"There isn't any difference between the two," Troyer explained during an interview last week. "The mayor is the one who makes all the decisions. Kickey votes the way he is told."
Kickey would beg to differ. Although he is running on the Democratic ticket against Troyer for the 2nd Ward council seat, Kickey has hardly been a rubber stamp for Mayor Elwell - a fact that has largely gone unnoticed in this campaign, as part of his desire to present to the public a united Democratic Party.
Oddly enough, Troyer and Kickey were once allied, part of the 1990s united Independents movement that for a short while took control of the Town Council. But when Elwell ran as a Democrat in the 1999 primary and eventually as the Democratic candidate for mayor that same year, Kickey went with him, leaving many former allies like Troyer bitter over the alleged betrayal.
Kickey - who was appointed in early 2000 to fill the unexpired council term left when Elwell was elected to mayor - is running for his second term, and his first four-year term.
In 2001, an act of the state legislature increased the terms of office in Secaucus from two to four years, a radical change to many like Troyer, who believe this came counter to the wishes of the public that voted down such a move in the mid-1990s.
"It wasn't the people that voted for the four-year terms. It was a deal the mayor made with Senator Raymond Lesniak, who sponsored the bill to change the terms," Troyer said.
Troyer has also tried to tie Kickey to a perceived town policy for increased development. He also has tried to tie him to the town's closeness Hudson County government. Troyer is hoping that recent scandals on the county level will leave voters suspect of the Elwell administration.
Troyer is part of a vocal opposition to plans for development of the Shiptank property, a 16-acre track at the western edge of the 2nd Ward. Over the summer, the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission's Planning Department approved two variances needed to allow the project to move ahead.
Troyer correctly points out that three of the four Democratic council members have paid positions with the county, including Kickey, who is a member of the county's Office of Emergency Management.
Kickey defends this position by correctly pointing out that he has long been involved with the municipal office of emergency management and acts of a liaison between the two offices.
Troyer is hardly immune to criticism in this campaign. A year and a half ago, he ran for the Board of Education on an anti-budget platform. This year, Kickey notes, Troyer backed a budget that showed a similar increase. While Troyer defended his vote by saying he was apart of the process this year when he was not the year before, Kickey said Troyer's positions are often inconsistent.
Kickey points to Troyer's conflicting positions on the recently passed $14 million school expansion referendum. At various times, Troyer has supported the construction of a new auditorium, while at other times, he campaigned against it.
Troyer admits that he had mixed feelings about the auditorium, noting that he saw it as a luxury item the district could live without if necessary.
"But I also saw that with the state reimbursing $4 million on the expansion, we would be getting the auditorium pretty much for free," he said. "If we were to construct it later, we'd have to pay the whole thing from local taxes."
Troyer a perpetual critic
Troyer has been a consistent critic of numerous Democratic administrations for decades, extremely vocal over the years at Town Council meetings and for a time, meetings of the Secaucus Municipal Utilities Authority. Troyer lays claim to being among the first to sniff out the 1989 scandal on the SMUA that led to the arrest and conviction of the chairman and executive director of that body. Others say his was one among many voices raising questions during that time.
Troyer's political career is seeped in controversy. In the early 1970s, he served on the Board of Education and was a teacher for a time in the Secaucus school system. Questions remain a political issue even today. Did he deliberately deceive the board in claiming he had a master's degree at the time? Or did he - as he claims - truly believe he had a master's degree when he did not? What came out was that Troyer had gotten a letter from his college saying he had the degree, but in actuality, he still had a few credits to fulfill. Nevertheless, the issue is often raised again when candidates campaign against Troyer, even though he sued an opponent at one point for making the charge and got the opponent to drop it.
In 2000, one of his opponents in the school board election tried to make this an issue in the campaign and suffered voters' backlash when they gave Troyer a vote of confidence and elected him to the board. His positions on the board have often pitted the board against the Town Council on a variety of issues, including the sale of property to New Jersey Transit and accepting a county-connected insurance broker as broker for the board. While other board members insist Troyer does not speak for the board as a whole, he has often been the most outspoken member on various issues, winning converts among those who previously opposed him.
During the 1990s, Troyer served as a commissioner on the Secaucus Housing Authority - appointed to the five-year term during that brief period when the Independents held control of the council. Although he was as outspoken there as he is on the Board of Education, most of those who worked with him claim he worked hard and was extremely knowledgeable out the Housing Authority issues.
Kickey his own man
After three years on the council, Bob Kickey said he's grown more comfortable in facing people he meets on the street or in houses.
"I was appointed the first year," he said. "When I ran for election the first time, I knew the issues, but now I have been involved in the process."
Although deeply entrenched in the political scene as an Independent and a one-time member of the Secaucus Fire Department, Kickey had never previously sat on any board or served any public appointment until appointed to the council in 1999.
A Hoboken native, Kickey moved to Secaucus around 1960, and has a significant background in automotive technology. He is a 1969 graduate of Lincoln Institute of Technology in Union and worked briefly in repairs before purchasing his own auto repair and gas station in the center of Secaucus. Over the years, he also owned and operated a Dunkin' Donuts and a quick lube and oil change business. He is currently co-owner of a gas station.
Kickey said he first got involved with the political scene not to help Dennis Elwell's campaign, but the campaign of Dennis' father Howie in 1989. When Dennis Elwell ran for school board in 1990, Kickey helped, later becoming one of the founding members of the SIA (Secaucus Independents Alliance) who propelled Dennis Elwell into the council.
"From then on it's just kept on rolling," he said, describing the every year campaigns waged against the Democrats in which he played a vital role behind the scenes. Those were truly grass roots days, Kickey recalled. He and Elwell went door to door together. They wrote their own campaign literature and designed their own newspaper ads. For over a decade, Kickey played a key role behind the political scenes, doing all the gruntwork required in helping an independent candidate get elected.
Kickey believes Troyer's campaign to paint him as a rubber stamp for Mayor Elwell won't work.
"Too many people know me and know that I vote my own mind," he said.
Kickey said the 212 townhouses slated for the Shiptank property are not the best of projects he might propose for that location. "But isn't the worst use, either," he said, noting that single or two-family houses built there might expand over the years as residents add legal or illegal apartments.
"But with townhouses, you know up front what you're getting," he said. "The fact is other developers had proposed worse for that property, including connecting to local streets. This project isn't going to affect the residents in that area."
Although Troyer has called the Elwell administration one that is pro-development, Kickey said the opposite is true.
"We have purchased numerous properties for preservation as open space, and we're looking to continue that," he said, adding that he is looking forward to that point in the future when the town completes the riverfront walkway in the 2nd Ward and the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission constructs the environmental center at the former site of the Old Mill.
Of campaign promises made in the past, several have come true over the last two years: Many streets have been repaved, the new library has been constructed and the site of the former Keystone plant has been cleaned up of contamination.