Over the past six months, Garcia had been dogged by budget problems, a tax hike, a state investigation into the practices of the now-defunct Union City Democratic organization, which he had chaired, and finally, a movement to remove him from office.
The five-member Board of Commissioners voted 3-0 the night of Oct. 24 to pass an emergency resolution to immediately fill Garcia's vacancy with Stack. Since the mayor of the town also serves as a commissioner, Stack was first appointed to the office of commissioner, then to the office of mayor. Commissioner Ray Lopez, an ally of Garcia, was absent from the meeting.
Stack will hold office for a little over a year, until a special election is held in November of 2001 at the same time as the gubernatorial election. At that time, anyone can run against Stack for the position.
A regular election will then be held in May 2002 for the entire ticket of five commissioners.
Stack is currently holding onto his position as county freeholder, a position that Garcia helped him win last year after the two had formed an ultimately ill-fated alliance. Stack's freeholder term ends in 2002. However, he said that if he wins the special election in 2001, he will resign as freeholder.
Garcia, who is also a 33rd District assemblyman, will retain his seat.
Stack, who officially began a recall movement against Garcia in September, said last week that he thought that a combination of the petition for a recall - which carried 7,500 signatures - and Garcia's less-than-warm reception at the city's 75th Anniversary parade Sunday brought Garcia to his decision.
"I think he saw the sediment on the street," said Stack, who secured the signatures on the petition in just 20 days. This amount was approximately 1,000 signatures more than the 25 percent of registered voters needed to hold the election.
"This decision that Rudy [Garcia] made must have been a difficult one, but it says a lot about his character," said Anthony Iacono, the business administrator in Secaucus and a close friend of Garcia, last week. "He has always put the residents of Union City first and in his heart, if this is what is best for the residents of Union City, then that is his decision."
Garcia could not be reached for comment last week. The resignation letter he submitted to the city clerk said simply, "Please be advised that effective immediately I resign as a commissioner of the city of Union City." Garcia, who had first made a name for himself in Union City as an All-American football player at Union Hill High School in the early 1980s, took Bruce Walter's position as mayor in 1998 after Walter's death. Garcia, 36, had become involved in local politics after graduating from Columbia University and New York University Law School, and won his state assembly seat at the tender age of 28.
Garcia recently began to lose his power in the city in May when Stack teamed up with the city's Board of Education Vice President Lenny Calvo to have Stack supporters take over that board. That was followed by Garcia's being stripped of his powers on the Board of Commissioners and being moved to head the small department of Parks and Public Property.
Soon after, Stack took over Garcia's position as chairman of the Union City Democratic Organization, then dissolved that political group. Stack replaced it with a new political organization, Union City First.
Some have said that Garcia's troubles go back to power struggles with U.S. Rep. Robert Menendez (D-13th Dist.), a Union City resident. Menendez attended Tuesday night's commissioners meeting, but declined to comment on the resignation. He referred reporters to a press release saying, "What Rudy Garcia has done will surely change the dynamics of Union City's public dialogue so that everyone can focus on the real needs of the city."
But Stack said last week that Stack's problems with Garcia had to do with city business.
"Our disagreement was not over politics," said Stack. "But over the fiscal situation in Union City."
Stack said that the city's deficit is anywhere between $12 million and $15 million.
"I give a range because we still do not know what bills are outstanding," said Stack. "We get new ones in every day."
The financial records of the UCDO were subpoenaed in the last year. The Attorney General's office has not commented on what they are investigating. They have demanded records pertaining all of the UCDO's financial transactions; any Board of Education records pertaining to the UCDO, and the records of the city's Urban Enterprise Zone.
Rumors several months ago suggested that Board of Education computers had been confiscated from UCDO headquarters by the Attorney General's office.
The current Board of Commissioners, with Stack as mayor, is committed to working together to find solutions to the city's problems.
"We are going to start talking about solutions," said Stack to a room full of cheering residents at Tuesday night's meeting. "That is what the city wants and needs."
Stack is not only looking for harmony within the city; he is also looking to work effectively with the mayors and administrators throughout Hudson County, he said.
Stack had invited West New York Mayor Albio Sires and his administration to the meeting.
"I always felt that all mayors have to work together," Sires said at the meeting. "Tomorrow is a new day and the people need to be serviced."
Dennis Elwell, mayor of Secaucus and personal friend of Garcia, said although Garcia's resignation was regrettable, it will not affect Secaucus' ability to work with the new mayor of Union City.
"I know the problems that the new mayor faces are severe," said Elwell. "These [problems] concern Secaucus largely because the health of Union City has an effect on Secaucus as it does on the county. Secaucus is not isolated from the rest of the county."
Garcia's decision to resign as mayor of Union City so far has not effected his position as assemblyman representing the 33rd District.
"He is certainly considered one of the most effective assemblymen in the state of New Jersey," said Anthony Iacono, the business administrator in Secaucus.
"We will still work together," said Sires, who is also an assemblyman in the 33rd District. "[Garcia] has always had the interests of the 33rd District at heart and we will continue to do the best job we can for the people of Hudson County."
Before Stack was even sworn into office Tuesday, he was already on the phone securing the second meeting with representatives from the state about the financial problems Union City is facing.
"That is going to be my first order of business," said Stack, sitting before a room of reporters at his first press conference as mayor on Wednesday in the conference room of the mayor's office. "Over the next year, you will see a focus on finances."
Stack said that a tentative meeting was set for this coming week.
"We will not hide from the state," said Stack, adding that he wants to work together with the state. Right now it is still not clear whether the state will supervise or take over the city's finances.
Public Works Commissioner Tina Yandolino agreed that the commissioners want to put the recent strife in the city behind them. "A government does not move forward with division," she said. "We just have to put everything behind us and move forward from this point."
Stack said he sees development within the city as the next step in reducing the city's deficit and lowering property taxes for its residents.
"We need to bring in development now," said Stack who is looking at the Yardley Building on Seventh Street and Palisade Avenue and the 27th Street bus depot site as two possible locations. "We need new ratables in the city."
Stack added, "We have a better view [at the Yardley building] than they do on the Hoboken waterfront." Stack said that gaining financial stability will only attract more developers to the area.
"Once they see financial stability, other developers will come in," said Stack. "Once one [developer] comes in, you'll stir interest for more developers."
All of the 10 members of Garcia's mayoral staff at City Hall have resigned in the past month except for two. "Everyone begins with a clean slate here," said Stack, who said that he will not be hiring additional staff to replace those positions.
Yandolino had no ill words for Garcia.
"It is very disappointing," said Yandolino. "We started together with a lot of hopes and dreams. I just wish him the best."
Secaucus Mayor Elwell said that the new political realities of North Hudson won't force him to abandon his friendship and respect for Garcia.
"I know Rudy [Garcia] has a strong commitment to his family and a respect for strong family values," Elwell said. "Rudy [Garcia] has always been nice to me and I like him. I wish him well in any of his future endeavors. I hope he is successful wherever he goes from this point."