Many people think politicians are jerks and half-wits, but few are willing to tell them so in public. Fewer still would formalize their low opinions by bestowing trophies on them.
Most people, for example, wouldn’t create a “Horse’s A– Award” and proudly present it to public officials for perceived acts of foolishness.
But Secaucus school board member Tom Troyer, a wiseacre who has been a thorn in the side of many in public office, isn’t most people. Troyer has created such an award, one which he has recently resurrected after many years of inactivity.
Troyer says a former Housing Authority member tried to push away the trophy when it was handed to him.
A horse is born
Given the jocular intent of the Horse’s A– Award, perhaps it’s no surprise that it grew out of sport.
“Way back when I was teaching high school, we had this athletic director, and he was always doing stupid things,” Troyer explained, recalling how the award came about. According to Troyer, the hapless athletic director was known to do things like schedule one game at two different locations.
“And we [the coaches] would tell him, ‘You know, you’re a horse’s a—.’ So we came up with this idea of an award, and we would give it to him every time he did something wrong. And he liked the idea so much, he would give it to us,” Troyer said, adding, “I received it more than once myself.”
That was back in 1956 and 1957.
Realizing he had stumbled onto a novel idea, Troyer soon took the award off campus and into Town Hall. Eventually every elected or appointed official in Secaucus stood an equal chance of being labeled a horse’s a— and receiving the trophy that went along with the unsavory honor.
Locals with long memories will remember that the original Horse’s A– trophy was several feet tall. Troyer used to get them from Stan’s in Hoboken until the business stopped making trophies. Levy’s in West New York provided Troyer with trophies for a while, until that business also stopped making awards.
Now he gets his trophies from a place in Totowa.
The current incarnation of the award is about five inches tall, plastic, and features a horse’s rear end – including back legs and a tail – mounted on a small circular base. A plate on the base reads, “Troyer’s Award of the Month.”
The idea, Troyer said, was to give one to a different person each month.
“I would give it to people and say, ‘It’s yours for a month.’ I thought it would be good for them to keep it for a little while, think about why they got it, maybe they could apologize. Then they were supposed to give [the award] back so I could give it to someone else,” he said. “The trophy went back and forth.”
Apparently few people in Secaucus took offense to being called a Horse’s A—, and Troyer’s little trophy became something of a collector’s item.
“People would say, ‘But, Tom, I want it! Can I keep it?’ ” Troyer said.
The list of past recipients is an indication of Troyer’s offbeat obsessions in town: the Secaucus School Board, Housing Authority, and Town Council.
– Former Mayor Dennis Elwell received one for appointing Michael Harper to the Housing Authority, a board on which Troyer used to sit. Troyer believes the appointment was given as a “consolation prize” after Harper lost a school board race to Troyer several years ago. (“Elwell was good-natured about it,” Troyer said of the former mayor’s A– Award. “He laughed and made some joke.”)
– Former Mayor Anthony Just received one for allegedly turning his back on Sal Manente, by dumping slate-mate Manente for another candidate.
– The late Dan Flanagan, a member of the Housing Authority, received one because he was part of the group that voted to rename a senior housing building Impreveduto Towers, replacing the old name, Lincoln Towers. The decision has stuck in Troyer’s craw ever since.
– Joe Purcell, another member of the Housing Authority, received one after Troyer tried to help a tenant avoid eviction for having pets that didn’t meet requirements.
– Current Schools Superintendent Cynthia Randina recently received the award for what Troyer called her “naivety” in dealing with certain staff members in the school district. Troyer, a member of the school board, said she, too, “graciously” accepted her award.
In the 40-plus years Troyer has offered his A—, he can recall only one or two recipients who did not accept it genially, including Flanagan, who tried to push away the trophy when it was handed to him, he said.
And the nominees are…
Last week, Troyer had a cardboard box containing six A— trophies. Who will be the lucky recipients of the awards?
“I don’t want to tip my hand and let people know they’re under consideration,” Troyer said.
But the past is a good indication of the future, and Troyer admits that with the upcoming Board of Education election just around the corner, it’s likely that several board candidates will go home with a trophy this spring.
A new mayoral administration in Town Hall is also ripe with possibilities, Troyer admitted. (One foresees a golden A– on 2nd and 3rd Ward mantles soon.)
“This thing has taken on a life of its own,” he said. “I give these trophies to people. Then they turn around and award the [trophy] to someone else. It just goes on and on.”
E-mail E. Assata Wright at email@example.com.