Presenting an appreciation of Executive Vice President Marc Kovar for his unconditional and relentless dedication, passion, loyalty and love for his family, friends, the NJSPBA, members, his job and anybody who was blessed to know this unique leader who would do anything for anybody.
By Mitchell Krugel
Photography by Ed Carattini Jr.
Eating, drinking and being merry permeated the NJ State PBA holiday party in 2012. Members, guests, elected officials and other dignitaries inhaled trays of stuffed peppers, lemon chicken, baked ziti and other heaping helpings of The Brownstone’s finest.
Standing watch over the merriment, a PBA member ensured that nobody went hungry and
everybody felt like an honored guest. He surveyed the proceedings like a casino pit boss or a
detective on the case. He broke formation only to replace trays, fulfill a request from a member
or police the area for spills, debris or anything that might get in the way of making this an experience to highlight the very best of the PBA.
Here was Marc Kovar maintaining the posture to do whatever you need, whatever is needed for the association. Before becoming NJSPBA Executive Vice President Marc Kovar, he relished being executive board member Marc Kovar, Passaic Local 14 State Delegate Marc Kovar and PBA member Marc Kovar. Whether he stood on a podium at a convention, on the floor of the state legislature or at one of the thousands of events he attended, there was nothing he wouldn’t do for the association.
One of Marc’s mentors, then-Second Vice President John Hulse, now the PBA’s special projects coordinator, fondly recalls the Marc Kovar who would show up early to help set up for the monthly state meetings. As Hulse tells it, Marc would haul speakers around to set up the sound system with the same intensity Governor Murphy or President Trump would see from him sitting across the table.
“Some people say, ‘I never forgot where I came from,’” Hulse continued. “But Marc ended up where he was always from. Marc was the same guy from day one to the last day.”
As executive vice president, Marc thrived on being the guy behind the scenes going all-in all the time. In 2013, he was honored as PBA Executive Board Member of the Year. The story in NJ Cops Magazine chronicling the achievement featured the headline “The Man in Back: Marc Kovar would rather be on the front lines than be front and center.”
And the narrative praised Marc with this:
He’s always on the far side of the photos. Right side or left side, but rarely, if ever, in the middle…Only in photos celebrating Kovar as the Executive Board Member of the Year do we see him front and center…Otherwise, Kovar prefers to be behind the scenes.
Marc had plenty of reasons to stand out. And plenty of opportunities. But never a need.
“Marc had that Disney mentality,” explained another of Marc’s mentors, past NJSPBA President Tony Wieners. “That’s the mentality that no matter if you were a porter or the chief operating officer, if you’re walking somewhere and see a piece of paper on the ground, you pick it up. There was never any job that was beneath Marc.”
On the Marc
Aside from his beloved wife, Nicole, and the diamonds of his eyes, daughters Rachel and Isabella, nobody has known Marc better than PBA President Pat Colligan. You become best friends and partners when spending so many 18-hour days together, much of them in the car running to meetings and Local events across the state. Or out on a fishing excursion, outside of cell service, like they loved to do together.
When asked for intel to include in this appreciation of Marc, Colligan measured his words. Apparently, he wanted to find the right ones to describe the service of his wingman for the past eight years.
Eventually, Colligan waxed amusingly and wittily about Marc. But here’s where he started:
“People underestimate Marc,” Colligan began. “He is very cunning, very bright, very intuitive. He walked into the PBA as a street cop, and you could never bullshit him. He’s a guy that you might not walk up to and say, ‘Ah, I love that guy.’ You realize how genuine he is when you spend some time with him.”
Appreciations of Marc initially take Colligan back to the summer of 2014, shortly after they took over as the PBA’s chief executives. The PBA convention was planned to be held at Disney World. The Disney team was not being very understanding about an adjustment needed in the plan. The PBA hesitated to finalize the contract, and suffice to say, the Disney mentality was not coming through from the Orlando end of the conference call.
“It went on for like 10 minutes, and Marc kept wanting to talk,” Colligan recounted. “And he finally goes, ‘Don’t underestimate how much money we’re going to spend. We’re going to eat and drink like you’ve never seen.’ It was classic Mark, you know. You never, never want to negotiate with him. You never want to try and pull the wool over his eyes. He’s always going to beat you.”
Marc is renowned for being candidly direct. Colligan marveled and appreciated this many times at many levels. But none as prominently as at the White House. Colligan and Kovar had been invited to join the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) delegation to meet with President Trump and give their endorsement for the 2020 election. NAPO President Mick McHale, New York City PBA President Pat Lynch and a select few sat at the conference table, taking turns giving Trump some words of motivation or support.
When Marc’s turn came, he implored the president to provide some help for PBA members. He presented an emotional plea about how members were under relentless attack from the public and elected officials.
“I remember thinking, “This is going to be a call from the governor’s office.’ And it was,” Colligan added. “But Marc was always from the heart. And he’s never going to not support our members. I learned over and over again that Marc’s often right at exactly the right time.”
Only days after Marc officially retired, Cherry Hill Local 176 State Delegate Steve Warren was at PBA headquarters in Woodbridge for a meeting. As he prepared to leave the office, Warren heard that one of his members had been in an officer involved shooting.
A couple weeks later, Colligan found himself recalling how good Marc was in such situations.
“Marc handles those situations so well,” he explained. “If the State Delegate was not able to, Marc found an attorney. He found a psychologist if that resource was needed. He would be the first one at the hospital if that was needed. Even if it was the middle of the night, I would just get a text from Marc that everything was taken care of.”
Making his Marc
This appreciation does not include any comments from Marc. He authored such an eloquent sign-off for the September issue of NJ Cops Magazine that nothing more from him needs to be said.
And anyway, one of Marc’s greatest attributes was being a man of few words. Nobody could say more with fewer words than Marc. For he always, always led by actions.
In his drop-the-mic article, Marc submitted one last reminder for every member to be their brothers’ and sisters’ keeper. This is the greatest recollection of Marc from Peter Andreyev, who has taken the baton as executive vice president.
Andreyev knows that the PBA’s proliferation of commitment to providing mental health support for members dates back to Wieners’ administration. But he appreciates how personal Marc has made it.
“Marc has taken that and expanded on it, so we talk about it where it’s at the forefront,” Andreyev recognized. “He has tried to make it so there’s no more stigma about going to see someone about your mental health.”
Appreciation flows abundantly from Kevin Lyons, another of Marc’s self-proclaimed consiglieres. Lyons also submits that Marc’s lasting impact on the PBA will be the passion he had for tending to officers’ physical and mental well-being.
“He’s definitely the definition of what a friend should be,” noted Lyons, the retired Long Beach Township Local 373 State Delegate and current PBA Legal Protection Plan coordinator. “Because of his passion for people, he truly cares about everybody.”
But Lyons also presents that Marc did not focus on talking too much because he was one of the all-time great listeners. And what that enabled Marc to achieve.
“The reason it was great working with him is because he always listened,” Lyons added. “That made him very wise politically. His mindset is to always think ahead, and he had that gift
of thinking about what’s going to happen next.”
When Wieners and his executive vice president, Keith Dunn, retired in July 2014, Marc was not the next in line to move up. But Moe Farallo knew why Marc had the right stuff.
Farallo worked side by side with Marc as the Local 14 president. They were a couple of street kids and street cops, and Moe always kept Marc grounded. That was easy for Moe because he saw that the more of a presence Marc became, the more he never forgot where he came from.
Now, it wasn’t up to Moe to steer Marc in the right direction, but after Marc became executive VP, Moe used to drive him to many of the events that he devoted so many of his weeknights to. Not that Marc went big-time and wanted a driver. Truth is, Marc had his struggles behind the wheel. Word is, he could get lost driving around the block. So Moe was there to keep Marc headed in the right direction.
All those miles only further reassured Moe why the PBA wanted Marc as executive VP. And needed him.
“He had so many contacts throughout the state, and he had his phone on 24/7 because he always wanted to be on top of what’s going on,” Moe detailed. “He was not afraid to stand up for people, and he wanted us to be heard. He wanted to have the conversations with those who were making the laws because he wanted them to have some consideration of what the police actually do.”
Marc his words
Hulse might have had the best view of Marc’s ascension. They always had an Obi-Wan–Anakin bond, but without any of that dark side. Actually, as Marc wrote in his sign-off, the Passaic PD tried to send him to the dark side with an accusation of impropriety that could have sent him to prison.
With the PBA coming to his defense, that was proven to be unfounded. And Hulse saw how prevailing in that incident ignited Marc’s desire to be even more of a union guy.
“He wasn’t bitter at the job like some members would be. If anything, it gave him a rebirth,” Hulse observed. He came in here with a great attitude that made him easy to work with because he wanted to work. Marc wasn’t here to look cool. He was here to get his hands dirty.”
Mike Madonna was running for PBA president when he met Marc and saw that same passion. If Hulse and Wieners are big brothers to Marc, Madonna is his godfather. That’s what Marc always said. After being elected, Madonna asked Marc to join the executive board.
Hulse watched him grow from the member working the kitchen to become one of the PBA’s top chefs because of his innate proclivity to be part of the team. He extols the daily morning meetings with Pat and Marc as being a key cog in the unprecedented growth and success the PBA has experienced the past eight years.
All the while, Hulse saw what made Marc the chosen one and became the bedrock of how he served.
“Marc is one of the people I’ve encountered in the PBA that really has had unwavering and steadfast dedication to the organization,” Hulse expounded. “It’s never like he’s not there. It’s never like he’s not interested in something. It wasn’t just a passing thing for him. It was truly part of his life.”
Leaving his Marc
The kinship between Wieners and Marc illuminates why the PBA has perpetuated its success for so many years. At a party to celebrate Marc becoming executive vice president, Wieners shared a quip that defines Marc as only Tony can.
Prior to Marc becoming executive VP, Tony would call him. Marc would pick up and say something like, “Whatever you need from me.” After taking office, Tony would call. Marc would pick up and say, “I need to call you back.”
Wieners probably was happy to see his protégé so devoted, so committed. When appraising what made Marc that way, Wieners referred the question to the Boy Scouts of America oath and, really, the 12 points of the Scout Law: trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, cheerful and so forth.
To Wieners, Marc was all of that and more.
“I met Marc more than 20 years ago, and personally and professionally, I hit the lottery,” Wieners complimented. “You could trust him. He’s as loyal as the day is long. He’s a gentleman. He’s always out to help somebody. It wasn’t about Marc. It was about everybody around him.”
That’s one of the traits that attracted Madonna to Marc when he met him on a street corner in Passaic while campaigning for PBA president. He set a tone for working relentlessly for the PBA, and that enveloped Wieners, Hulse, Colligan, Lyons and so many others. And especially Marc
Madonna liked to talk about those who bled PBA blue. Those who loved the organization and worked hard to get there. He saw Marc as that shade of blue inside and out.
“Sweetheart of a guy. What can I say? If you needed something, then you would ask Marc. He’d get it done,” Madonna confirmed. “Marc looked for the proper way to see things. He didn’t go kiss anybody’s ass. He just did the job and did what he thought was right.”
Another view of Marc’s leadership comes from McHale, who had Marc on his board as NAPO’s sergeant-at-arms the past eight years. McHale admired Marc for the dedication that made him feel like he could call Marc any time of day or night, and it was never a bother. He admired Marc for wanting to be a voice for the members.
“I could count on one hand the individuals who have 100 percent of the time put the association and profession ahead of themselves. Marc Kovar is one of those,” McHale declared. “And he does it from a position of elegance, professionalism and, most important, modesty. Very rarely does he ever want to stand in the front of the room and take the credit.”
It’s so hard to end this story. Asking for words to fully thank Marc for his service are nearly impossible to come by.
When asked to do so, Colligan uncharacteristically was at a loss for words. Emotion allowed him to say, “Marc had that, you know, dealing with people, you know, he was, uh, you know, the perfect partner.”
Yes, we do know.
Hulse put it this way:
“Marc was unique. It’s very hard to put into words the effect he had on this organization. But it’s easy to look around and see the success we’ve had. And he is responsible for a lot of that.”
It would be only proper to extend some other important thanks at this point. Thanks, Nicole, for sharing Marc with everybody so many days and nights. Hopefully, you know how that made a profound impact on the membership. Thanks, Rachel and Bella, for understanding that dad had to take time away to serve in the way he did and wanted. And how much of a difference that has made.
And please allow a moment to add some appreciation from someone who first got to know Marc at the holiday party. As members who have been in his office know, the album “Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.” was prominently displayed. Borrowing from some of the lyrics, the eternal gratitude for your service can be found here.
“I came for you” was always your mantra.
When they said sit down, you stood up.
You did find the key to the universe.
So enjoy your nice little place in the stars.
You certainly earned it.
Thank you for your service.