Hudson County Community College dedicated the entrance atrium of their North Hudson campus in Union City to U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-8) at a ceremony this morning.
“Congressman Sires’ story is similar to the story of so many of our students and alumni. He and his family immigrated to the United States from Cuba looking for a better life. He faced many challenges, but through perseverance and hard work, Congressman Sires achieved the American Dream,” said HCCC President Christopher Reber.
“First as a public school teacher, then a successful businessman, and finally, as an elected official and public servant.”
After coming up short on three occasions, Sires, 71, was elected mayor of West New York in 1995 and a state Assemblyman in 2000, serving as the speaker of the lower hours between 2002 and 2006 before getting elected to Congress.
After eight terms, Sires is retiring and backed Rob Menendez, a lawyer, Port Authority commissioner, and the son of U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) to succeed him.
HCCC Board of Trustees Chair William Netchert recalled that it was about 11 years ago that they cut the ribbon at the building they were standing in, 4800 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, and they were already celebrating their 10th anniversary.
He said their success would not have been possible without two great partners in Sires and Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise.
DeGise, who attended St. Peter’s University with Sires where they bonded on the basketball team, said their friendship continued for many years before either of them entered the political arena, telling a humorous anecdote about their younger days.
“After graduation, a bunch of us rented a gym and Thursday nights we would get together and play half court basketball for an hour or two and then go to the bar for about three or four hours,” he said to some laughs.
“Not me!,” Sires replied.
“Yeah, he was there,” DeGise responded with a big smile.
“That was the bonding that led to friendship, the friendships that Billy had talked about, that lent to supporting each other and helping each other whenever they needed it.”
DeGise noted that while his political career began with a couple losses, as did Sires’, they have been on a winning steak ever since.
When addressing the crowd, the congressman recalled one time as assembly speaker that he told then-Gov. Jim McGreevey (D) that he couldn’t allow him to cut the line item for community colleges in the state budget, to which he obliged.
He also expressed the importance of a good education and the role community colleges play in that.
“Look at today: look at all the kids that are going through here that will benefit from making the county colleges be at the table. And today, community colleges are just as important as state schools,” exclaimed Sires.
“Because kids come through here, they go straight to the state school and graduate … At least if you come through here, they give you two years and then you can make a decision. Maybe you go to work and you go at night to the state school and get a degree there but the degree is what’s important.”
The full press conference streamed on our Facebook page and can be seen below: