(CNN) – For nearly his entire career, David Wildstein has tried to stay out of the public spotlight. Now one of the key figures in the George Washington Bridge scandal, there's no avoiding the spotlight.
"He's made a point to stay in the shadows and be the person directing the show from behind the curtain," said Shawn Boburg, a reporter for the Bergen County Record who wrote a profile of Wildstein in 2012.
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Until he resigned last month, Wildstein was the director of interstate capital projects for the New York and New Jersey Port Authority. But his unofficial title was maybe even more important: Chris Christie confidante.
"Wildstein was known as the Governor's eyes and ears inside this massive agency," Boburg said.
While the Port Authority had historically operated independently of the governors of the two states it served, Christie named Wildstein to the authority in 2010 to increase oversight.
"A lot of people felt afraid of him because of his direct line to the governor's office," Boburg said.
Christie and Wildstein attended high school together and Wildstein would waste little time getting into politics. At age 16, he was elected to his local school board. He would later serve as the mayor of Livingston, New Jersey, before deciding to take a more behind-the-scenes role in politics.
"He had a very tumultuous period of leadership," Boburg said. "At that point he said, 'I'm done being the person on stage' and moved to the strategy side."
While an executive at his family's textile business, Wildstein also ran an insider-political website, politickernj.com under the pseudonym "Wally Edge," the name of a former New Jersey governor.
His real name was only disclosed when his Port Authority announcement was made.
With his appointment to the Port Authority, Wildstein made his reputation as being a politically powerful operative, according to Boburg.
"He was known for walking the halls, monitoring other executives. He was wildly feared and admired for his work ethic, his intelligence, and his political savvy," Boburg said.
The other tenet of his reputation? Loyalty.
"He was very loyal to the governor. Extremely loyal. Some people described him as vindictive. He was a very powerful position at this transportation agency and the main criticism of him there was that he was much more political than… the issues this agency is dedicated to," Boburg said.
At a news conference Thursday, Christie painted a different picture of his relationship with Wildstein.
"Let me just clear something up. About my childhood friend David Wildstein. It is true that I met David in 1977. In high school. He’s a year older than me. David and I were not friends in high school. We were not even acquaintances in high school. I mean, I had a high school, Livingston a three year high school that had 1800 students. A 3-year high school in 1980. I knew who he was. I met David on the Tom Kean for governor campaign in 1977. He was a youth volunteer and so was I really after that time I completely lost touch with David. We didn’t travel in the same circles in high school. You know, I was the class president and athlete. I don’t know what David was doing during that period of time and then we reacquainted years later in I think 2000," said Christie.
"We went 23 years without seeing each other. And in the years we did see each other, we passed in the hallways. I want to clear that up. It doesn’t make a difference except that I think some of the stories that were written impute a emotional relationship and closeness between me and David that doesn’t exist. I know David and you know I knew that Bill Baroni wanted to hire David to come to the Port Authority and I gave him my permission to do it but that was Bill’s hire," the governor added.