially on the health side. He saved hundreds of lives. You become a cop to help people and you maybe get to save one life. Tony saved hundreds.”
As you probably figured, there is a serious side to your new president. The one who has seen this the most is that noted teacher of special education students, Lynette Colligan, who provides us with a key as to when her husband gets serious.
“He lets a lot roll off his back and tries not to let things get him into a bad mood,” she confided. “When he was on the job in Franklin Township, he never brought bad days home to the family.”
But a person can only take so much, right?
“It takes a lot to get him going,” Lynette continued. “The aggravation will center him. It will help him move forward to get the job done.”
So how will members tell when he’s got that focus working?
“When he puts his mind to something, he’s a no-nonsense kind of guy,” Lynette revealed. “He doesn’t give up. He’s relentless for causes he believes in 100 percent.”
Serious tends to feed off studious for the new Mr. President. You’ve read references he’s made in his NJ Cops magazine columns that evoke substantive research into current events and other data. This will come up in conversation with him, too. When making a case for how collective bargaining benefits law enforcement, Colligan cites examples in southern U.S. states where cops have no such opportunity and face compensation issues all the time, all over the place.
He’s going to come at you members with similar logic and sound reasoning. Don’t be surprised to hear him implore you to get involved by repeatedly reminding that being a PBA member is not just about paying the dues.
“You don’t have to run for office to be involved with the union,” President Colligan reasons. “You just have to lend a hand. Let your Local leaders know they not going to be running a golf tournament with just two people to help out.”
Who needs sleep?
At this point, many members might be wondering what President Colligan’s plans are to deal with the extreme challenges the PBA faces. If you want to know what he’s thinking, know that he’s been thinking since, oh, a few minutes after he left Woodbridge on the night of June 22.
“When I couldn’t fall asleep that night, my head started spinning,” he explained. “I finally fell asleep around 2 a.m. I woke up at 3:30 and that was it. I realized this is big business and I felt like somebody handed me the keys to a Macy’s and walked away. I ordered the Gucci belts, but the roof is leaking and somebody needs to take out the garbage.”
Despite all the ideas that spawned that night, President Colligan will confirm that his first best idea was naming Marc Kovar Executive Vice-President. Kovar has closely followed Colligan up the PBA ranks, and he knew Kovar’s experience representing a Local in an urban area such as Passaic combined with his expertise gained running the Collective Bargaining Committee would make him the perfect complement.
“I’ve known Pat for 10 years. I know how smart he is. I know how dedicated he is to the PBA,” Kovar submits. “Knowing how his passion would lead us in the right direction made me feel very confident about taking this position.”
Colligan adds that the virtue of having Kovar as his wingman will allow them to hit the ground running. Sprinting, though, is probably more accurate. Their first official Board of Delegates meeting on July 15 provides an indication of how fast they can move or want to move. A 9 a.m. Executive Board meeting preceding and a luncheon with the County Conference chairs scheduled afterward is a historic program for the organization.
“I was told that’s not something we normally do; we always did it this way,” Colligan said. “We’re not going to let Tradition Stagnation become a problem. We have too much to do.”
His idea list plays like his personality: refreshing, uplifting, provocative. In addition to planning to meet with every elected official in the state legislature, Mr. President is already calling for a PBA day in Trenton. Members wearing their union attire will spend the day at the state house this fall wandering in and out of meetings to let politicians know how much of presence the PBA can muster. He has other plans to rally other labor unions in New Jersey together to come up with a new strategy to take on the common enemy.
You can be sure there will be more. More ideas. More suggestions for how all members can get involved. And, yes, more one-liners.
“You will never have to worry about me stabbing you in the back because I will stab you in the front,” Mr. President declares. “You will always know where I come from. I want you to like me, but I don’t need you to. We have the camaraderie. We have the brotherhood. Let’s pick it up and start moving the football.”