UNION CITY -- Commissioner of Parks and Public Property Christopher Irizarry announced his resignation at Tuesday night's Union City Board of Commissioners meeting, citing an out-of-state employment opportunity and a desire to reunite his family in Florida. Irizarry served as a commissioner since 2002, and also served as the CEO of the North Hudson Community Action Corporation (NHCAC), a position which he has also rescinded. (The NCHAC provides sliding scale heath services to needy people throughout the county.)
After accepting Irizarry's resignation, Mayor Brian Stack introduced his replacement, longtime city resident and director of transportation for the Board of Education Celin Valdivia. Valdivia was sworn in immediately.
"It came as a natural to think of Celin. He's lived here all his life, cares about our residents, he's honest and hardworking," Stack said. "I wish him the best of luck."
Valdivia will occupy the commissionership until November, when a special election will be held.
Valdivia, who was sworn in with his wife and granddaughter at his side, said he knows he has big shoes to fill.
"I hope I can do the same type of job Chris Irizarry did," he said. "I'm looking forward to working 24/7 with Mayor Stack."
Irizarry emotionally announced his departure to a standing-room-only William V. Musto Cultural Center, and passionately praised his fellow commissioners and Mayor Brian Stack for working with him toward Stack's "vision of Union City as a shining city on a hill." He called the creation of seven schools in 10 years and the increased cleanliness of the city's streets and parks as his greatest achievements.
He also was unwavering in support of Stack, who called Irizarry "closer than a brother."
"New York has the Empire State Building, and Colorado has the Rocky Mountains," Irizarry said, "but Union City has Brian Stack."
Irizarry ever so briefly addressed various rumors about his reasons for leaving that have circulated throughout the past week, saying that "people will talk" but that his decision was personal, and not political.
Finally, Irizarry said he believed that Union City will only grow stronger in the future, and implored the public to work with Valdivia as they had with him over the past decade.
"Chris Irizarry doesn't make a difference, the people of this city make a difference," he said, referring to himself in the third person. "Mr. Valdivia will make a fine commissioner."
Irizarry also discussed his departure from NHCAC, a federally-funded nonprofit, saying that he was pleased with the progress it made during his tenure as CEO.
"When I took over we had a deficit of $56,000, and this year for the first time we had a surplus of $1 million," he said.
The group's former chief financial officer, Michael Shababb, has taken over as its acting CEO. - Dean DeChiaro