Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

High-energy candidacy in the Third District

Burlington County's Chris Myers is one of two Republicans running to replace U.S. Rep. James Saxton.

Chris Myers works for Lockheed Martin.
Chris Myers works for Lockheed Martin.Read more

Chris Myers, Burlington County's entrant in the hard-fought Third Congressional District Republican primary, is sitting at attention at a folding table in his Mount Holly campaign office.

The view is of the busy High Street, but in the course of an hour the former Navy lieutenant never takes a glance at the traffic, never loses focus. He sips black coffee from a foam cup.

What the 42-year-old Lockheed Martin vice president is focused on most of the time these days is running for Congress, but the long days of a politician are no problem for the Medford mayor and father of two.

"I've always had a lot of energy," he said. Moving to the matter at hand, he adds, "It's important for the congressman to have a lot of energy."

Born in Riverside Memorial Hospital, the eldest of four boys, Myers lived in Rancocas Woods until he was 4, when the family moved to Medford. He grew up near Lake Pine, swimming, paddling and fishing. He spent summer vacations on Long Beach Island. And, in high school, he was freshman and sophomore class president and school president as a senior. He also played soccer.

And piano and trumpet. But that clearly wasn't enough.

His childhood friend Brad Denn, an accountant, remembers Myers conducting the school band.

"I remember him being very focused as a young adult. Conducting the whole band is an example of that," Denn said.

Myers also can change focus, if he must. His college plan was to go into the Air Force Academy, but then he learned that his vision was less than a perfect 20-20, which would have prevented him from flying jets.

"If for some reason I couldn't fly, I didn't think the Air Force was for me," he said.

So, it was on to college, with a Navy scholarship at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he earned a bachelor's degree in political science, then to the Navy, where he said he learned "perseverance. You never, never, never give up, as our good friend Churchill said. If you are in the right, eventually things will work out."

And he learned the camaraderie of working with people whose lives depended on one another. His primary job was to direct air defense from the USS Bunker Hill. But there were other duties, such as serving as deck officer, in charge of the ship as sailors slept.

Recalling the duty, he said, "I'm a 22-year-old naval officer of the deck at 3 a.m. with 400 people counting on what my decisions will be. Will I go left or right when I see something coming over the horizon? The Navy throws you right into it. You just jump right into it."

He was awarded several medals, including the Navy Commendation Medal.

Myers has traveled the globe and learned to speak enough languages to accomplish the essential task.

"I can order a beer in a variety of languages," he said.

Myers decided to leave the Navy after a ballistic missile attack on Marines in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Under an old treaty, Americans could not track the course of missiles over some airspace.

"I thought that was flat-out wrong. So for the next phase of my life, I wanted to fix that wrong," he said.

At Cornell University, he wrote the thesis for his master's degree in public administration on why the United States should have a strong missile defense system.

He was attracted to work at Lockheed in 1997 because of its ballistic missile development program, he said.

Myers started as a program manager, rose to become a vice president in charge of missile defense, and now works as a vice president developing new business, concentrating on new technologies.

At work, "I keep a very aggressive schedule," he said. He goes into business meetings asking, "What are the five things we have to resolve? What time period are we going to resolve them in?"

Myers' background as a defense-contractor employee has opened him to criticism in the increasingly harsh primary with Ocean County's GOP candidate, Freeholder Jack Kelly, who has asked whether Myers' loyalties would lie with his former company or his new job if he were elected. Myers says he would represent the entire district. The two are fighting to replace U.S. Rep. James Saxton (R., N.J.), who is retiring.

Myers says he enjoys his Lockheed Martin job, so the question becomes why would he leave a job that pays $250,000 with big bonuses for $168,000 job as a congressman?

For Myers, it's a return to government service, a chance to use what he learned in the military and business.

"I am not one to sit on the sidelines if I think I can do something," he said.

Myers launched his political career after watching Medford's council wasting time at meetings arguing over whether to hang a P.O.W./M.I.A. flag in a park instead of focusing on municipal business. He won office in 2001. His greatest test as a township official was in 2004, when heavy rains caused floodwaters to breach dams.

"To me it was a defining moment," he said.

Although the township had a good plan - setting up a shelter at Lenape High School, stocking it with groceries, and having buses ready to evacuate residents - it did not anticipate the township's being bisected by swollen and raging creeks.

Myers decided to split resources on either side of the water so residents would not be stranded. He called Fort Dix for a truck that could cut through the floodwaters and he called for an evacuation.

So, does seemingly tireless Myers ever relax? Well, yes. Aggressively.

He plays piano and trumpet, favoring slow jazz and George Gershwin. He reads technical journals as well as a few books at a time, especially histories and biographies. Now, it's

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

, by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

His favorite times, though, are with his wife, Tiffany, and their children, 10 and 8.

"There are a variety of activities. We spend time with the kids, go to the games. My kids love to read history," he said. "We try to hit the museums in Philadelphia, in other areas. We've gone to Williamsburg and battlefields around the area."

He requires his children do well in school, play team sports, and play a musical instrument "so that as they get older they can decide what to do," he said.

"What I've found is that after you can no longer physically play sports anymore, you can still play the piano, you can still play trumpet and have some enjoyment and be productive," he said. "The one sport that is good for life is, of course, golf. I do not play golf as often as I would like."