It was November 2007. I was 23 years old, just out of college, and I was sitting across the table from my new boss for the first time. His name was David Wildstein.
On Thursday, Wildstein was the ex-Port Authority official all over cable TV — the Chris Christie appointee raising his right hand and pleading the Fifth before a state investigative committee that was trying to grill him about his role in shutting down lanes on a New Jersey bridge in an apparent act of political retribution.Continue Reading
Back then, though, all I knew about David were the few personal nuggets he shared with me: He was from New Jersey, and most of all, he loved politics. David, as he told me, was a “political junkie” — the kind of person who obsessed about races for school board and sheriff — and he admired other people who were political junkies.
That, he said, is why he wanted me to work for him. I had next to no experience in journalism or politics, but he said he had a good sense about me. With the financial backing of his friend Jared Kushner, the New York Observer publisher, he was heading up a new venture Politicker.com, a nonpartisan site that would cover politics in every state and town.
There was something else he wanted me to know.
David, he revealed then, was Wally Edge, a pseudonymous blogger who broke news about New Jersey politics on a site called PoliticsNJ.com. Only a few people knew the secret, but he wanted me to be one of them. He asked me to sign a form saying that I wouldn’t disclose to anybody that he was Edge — and that if I did, he could sue me and take everything I and my parents owned.
He was joking. I think.
It was all a little weird. He was a big, forceful presence — someone who made the floorboards rattle when he walked and gave the impression of a guy who you didn’t dare mess with. He wore fancy suits, expensive shoes and a big, shiny watch. And he was hard to read. After I answered one of his questions, he would stare at me for what seemed like an eternity, then his eyes would shift away into the distance. I worried I had said something wrong.
But he wanted to hire me and that was all that mattered. Looking back on that first exchange now, it encapsulated everything I would experience with David during the year I spent working with him. Yes, he was intimidating. But he also had a lot of heart — and would fight like a dog to reward the people closest to him.
At a time when the journalism industry was getting shellacked by the economy, David loved the idea that he was giving cub political reporters a shot. He would talk about other scribes whose careers he launched — people like Steve Kornacki, who now has a show on MSNBC, and James Pindell, now the political director at New Hampshire’s WMUR. Today, many of the reporters who worked for David tell me they’re deeply indebted to him.