After long-time town clerk Linda Martin announced her retirement, the town had to act fast to find a suitable replacement. The town hired Weehawken resident Alberto Cabrera to the position of town clerk, effective immediately.
Cabrera ran unsuccessfully for a Hudson County Freeholder seat in last June's Democratic primary on the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) ticket headed by West New York Mayor Silverio "Sal" Vega. He was running to represent the 7th District, which includes Guttenberg, Weehawken and West New York. He lost that highly charged race to an ally of Union City Mayor Brian Stack and Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner.
Cabrera had been an ally of Turner in the past, but changed sides last year. Cabrera was introduced to the public sector by Turner 13 years ago. Turner appointed Cabrera to the Weehawken Planning Board and Zoning Board, and Cabrera served as chairman of the Zoning Board for the last eight years. Cabrera has owned his own snack food distribution company for the last decade and had been seeking a municipal position since he decided to break his close ties with Turner to run with Vega.
Cabrera is also the brother-in-law of long-time North Bergen Commissioner Hugo Cabrera, who also serves as the Board of Education secretary.
Cabrera was also appointed to the Weehawken Board of Education a few years ago, when Carmela Silvestri Ehret resigned to become a member of the Township Council after the death of Councilman Louis Ferullo. He remains a member of the Weehawken Board of Education.
Delle Donna didn't see the hiring of Cabrera as a political payback for Cabrera's siding with the HCDO. "He's run his own business and has some experience in running meetings and working in government," Delle Donna said. "As far as I'm concerned, this has nothing to do with a political favor. Absolutely not. We had to come to a decision right away. Linda was leaving. Of the people who applied, Albert is the best candidate and I'm confident that he will do well. We were hoping that someone with more experience would apply. It's not an easy position."
Cabrera also believes that he is fully qualified to hold the position. "The Mayor and council felt I was the best candidate," Cabrera said. "Politics had nothing to do with this. I'm excited for me and my family. It's an opportunity to better my family. There's no doubt that I can handle the responsibilities. I've held the leadership of different boards and that has helped me to get the knowledge necessary for what it takes to run a town."
Cabrera has also been a Cal Ripken baseball coach and has volunteered for the local food bank for the homeless. Cabrera said that he is committed to hopefully seeing homelessness in Hudson County come to an end. Cabrera still calls Weehawken his home, where he lives with wife, Pura, and sons Alex, 17, and Andrew, 12. The clerk in Guttenberg is not required to live in that town.
Cabrera was hired at an annual salary of $43,000.
The town clerk position is a full-time job, so Cabrera will have to juggle it with his business.
"It's a big responsibility to try to do both at this time," Cabrera said. "My days are always 12-to-13 hour days anyway. I just have to find the time to put back into the business and then put into Guttenberg. The first week has been crazy."
Martin left on day of testimony
Martin, the town clerk in Guttenberg since 1989, was named as one of the potential witnesses in Delle Donna's trial that began last Monday. Monday was also the last day that Martin was on the job as town clerk. However, Martin had formally announced her plans to retire two months ago and the position was posted and listed in several local newspapers, including The North Bergen Reporter.
"I tried to convince Linda to stay," Delle Donna said. "I'm really sorry to see her go. Linda basically ran Town Hall. I joked with her that she was the mayor and I was the one who had the title. She was very good at what she did. She was there all the time. It's a huge hole to fill. Linda has plans living down the shore. She alerted us that she wanted to retire months ago. It's really coincidental that it happens now."
Cabrera knows that he has big shoes to fill.
"There's no doubt that Linda excelled in her position and handled the duties well," Cabrera said. "Like every time you take a new job, you have to work your way in and get comfortable. I'm working with some great people and I have their support. I think I'll do fine."
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or firstname.lastname@example.org