IRVINGTON, NJ — Last year, a Newark area publication lauded Mayor Tony Vauss for taking branding and self-promotion to new heights by ordering new street sweeping vehicles for the town that were decorated with his likeness and a slogan about his administration’s dedication to making Irvington clean and safe.
On Thursday, March 31, Vauss outdid himself and took the idea of branding to another level by releasing a new profile picture on his Facebook account, accompanied by the slogan: “You down with MTV? Yeah, you know me!” The slogan is a play on the classic song “O.P.P.” from the legendary rap trio Naughty By Nature, which hails from East Orange.
But the image of Vauss’ silhouette bounded by fields of blue and white — the official colors of his alma mater, Irvington High School — and turning his name and title Mayor Tony Vauss into the acronym MTV is pure Vauss. According to Big Seven, the father and manager of rapper Miss Nana, who also hails from the Greater Newark Area, creating a brand and marketing and promoting it are very smart things to do for entertainers and elected officials alike.
“They gotta represent their brand. You see me, I’ve got on my ‘Time to Grind’ T-shirt, I’ve got fliers and all kinds of paraphernalia,” said Big Seven on Saturday, Nov. 7, at local rapper and former Essex County Freeholder candidate Terrance Bankston’s hip-hop press conference at Mr. Adams Steakhouse on Route 21 in downtown Newark. “Rep you own brand. That’s the main thing. Get your own brand out there.”
Vauss acknowledged the wisdom of the remarks, but said his new logo was more whimsy than calculated media campaign.
“That’s a new logo,” said Vauss on Saturday, April 2, at former township employee and 2014 mayoral candidate Jean Lamothe’s funeral. “Someone created that logo for me. We’ve been sharing it on social media and it’s really taken off for me.”
Contrary to popular opinion, Vauss said the MTV nickname was not coined by Irvington police Officer Charles Barnwell.
“Actually, it was Michael Spruill who was the first person to say that to me,” said Vauss. “He was the first one to say that. He was like: ‘MTV.’ It’s all good. And it’s all in fun. We’re having fun taking care of stuff.”
Vauss said he really does understand the point about branding. He said it’s important to use social media and whatever outlets are available to get the message out about the new Irvington that’s focused on being clean and safe, because perception is reality and “people won’t know the story about the good news in Irvington unless we tell them about it.”
“It’s the Mayor Tony Vauss brand; it’s the township of Irvington brand and everybody’s got to realize that we’re growing and we’re moving by leaps and bounds,” said Vauss. “It feels longer than two years, but it’s only been two years — a little less than two years, actually — so we’re trying to get everything in perspective. What we’ve been able to accomplish in two years: we’ve been able to lower taxes, reduce crime, clean up our streets with new equipment. There’s so many things that we’ve been able to do in just two years. Imagine what we can do in four years or eight years. We’re really going to bring this community back.”
Vauss said the proof of the progress that’s been taking place in town is the fact that it’s clearly visible to everyone’s eyes.
“We tore down seven properties in the last four weeks, including the fire-damaged one that was here on Stuyvesant Avenue that kept catching on fire with our own equipment,” said Vauss. “The town is stuck with the stigma of 20 years ago; even if you Google search the township of Irvington, you get the stigma of what happened 20 years ago and it’s not what’s going on now. I mean, nobody would know that crime is the way it is now in this community. Nobody would know of all the properties that we’ve torn down. Nobody would know that we’ve reduced the taxes — of all the municipalities in New Jersey, Irvington was at the top of the list in reducing taxes. No one would know that, because we still have the stigma, because some people are so used to how things used to be and that’s the first thing that they gravitate to. Stop. We just have to work through the stigma that some people have about this community.”