Election winners in Secaucus
Mayor, four council people, two school board incumbents reelected
by Hannington Dia
Reporter Staff Writer
Nov 19, 2017 | 1539 views | 0 0 comments | 65 65 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Members of the reelected “Moving Secaucus Forward” slate. From left to right: Councilmen John Gerbasio, Robert Costantino, William McKeever, and Mark Dehnert.
Members of the reelected “Moving Secaucus Forward” slate. From left to right: Councilmen John Gerbasio, Robert Costantino, William McKeever, and Mark Dehnert.
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The entire “Moving Secaucus Forward” slate – headed up by Mayor Michael Gonnelli -- easily won reelection in the Tuesday, Nov. 7 mayor/council races. As for the races for three school board seats, for which Gonnelli did not make a public endorsement, two current incumbents won their seats back, and a new political candidate also joined the board.

“We have a lot of work to do, we're going to be working hard for the next four years,” said Gonnelli, who earned 3,552 votes. Like most of the other candidates, he ran unopposed.

“Flood control, traffic,” Gonnelli said. “We want to keep taxes stable. We had no competition this year. I don't want to say it was easy, because we campaigned every day, but it made it relatively easy to keep working during the election.”

About his constituents, the mayor also promised that he'll “never let them down. I'll tell you that as a fact.”

Even though most of the races were unopposed, turnout was decent because of the governor’s race, ultimately won by Democrat Phil Murphy.

The clerk’s office did not return phone calls by press time to determine the number of registered voters in town.

Council races

“It's going to be a pleasure to serve the people in the 3rd Ward,” said incumbent Councilman William McKeever, who received 907 votes. That ward includes the Harmon Cove Towers and areas between Centre Avenue and Flanagan Way.

Regarding more issues needing attention in his ward and around town, McKeever said that “We're working on some handicapped parking on Meadowlands Parkway. As we were out and about, some of our constituents mentioned that as an issue. Everything that comes up, we usually take care of it right away.”

Second Ward Councilman Mark Dehnert, who earned 1,131 votes, said he wants to continue working on recreation in town. He doubles as the town's recreation liaison and created the community pass, an online resource simplifying the registration process for town recreation programs.

He said that in working with Gonnelli, “We got a lot done in recreation, and pretty much turned the whole system around.” The 2nd Ward includes the north end of town.

First Ward Councilman John Gerbasio earned 998 votes. He said he was “very humbled” that Secaucus residents voted for him. As matters to work on, he cited fixing parking (specifically people parking on city streets before catching buses into Manhattan), working more closely with the school system, and getting to know his constituents and their issues better.

Gerbasio was running to finish the unexpired term of Gary Jeffas, who left the position in January to become town administrator. As a result, Gerbasio will have to run again next year as well. “I’m really going to concentrate on getting out and meeting most of the people in my ward,” he said. “Things at the Xchange [development], the people there might have different concerns than in the center of town, where I live.”

The 1st Ward includes the town’s southern end, including the Secaucus Junction NJ Transit station.

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“We have a lot of work to do.” – Michael Gonnelli

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The contested council race

1st Ward Councilman Robert Costantino, the lone contested council member, triumphed over opponent Steven Kilawattie, earning 874 votes to the latter's 209. Kilawattie, 23, is relatively new to the political scene, but ran for school board last year.

News of a criminal summons issued against Costantino about misrepresenting a car crash in September had dogged him going into the election, but apparently did not cost him the race (see briefs).

“I'm satisfied,” Costantino said on election night. “I feel like my hard work over eight years has paid off, and I look forward to working with this community and town for another four years.”

Costantino declined to comment about his opponent.

Kilawattie, 23, saw his loss as a learning experience. “The best way to look at it is saying that I never lost,” he said. “I either won, or I got better. I look forward to taking on civic engagement opportunities. I thank all the people that supported me over the last two years, during my run for Board of Education and Town Council.”

Regarding Costantino, Kilawattie said, “I hope that he works on behalf of all of us in the 1st Ward.”

School board

It turned out that the second time was the charm for Kathleen McFarlane, who won a seat on the Secaucus school board with 1,201 votes. She first ran in 2002.

“I have to say, it was an exciting day,” McFarlane said, of her win. “I thank all the people who came out in that terrible weather. I can't wait to get started. It was exciting to see so many people, some whom I haven't see in a long time, at the polls.”

McFarlane has two daughters, ages 24 and 27, who are both teachers. She herself is a retired teacher who once taught in the district.

When she gets in office in January, her main focus will be “learning by observing how the board runs. I'll be going to the meetings in November and December. If I'm invited to any school events, I'll be attending those. I want to be immersed in the school system.”

“This is good,” said Incumbent Ruby Pantoliano, who won 1,353 votes. “I was happy with the outcome. It was a cold, rainy day, but I'm looking to continue what we started.”

Incumbent Lance Bartletta, who won 1,626 votes, was not available for comment at press time.

Hannington Dia can be reached at hd@hudsonreporter.com

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