Eleven running in local races
Secaucus residents can cast ballots for mayor, council, school board on Nov. 7
by Hannington Dia
Reporter Staff Writer
Sep 24, 2017 | 2312 views | 0 0 comments | 164 164 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Secaucus residents can look forward to elections at both the council and education level this fall.
Secaucus residents can look forward to elections at both the council and education level this fall.
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Secaucus residents can look forward to voting for a mayor, council member, and three Board of Education candidates on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Mayor Michael Gonnelli is running unopposed for re-election to the top slot. In addition, four of the ward council seats are up for election (each ward covering a different part of town), but three of those are unchallenged.

The 1st Ward is the only contested council race, with two candidates competing.

In the Board of Education race, six people are running for three year seats on the nine-member school board.

Here is a rundown of the elections.

Mayor and Town Council

Secaucus has a mayor and six council seats, two for each of the three wards. Normally, three council people are up for election this year, and the other three seats will be up next year. However, this year, four of the six seats are up for election.

Incumbent 1st Ward Councilman John Gerbasio is running this year to finish up the term of Gary Jeffas, who left in January to become town administrator. Gerbasio has to run again next year. He is unopposed.

Robert Costantino, also from the 1st Ward, faces Steven Kilawattie for the seat.

That ward includes the town’s southern end.

Second Ward Councilman Mark Denhert and 3rd Ward Councilman William McKeever are also running unopposed. The 2nd Ward includes the north end of town. The 3rd Ward includes the Harmon Cove Towers and areas between Centre Avenue and Flanagan Way.

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“He has every right to want to hold a position and bring his vision [to the council].” – Robert Costantino

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The contested council race

Former school board candidate Steven Kilawattie, 23, is challenging Costantino for his 1st Ward seat in November. Kilawattie unsuccessfully ran for the Secaucus Board of Ed. last year, but says he wants to run for council because he feels he can bring more change in that position.

In an interview, Kilawattie cited lack of funding for local schools and lack of diversity on the Town Council (he is of Guyanese descent) as major issues. However, he declined to criticize Costantino’s work thus far, saying, “During this election season, I hope we can work with each other.”

Costantino, who was first elected in 2009, cited parking problems from residents as the top issue in his ward.

His constituents have also expressed concern about overcrowding in school, and lack of a supermarket in town, he said.

Just as Kilawattie refused to critique him, Costantino extended the same courtesy to his opponent. “I don’t know what his platform is,” Costantino said. “I wish him well. He has every right to want to hold a position and bring his vision [to the council].”

The incumbent councilmen were part of the Independent “Take Back Secaucus” slate including Gonnelli, which first took over town government in 2009 (Gerbasio and Denhert joined the slate a few years later).

In the past, the slate has touted its efforts in stabilizing taxes, expanding services, and lowering Secaucus’ share of the Meadowlands tax sharing in 2013 from nearly $3 million to just under $600,000. However, the slate is now called “Moving Secaucus Forward.”

Next year, 2nd Ward Councilman James Clancy and 3rd Ward Councilwoman Susan Pirro will run for reelection, alongside Gerbasio.

Secaucus Board of Education

The nine-member Board of Education has three spots up for grabs this year. Three different board members run for three year terms every year.

Two incumbents are running for re-election: Vice President Ruby Pantoliano and member Lance Bartletta. Board member Joseph Lewis is nearing the end of his term, but is not running for reelection.

There are four challengers this year. They are Kathleen McFarlane, Enrico Bolognino, Georgios Tsirogiannis, and former board member Tom Troyer.

The challengers did not respond to requests for comment at press time.

Next year, incumbents Joan Cali, Louis Giele, and Norma Hanley are up for election.

Hannington Dia can be reached at hd@hudsonreporter.com

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