Dr. Cristina Guarneri was so impressed with Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop’s life story that she recently rewrote her thriller novel to include him.
She had already released the work of fiction “Flames of Truth: Beyond the Darkness of Wall Street West” earlier this year, but decided to revise it to include a main plotline about the political rise of Fulop.
For 22 years, Guarneri has devoted herself to working on political campaigns, and has also has provided seminars on ethics and leadership in public policy. Her newest seminar, Ethical Leadership in the 21st Century: The Issues in Public Policy has been held throughout the U.S.
“I didn’t intend writing about him,” she said of Fulop. “But about a year ago, I was sitting with him in a PATH station and I saw him shaking people’s hands and thanking them for electing him.”
She said in all her career, she had not seen anything quite like it.
“He reminded me of [Abraham] Lincoln,” she said.
Inspired by his ethics
She thought her book would benefit from a true account of Fulop’s rise to become the mayor of the second largest city in New Jersey.
She said she met with Fulop only once regarding the project back in September.
“I wanted to get a second interview, but I couldn’t arrange it,” she said. “But I had been following his career, and his life is very impressive and intriguing, so I couldn’t help but write about it.”
She said she was most impressed by his level of ethics, something she said she hasn’t seen often in government.
“He is dedicated to accountability and transparency,” she said. “And I believe he has lived up to what he claimed to be in his campaign. He’s been in office almost a year and people would have seen inconsistency [by now]. He tells people this is what he is going to do, and that stood out to him.”
She said she was impressed with his roots, his upbringing, his career in the Marines, and how unlikely a politician he was.
“He seemed very shy when he started out,” she said.
Her book looks at his upbringing, childhood, his college year, his life as a Marine, and his work that drew the attention of former Mayor Glenn Cunningham.
“He’s a real person, he’s genuine,” she said. “He’s very bright and intellectual. But I think a lot of his success came as a result of his perseverance.”
A description of the book on the internet explains, “Wall Street West weaves a multi-layered story that follows a Goldman Sachs equities trader, who leaves the comforts and success of the financial world for a journey into the unknown. After experiencing the collapse of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, he deals with the moment as an epiphany, and leaves the comforts of a nation to enlist in the Marines. Spending time at the frontlines of Iraq before returning home, he is never the same again, as he questions his life decisions…He takes the chance to run against some of the heavy-hitting elected officials of the city…Miles away, in a crowded courtroom, a jury returns a stunning verdict against some of the finest aristocrats in history.”
Guarneri has worked in politics on the state level, starting out as a staff member for State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-20th) who is also a close political ally to Fulop, and whose firm does significant business with Jersey City, recently evaluating the Jersey City Parking Authority as well as filing the city’s $400 million lawsuit against the Port of Authority. She said she has worked campaigns for Lesniak in the past.
Revising the story
She said revising a political novel into a story about Fulop came as an effort to show an ethical politician in government – someone, she said, who will keep his word.
“I want people to find hope in the fact that they have such a mayor,” she said.
She said Fulop rises out of a county known all too well for its political corruption, which allows him to shine even brighter because of his sense of ethics.
“To tell you the truth, I was a little afraid of Hudson County,” she said, noting that she also is authoring a play about Fulop’s life.
“What I want people to realize is that they have an ethical politician in Mayor Fulop,” she said, noting that there is already talk about him advancing to a position on a state and national level.
Dr. Guarneri, a resident of Verona, holds a doctorate in Leadership, Management and Policy with a concentration in Public Policy from Seton Hall University, along with a Professional Certification in Public Performance Measurement: Government Relations, from Rutgers University.
Currently, Dr. Guarneri writes a column entitled We the People which focuses on government and politics. She is also the author of the “See No Evil” series of books.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.