By KIM MAIALETTI
So many people were so full of hope in 1998 when leaders of the maligned Camden City Parking Authority chose Anthony Scarduzio to be their agency's executive director.
The head of the Camden City Chamber of Commerce called Scarduzio "a man of vision." The chairwoman of a state agency overseeing the Parking Authority said Scarduzio had gone "above and beyond the call of duty" in pulling the agency out of a million-dollar hole.
Even one of the Parking Authority's harshest critics endorsed Scarduzio wholeheartedly.
Three years later, the hope has faded.
On Monday, Scarduzio apparently shot and beat a former employee who blew the whistle on corruption at the agency, then turned a gun on himself in an apparent suicide.
Scarduzio, the target of a criminal investigation, was facing official misconduct charges in relation to his dealings at the authority.
His is a story of a man, born and raised in Camden, who rose from the trenches of the Camden County Democratic Party to become someone people could turn to for everything from a job to getting a fence installed.
"He knew a lot of people," said Bill Cascino, a neighbor for more than 20 years. "Tony was a good guy. He'd do anything for you if he could."
Scarduzio installed a chain link fence surrounding Cascino's back yard and also helped land Cascino, 69, a job at the municipal golf course in Washington Township, where Scarduzio lived.
Scarduzio, 47, was married and had two sons. He graduated in 1971 from St. Joseph's High School in Camden, where he was known as the class clown.
He began working for the city's Public Works Department in 1972 and landed at the authority in 1978, when the agency was resurrected by then-Mayor Angelo Errichetti and George E. Norcross III, who ascended to become one of the most powerful political bosses in the history of Camden County.
Scarduzio was known in Democratic circles as a loyal soldier who delivered when called upon to raise money for the party.
Norcross said Tuesday his contact with Scarduzio over the past few years was not so frequent as it was two decades ago because both men were getting older and had families.
"I've known Tony and his family for almost 20 years, and we are deeply saddened by this tragedy," Norcross said. "I always considered him a good and loyal friend."
In an interview in March at George's Restaurant in Camden, Scarduzio described his relationship with Norcross as one of "mutual respect."
Scarduzio also served on ex-Mayor Milton Milan's inaugural committee, was a Democratic committeeman in Washington Township and served on the Washington Township planning board. He ran for Washington Township Council in 1996, but lost in the June primary.
"Tony was always involved with politics," said longtime friend Frank McGuckin while he was buying a cigar at TJ's Newsstand in Washington Township on Tuesday. "He was a political animal."
Scarduzio would stop at TJ's three or four times a week to grab coffee and a paper on his way to work in Camden. McGuckin said he hadn't seen him there for about six weeks.
"He stayed away because he was embarrassed, I think," McGuckin said.
tive took away a photograph of Scarduzio and a group of men who routinely gathered at the newsstand.
"There was a picture here of all of us guys," McGuckin said, pointing to a blank spot on the wall. "We look like the Sopranos."
About a mile away, a steady stream of people, many with platters of food, filed in and out of Scarduzio's Scotch Drive home. A woman who answered the door at the house refused to comment.
Neighbor Jim Kantner remembered the friend who moved into the neighborhood at the same time 24 years ago.
"We golfed together; as couples we'd go out to dinner together," Kanter said. "He was a happy-go-lucky, easy- going neighbor, a guy that would always make you laugh."