Hats ‘Boss’ Kobus Wears, Much Like Queen Mary’s

Camden Courier-Post – September 17, 1941

The political boss of Camden is a motherly, gray-haired woman who wears hats like those effected by Queen Mary of England.

Nevertheless, and in spite of the fact that she denies it vehemently, Mrs. Mary W. Kobus, Camden’s Director of Public Safety and president of its Board of Education, is one of the shrewdest politicians in New Jersey and in no small degree responsible for the victory of the “Good Government” slate in yesterday’s primaries.

“Naturally I’m very much pleased with the results of the election,” she said today at her office in Camden City Hall.” I’m particularly pleased because it engendered no bitterness. Primary fights are always dangerous for that reason. The fact that there was no bitterness this time augurs well for the success of the party in the November elections.”

Interested in Wallace

“I’m naturally interested in the career of Bruce Wallace because he’s been with me ever since I entered politics and even before that.” Wallace was nominated for State Senator by Mrs. Kobus’ partisans.

He is a member of the Delaware River Joint Commission and was a member of the South Jersey Law School class from which Mrs. Kobus was graduated in 1930.

“I got interested in politics accidentally, son,” she continued.

All men are “son” to her. The police and firemen are her “boys,” and her interest in the welfare of Camden is real and quite apart from any political ambitions she may have. The two have always seemed to jibe.

Likes Welfare Work

“You know I always have been interested in welfare work and people. I knew nothing of the mechanics of politics then. In 1935 there seemed to be some anxiety on the part of some people to change our form of city government.

“Now mind you, I’m not a publicity hound. I don’t make good copy,” she said, interrupting herself.” If we’ve won this primary, it’s none of my doing. It is the work of all the loyal men and women who strove so hard that made this election a success.

“It seems that the women wanted some representation in city government. Specifically, they hoped to elect a Commissioner. I guess they just said eeny-meeny-miny-mo-and I was it.”

Since those days, Mrs. Kobus has built up a political machine that is sometimes nothing short of terrifying to the regular Republican steamroller in Camden County. It is more than coincidence, too, that her machine has benefited the city of Camden.

A single instance should illustrate the shrewdness which Mrs. Kobus brings to her job. A certain fire engine had reported being at a certain spot one day. It was generally believed it was somewhere else. Mrs. Kobus went down to the fire house and poked around the truck: On the rear step she found five small stones.

The stones were nothing like what was to be found in the neighborhood and to her they indicated one of two things — either the truck had not been cleaned for some time, or the stones had been picked up when the truck was somewhere it shouldn’t have been. The firemen broke down and confessed she was right. They got a gentle reprimand and the stones now are kept in her desk as a memento of her amateur detective work.

As Director of Public Safety and President of the Board of Education, Mrs. Kobus controls the police and fire departments, the city clerk’s office, police court, the excise board, the municipal motor transportation bureau, the detective bureau and the bureau of charities. She is chairman of the police and firemen’s pension funds and is also fire marshal.

She is also regent of the Camden District Parochial Parent Teachers Association and once taught school. She is a member of the Business and Professional Women’s Club. She is, as well, the only woman member of the International Association of Police Chiefs and attends all of the association’s conventions.

Mrs. Kobus was one of the five original organizers of the Camden County Chapter of the American Red Cross and she is a member of the board of directors of West Jersey Homeopathic Hospital.

Handled Strike

She is famous for her handling of the strike at the New York Shipbuilding Company yards several years ago.

During the disastrous Hollingshead fire, she got no sleep for almost 72 hours. She was not merely on the scene, directing activities, but she administered first aid personally, visited the homes of victims and tore around in a frenzy of activity that soon had the rescue work well organized.

She is particularly proud of the fact that her popularity enabled her to bring aid from as far as Harrisburg.

Mrs. Kobus’ day begins at 9 A. M. It should end at 5 P. M.

It never does.

Mrs. Kobus’ father was one of Camden’s original settlers. He ran a coal yard. Her husband owned one of Camden’s first shoe stores. He died two years ago. She now lives with a sister, Mrs. Anna Connor, at 429 Haddon Avenue.

For relaxation Mrs. Kobus goes in for movie photography.


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