Now it’s time to get back to work. North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco and his team of commissioners were officially sworn in on Tuesday afternoon in front a jam-packed audience filled with county officials and supporters only a week after they received approximately 80 percent of the total vote in a heated May 10 commissioner/mayor election.
In North Bergen’s form of government, voters choose five members of the Board of Commissioners, and they pick a mayor from among themselves. All of the positions are paid and part-time.
Sacco was selected as mayor by his fellow commissioners in a short reorganization meeting following the ceremony on Tuesday. The four other incumbent commissioners took the oath of office once again.
Sacco has been a commissioner since 1985, and became mayor in 1991. Inaugurations are not new to Sacco, but he said this year’s ceremony was “very special” to him.
“If I could have gone back to 1985, I wouldn’t have ever seen this day happening,” Sacco said in an interview with The Reporter. “North Bergen has changed in such a positive way.”
“North Bergen has changed in such a positive way.” – Mayor Nicholas Sacco
However, the message against Sacco was not strong enough to make a serious dent in the reputation of a popular, 20 year mayor.
Sacco’s supporters applauded loudly for each commissioner on Tuesday, and even gave Sacco a standing ovation after he was sworn into office.
The event was held indoors due to the rain. The commissioners’ chambers was a tight squeeze for many, as trombone players from North Bergen’s High School band struggled to play their instruments, standing shoulder to shoulder with city residents.
Goals for four years
Sacco said after the ceremony that a goal of his for the next four years is to increase safety.
“We want to keep improving North Bergen,” he said. “I’m working with downtown North Bergen; we want to make the streets brighter and safer…we’re now also looking to put in a library extension down there so people have access to the library services.”
Sacco said he also hopes to put in street cameras in the urban enterprise zones (business districts) and near Paterson Plank Road over the next six months.
Sacco said that when he was first elected, the town had two police cars, street sweepers that didn’t work, and athletic fields in disarray.
“The town was at its lowest point,” Sacco said.
But he said he’s seen a turnaround in North Bergen, and he hopes to continue the trend.
“We tried out a rap song, and it worked,” he said to laughs on Tuesday. Sacco’s campaign had used a song from North Bergen High School student Ty Griffin called “Bruin Country” in a political advertisement.
Sacco ended his speech thanking his supporters.
“Thank you for being here, thank you for your loyalty, and thank you for the 26 years,” he said.
Among the Hudson County officials in attendance were County Executive Tom DeGise, Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-32nd District), Mayor Ray McDonough of Harrison, and Jersey City Mayor Jerremiah Healy.
Sacco received 9,488 votes in the May 10 election, while his commissioners – Frank Gargiulo, Hugo Cabrera, Theresa Ferraro, and Allen Pascual – received 9,057, 9,015, 8,940, and 8,890 votes respectively.
In North Bergen, each commissioner gets a particular department to work on. Commissioner Pascual was the first commissioner to be sworn in at the ceremony. Pascual is now beginning his third term, and was selected by his fellow commissioners as the head of the city’s Revenue and Finance.
“Every year we want to keep making the quality of life better for residents,” Pascual said in an interview. “We’re a progressive commission looking to bring better services to North Bergen.”
Commissioner Gargiulo will now serve his seventh term, and was re-appointed as the head of the Department of Public Works at the reorganizational meeting.
“There’s not one year I’ve been here that we haven’t moved the town in a positive way,” Gargiulo said at the ceremony.
Commissioner Cabrera was selected to head the Parks and Public Property Department in the re-organizational meeting. He has served as a commissioner since 1999.
Commissioner Ferraro was re-appointed to oversee the Department of Public Safety, which includes the police department, the public safety office, ambulance headquarters, fire code enforcement, and emergency management. She has also served as the chair of the North Bergen Housing Authority since 1973.
“Where’s my chief?” she said at the ceremony, looking for North Bergen Police Chief William Galvin. “You’re stuck with me for another four years,” she said jokingly.
Opponents will stay involved
Citizens for Change, the opposition slate, had faced an uphill battle. Candidates Michael Kreutzer, Ravinesh Varma, Adrian Cepero, April Tricoli-Busset, and Maria Benitez-Mir received 2,064, 2005, 1,975, 1,963, and 1,950 votes respectively.
They have said they plan to stay involved in North Bergen politics, including Ravinesh Varma and Adrian Cepero, who said that the race was “a stepping stone” for their team, and they hope to form community programs going forward.
Ray Smith may be reached at RSmith@hudsonreporter.com