By Marisa Goglia & Jannat Sheikh
County College of Morris’ Board of Trustees Chair Paul Licitra spoke on behalf of the Board in front of a crowd of 400 at the Friday, Oct. 6 inauguration of County College of Morris’ third president, Dr. Anthony Iacono.
Licitra, in his third month as chair, held the distinct honor of bestowing the investiture of the ceremony.
“By the power invested in me by the Board of Trustees, I hereby confer upon you [Iacono] the title of president of County College of Morris and present to you this medallion as a symbol of that office,” Licitra said.
Iacono became president of CCM in September 2016 when Dr. Joseph Ricca was the board chair.
Growing up in Brooklyn, Licitra said having Depression Era parents had given him the mentality of a hard work ethic.
“My parents were both immigrants and they grew up in the Depression,” Licitra said. “So I’ve always had the mentality of Depression Era parents, and you see like a little differently when you wake up in the morning and you only have three cents to your name which is what happened in our family. So I’m proud to be a first-generation American, and I’m proud to have gotten as far as I have, and I’ve worked for everything that I’ve done in life. Not just this, I was mayor of a town, I was commissioner in the state, chairman of the county planning board, you name it, I did it.”
In 1967, Licitra had served his country when he was drafted during the the Vietnam war in South Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, a river approximately half mile wide, according to the History Channel. Leading out of the Mekong are canals that are from 75 feet wide down to 35 feet wide. By the beginning of 1967 there were 490,000 American troops in South Vietnam along with 850,000 from South Vietnam, South Korea, and other U.S. allies, according to The New York Times.
“My country had called me; I’m a patriot, and I felt I had to give back,” Licitra said. “My country was good to me, I want to be good to my country. And, when you go over there, you go over for your country …. You’re so intent on getting not only yourself home but all your friends, trying to make sure that they get home. And that’s what your main goal is at that point.”
Licitra was discharged Sept. 8, 1967 and started an insurance job the next day.
Licitra said that he previously investigated accidents when he was in Vietnam and saw a comparison in wanting to pursue a career path as an insurance broker.
“I went into insurance because it was kind of related to what I was doing in the Army for my last four or five months which was military policeman,” Licitra said. “When I came back from Vietnam, I got a job in insurance, and I went to college at night. I did 128 credits in four years at night [at St. John’s University] … It was nothing that I woke up sometime as a five-year-old and said, ‘Yeah, I want to be an insurance man.’”
Having 45 years experience in the business gave Licitra the ability to run companies as president, vice president, and senior vice president.
“It was a very exciting field for me,” Licitra said. “I used to travel the world. I used to travel the United States. I had some really nice clients, some really good exciting clients, and I used to service them. I used to meet CFO’s and have meetings with pioneers and people of business. You know, [insurance] provided somebody with protection. You do captives; you set up insurance companies; you set up client services … You know, it’s a lot different now. It was a plain vanilla envelope. Now, it isn’t a plain vanilla envelope.”
In 1990, Licitra decided to depart from insurance and run for the mayor of Mount Olive. Licitra said as a resident, he wanted to bring new innovative ideas that would leave lasting impressions.
“It was enjoyable; I mean I managed to create a legacy,” Licitra said. “I did a lot of building. I built the sport’s complex; I built recreation fields, a library, a senior center, a municipal building, things that Mt. Olive needed, that I felt that it needed…And now, my grandchildren are growing up in town and they’re enjoying this. I get great pleasure out of that.”
Although Licitra said he had fond memories of being a councilman and mayor for 12 years, he would not do it again due to campaign incivility and lack of appreciation.
“People expect too much out of their elected officials,” Licitra said. “It’s not that you can’t please everybody it’s that it’s not appreciated, ..I think people just wanted to win and beat you, not they want to ruin you. It just isn’t the same. I don’t like that mentality, it’s just not me … I’ve never run a bad campaign; I never ran after anybody. Even my Facebook page, if you go on it, I just don’t get involved in petty politics, name calling, and things like that. It just isn’t for me.”
Five years ago, Licitra was appointed to the Board of Trustees and became vice chairman a year and a half ago. Now, he takes his seat as chairman of the Board of Trustees approximately three months after Ricca resigned as the chairman to take the job as superintendent at the White Plains School District.
“The exciting part of that was the inauguration, and I was partaking in the inauguration. I was the one that represented the school to give the baton to Dr. Iacono,” Licitra said. “And that was the first time I was involved in something like that. It was exciting. So, as the chairman, I represented the Board.”
Licitra said with the chairmanship comes with varying responsibilities in contrast to the previous positions on the board.
“ You’re more involved,” Licitra said. “Dr. Iacono calls me up all day long and tells me this happened or that happened. But, you don’t have that when you’re a regular board member. You do run committees, and you do run reports.
Licitra said that he instituted a monthly meeting with Iacono and the Board of Trustees.
“We can tell him what’s on our mind and he can tell us what’s on his mind,” Licitra said. “And I think that’s important that you get people in different avenues, different people. You want builders, you want accountants, you want teachers, you want administrators. So you’ve got to have a board full of these people. And, we have a good mix on the board right now and we get along..I feel that this is my extended family right now.”
Licitra said he would like to see more student involvement within the meetings, and for them to know that the door is always open.
“I think they feel that we’re not available, and we’re always available,” Licitra said. “ I think I would like to see more mentorship from the board to the students. We do have a student representative and each one of them were great. Every year we have a new one. And, every single one has been as good as the other. But, some of them were fantastic. I think I’d like to see more of the student’s take more interest in the meetings.”
Licitra said he thinks it is important that the college gets to know each trustee personally.
“I’d rather them get to know each other one on one, but if they get to know them through your newspaper, then they’ll see that we’re just people,” Licitra said. “They have ideas; they have experience. So that’s good; that’s good for the student body, and we’re head and shoulder about everybody around us.”