b'final mattersLuck and Hard WorkEllen Davenport reflects on a life in politicsBY ELLEN DONKERE llen Davenport makes it seem easy. Lucky for Maplewood, Es-sex County and the state, she has been a presence in local poli-tics since she located here with her husband, Donald, in 1968, serving as mayor of Maplewood and then secretary of the New Jersey senate. Those are pieces of a varied career that have kept Davenport energized and involved her entire adult life.I sat down with Davenport, eager to hear about her involve-ment in politics, especially as a woman who had served in the Democratic party from the 1970s through 2011. For Davenport, growing up in Newark during the 50s, politics was a con-stant in her life. She has many memories of her parents helping out in local races and recalls her mother putting her to work to make telephone calls when she was 11 years old, advising her to follow the script. She said, Try to sound older and dont giggle. Davenport started her career as a teacher after graduating in 1964 from Newark State College (now Kean University) where she was president of the senior class. She laughs when she recalls how she had to quit teaching when she became pregnant. This was the 60s and women were simply not allowed to work past three or four months of a pregnancy. (Things have changed!) While her two children were growing up, she assisted in other local campaigns and ran the Back of the Mill plant shop at the former Piersons Mill Garden Center from 1983 through 1999. From 1990 to 2001, Davenport won election to Maplewoods Township Committee and served as mayor from 1994 through 1997. Notably, she was the first and only female mayor in Maplewoods history. When I asked her if she felt it was difficult to be a woman in politics she says, There was a lot of opportunity for women. I think thats why in the Essex County Democratic Party you were given a lot of latitude. You werent just ignored because you were a woman.Davenport found her years on the township committee to be very fulfilling.Ellen Davenport relaxes in her well-tended garden.Still, she said, Theres no getting away from the fact that you cant please all the people all the time. And I think I used to be a thin-skinned, whiny little kid, but you certainly do develop a thick hide when youre in politics. You cant get offended by everything people say.a fault. Village Alliance and is treasurer of the After finishing multiple terms on the township committee, Davenport joinedBut an attitude of service is the lensMaplewood Library Foundation. the board of Family Connections. She also began a journey to Trenton, servingthrough which she views her time inDavenportishumbleinsumming as supervisor of bills for the senate in 2001-2002. When Richard Codey becamepolitics.Anditsurelymustbewhyup the impact of her career, especially president of the New Jersey senate he asked Davenport to join him in Trentonshe continues to put her bright mindon the next generation of women. She as secretary of the senate in 2004, a post she held for six years. In Novemberto work in the community. Currently,says, I was very lucky to have been able 2004, Governor McGreevey resigned from office and Codey was appointed inDavenport is co-director of the Dick- to serve, adding, I think Ive been very his place. She says, It was wild. It was so much fun. It was also hard work.ens Village committee, serves on thefortunate that I kind of just ran into She admits to always doing her homework, being prepared and meticulous toboard of directors for the Maplewoodgood people at the right time. 54/ matters magazine / fall 2019'