At the meeting, the six-member council voted resident Orietta Tringali in as the new 3rd Ward councilwoman. Tringali replaces Susan Pirro, who resigned from her position on Jan. 1 to focus on her ongoing battle with cancer.
“My thoughts and prayers are with Sue Pirro,” Tringali said in a speech, after the council vote. “She is a role model, a person I look up to. To the mayor and town councilmen, I'd like to say thank you for appointing me. I am truly honored. I am excited, but more importantly, I am determined to make a difference in our community.”
Tringali has no previous political experience. However, she has been a member of the Secaucus Public Library for 11 years, is on the town's PTA board, and is president of the Harmon Cove Recreation Board.
At the meeting, officials administered the oath of office to 1st Ward Councilmen Robert Costantino and John Gerbasio, 2nd Ward Councilman Mark Dehnert, 3rd Ward Councilman William McKeever, and Mayor Michael Gonnelli. They recently won re-election to their four-year terms.
Many of the councilmembers (and mayor) had first won election in 2009 as part of the Independent “Take Back Secaucus” slate, now called “Moving Secaucus Forward,” headed by Gonnelli. With the exception of Costantino, the other councilmembers and mayor ran unopposed in the November 2017 municipal elections.
“This is my third term, third time standing up here,” Costantino said, shortly after being sworn in. “This sacrifice is a lot sometimes. We're here a lot. We do a lot of things, and sometimes we can't make ball games and other things like that. I'd like to thank my children for that sacrifice. I look forward to the next four years.”
“As most of you know, I was [initially] appointed,” said Gerbasio, whom the council chose to replace Gary Jeffas last year, after the latter became town administrator. “This is my first election. I am very gratified and humble that so many people did come out, voted for me.” He also thanked his wife Kathy for sticking with him through the demands that the position entails.
“It's been a great four years,” said Dehnert after his swearing in. “I've learned a lot, and I look forward to really getting into this thing and serving the town of Secaucus.”
McKeever took time in his speech to talk about Pirro, whom he served with for around eight years in the 3rd Ward.
“Sue has done a lot,” McKeever said. “She's an amazing woman. She's served on the PTA, Board of Education, volunteered at the animal shelter, coached basketball, served on the Office of Emergency Management. Her heart was really into the town of Secaucus.”
What to expect
Mayor Gonnelli used his acceptance speech to not only thank town residents, but lay out what they can expect for 2018 and beyond.
“It's always been my nature to find out what's best in our town that will serve the needs of the community and keep moving Secaucus forward,” he said. “This year, we're actually holding the Little League World Series at Secaucus. As a council we have worked hard to keep taxes stable, and we're going to keep taxes stable. That's a promise. We've not had a tax increase in eight years.”
After Hurricane Sandy, the council worked on efforts to fortify the town against future storms. “All of our roads are being reconstructed, all of our pump stations have been improved, and other protection measures have been put in place,” Gonnelli said. The town is also currently installing a flood wall at Gail Place.
A new park is also on the way.
"This past year we acquired property on the foot of Farm Road by the river; it will be converted into a beautiful park with a large play area and a dog run," Gonnelli said.
"This land will become one of the largest parks we have to offer to the people of Secaucus. These efforts have expanded our park service and will preserve open space for years to come.”
The council is also working on creating a new recreation center on land the town owns. Though he gave few details, the center would feature a turf field, Gonnelli said. The town is working on analyzing the project's cost, as it is in the early phases.
“I have no doubt this structure will be a great addition to all of these top-notch facilities,” Gonnelli said.
“We're in this together, and we have to stay in it together. My administration will work with you, and is listening to you.”
Also at the meeting, the Volunteer Fire Department promoted several members to sergeant and lieutenant.
In addition, the council passed a resolution for McKeever to serve as acting mayor when Gonnelli is absent.
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