Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli was recently honored by the Meadowlands Regional Chamber for his leadership in helping to promote the region in the period surrounding the Super Bowl.
Gonnelli was presented with a trophy at the chamber’s annual Leadership Awards Luncheon on Thursday, April 24.
The Meadowlands Regional Chamber is a member organization dedicated to the growth of the local business community and creating a positive economic atmosphere in the Meadowlands region.
“As a business organization we try to stay apolitical,” said James Kirkos, CEO of the chamber. “We have a 40-year history of not supporting anyone politically.”
Nonetheless, on April 24 they honored two mayors: Michael Gonnelli and East Rutherford’s James Cassella.
“We wanted to leverage the Super Bowl in any way we can,” said Kirkos. “We were trying our best to brand the Meadowlands, to make sure the world knew that the Meadowlands was a place of great asset. A great place to live, a great place to do business.”
“We as mayors, we’re leaders, but the people that work with us are also true leaders.” –Michael Gonnelli
“We tried to motivate many communities to step up and create some events,” said Kirkos. “To activate their local town’s residents so that people could feel pride in the fact that the Super Bowl was in town and we could also perhaps draw some visitors into those communities.”
In particular, Gonnelli was honored for organizing the three-day Winter Blast that turned downtown Secaucus into a celebration in the days leading up to the big game.
“It was an incredible task to try to go out and get sponsors to help you fund it and to create some kind of atmosphere so that the residents of your community could step up to the plate,” said Kirkos in introducing Gonnelli. “You wanted your community to be held up when the greatest game in the world was in our back yard.”
In accepting his award, Gonnelli addressed the hundreds of attendees by saying, “We as mayors, we’re leaders, but the people that work with us are also true leaders, and that’s our council members, department heads, everybody that puts everything aside to carry out the task. And in Secaucus we carried it out.”
Winter Blast, he pointed out, drew over 10,000 attendees and raised $25,000 for charity.
Just as important, it showcased the positive aspects of Secaucus and the Meadowlands region. The highly successful event cast the area in a good light for tourists.
“There are plenty of reasons to come back and I’m sure that they will, whether it’s traveling to the city or attending sports events,” said Gonnelli. “That was our mission and we accomplished it, and without the team we couldn’t have done it.”
The luncheon took place at the Hilton Meadowlands in East Rutherford. Attending to show their support were Secaucus Council Members James Clancy, Rob Costantino, Gary Jeffas, William McKeever, Susan Pirro, and Former Deputy Mayor John Bueckner.
Gonnelli was accompanied by his wife, Linda, and his 3-year-old grandson.
The awards were preceded by an address by Colonel J.J. Dill of the 1st Marine Corps District Public Affairs Branch, who spoke about leadership in the military and in relation to civilian life.
Also honored at the function were Doug Brown of Paradigm Associates LLC, Karen Davis-Farage of Pole Position Raceway, Janet Sharma of the Volunteer Center of Bergen County, and Bruce Silberman of Great Escapes in Travel.
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.