Mark Bruschino and Kathy Huber-O'Connell, who had also filed petitions to run, also withdrew from the race. That left four candidates in a race that could decide control of the nine-person Board of Education.
"Mark is a great guy," said former Board Member Paul Amico. "He would have made a great board member. I urged him not to drop out."
This leaves John Shinnick, Mauro DeGennaro, Angelo Andriani and George Heflich, Jr. as the remaining candidates.
Heflich, who served as councilman from 1974 to 1980 and fire chief from 1982 to 1986, faces a tough fight since the other three candidates are expected to get the endorsement and support of Mayor Dennis Elwell.
"I was always the odd man when I served on the council, and I fought hard for the 1st Ward," Heflich said. "It wasn't always pleasant, but I was able to accomplish a lot for the community."
Andriani, who served as a board member for 15 years until 1997, brings to this ticket strong name recognition among longtime Secaucus residents, while DeGennaro and Shinnick provide the ticket with new faces and perhaps ideas. Shinnick is a member of the Secaucus Youth Alliance, a non-profit organization seeking to build a recreation center, and he is also chairman of the Hudson County Improvement Authority. DeGennaro is a library trustee.
If three candidates win over Heflich, board members supporting Mayor Elwell would take control of the board for the first time and give the mayor a strong voice in who will replace current superintendent Constantino Scerbo - who is expected to retire in the next several years.
Right now, Elwell can count on only a minority of votes among the current members, and if the choice for a new superintendent were made today, his choice would not likely prevail.
If Mark Bruschino had stayed in the race and won, he would likely have joined a significant minority of board members who might support the promotion of High School Principal Pat Impreveduto to the post. Board members Susan Pirro and Anthony Rinaldi also are considered Impreveduto supporters.
If Heflich should slip onto the board, he would join Board Member Tom Troyer as a possible opponent of Impreveduto. Both board members probably would also oppose any superintendent suggested out of the mayor's office and would leave the board divided.
"If Heflich doesn't get on the board, then the mayor can do whatever he wants," one source said. "He'll have all the votes he needs."
If the Elwell-supported ticket prevails on April 15, the mayor will have a strong influence over five members of a nine-member board. Currently, four of the nine members have the mayor's ear. Board member Michael Schlemm, who was touted at the next board president, will likely have to step aside to allow Board Member Bill Millevoi to become president instead.
"If that happens there will be war on that board," another source said.
Schlemm is one of the hardest-working board members, and at one point served on the three hardest-working board committees: finance, salary negotiations and buildings and grounds.
Ballot positions selected on March 3 actually mildly favor Heflich, since many voters tend to pull levers in order. The selection has Andriani first, followed by Heflich, Shinnick and DeGennaro.
Although not openly discussed, the withdrawals of candidates hinted strongly of behind-the-scenes political maneuvering, and positioning for future elections.
Voli's last minute withdrawal aided the three candidates supported by Elwell, and drew fire from several critics who claim Voli just received a job at the town's sewerage treatment plant. This howl grew louder when a few days later, Voli was named the new director of the town's Recreation Department - although town officials maintain no deal was made for his resignation.
Rittberg, who decided not to run for re-election, could be a candidate on an Elwell ticket for Town Council in 2005 against Independent Councilman John Bueckner in the 2nd Ward. DeGennaro, also of the 2nd Ward, may also find a slot on the Elwell team ticket, but in 2005 against Councilman Bob Kickey. And though Huber-O'Connell was said to have been encouraged to run by former Elwell ally Daniel Amico, nearly everyone involved in the process agreed she would likely make an excellent future board member, hinting that she could find a place on the ticket next year.
One odd twist in this year's board election is Andriani's candidacy. Andriani's 1997 retiring from the board after 15 years made room for Rittberg's successful election. This year Rittberg makes room for Andriani's return.