Business pundits are familiar with the concept of the one-minute manager. Secaucus Councilman John Bueckner went them one better: on Dec. 18 he was mayor for an hour.
During that time, “Mayor Bueckner” served as chair of the Secaucus Town Council meeting, while Michael Gonnelli moved from the center seat to the sidelines.
It was Bueckner’s final meeting before retiring from his position as Deputy Mayor, a position he has held for the last four years. All together he served for 20 years on the Town Council, during which time he built a strong reputation as a committed and independent proponent of the town.
While business did manage to get discussed at the meeting, much of the time was occupied by tributes to Bueckner from his fellow council members.
“Thank you for your life of service to this town that you love so much,” said Councilman Robert Costantino. “People forget we have other things outside of this and a lot of things get sacrificed sitting up here. And you’ve always put this town very high on your list.”
Councilman Gary Jeffas added, “He never compromised – EVER – on anything that he believed was right, no matter what anybody said or how long our discussions were. If it wasn’t right to John, it wasn’t right, period.”
‘He never compromised – EVER – on anything that he believed was right’ – Councilman Gary Jeffas.
Gonnelli went on to provide a special surprise announcement. “Deputy Mayor Bueckner will be honored by being inducted into the New Jersey State League of Municipalities Hall of Fame on January 5, 2014 at the state house in Trenton. He will be only the second Secaucus elected official inducted into this hall of fame.”
Foes and colleagues
Born and raised in Secaucus, Bueckner graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University and served in the U.S. Army. He retired from AT&T and served as 2nd Ward councilman in the town since 1994. He was a Board of Education trustee for 12 years and president for four.
Entering public office, he ran several times against James Clancy Sr., with Clancy winning the first election and Bueckner the second. The two would eventually serve together on the council. “We disagreed on many things but what we always agreed on was what was going to be best for the town of Secaucus,” said Clancy.
“When Mike [Gonnelli] and I came on with Take Back Secaucus,” said Councilman Jeffas, “John welcomed us with open arms. Mike and I knew very little about government and how things operate because we were neophytes, and John, you had the experience, you took us on with open arms.”
“You were very free with advice,” added Councilman William McKeever. “I loved the way you helped me out.”
In addition to politics, Bueckner has long been involved in local community affairs. He served over 40 years on the St. Matthew Lutheran Church Council and 30 years as chairman of St. Matthew’s Nursery School. He has also been a coach and manager for local ball teams for over 20 years.
“I would like to thank him not only for his years of service on the council,” said Councilwoman Susan Pirro, “but for his time on the board of education and as a softball coach. My three daughters had him as a coach.”
She offered her appreciation for “your patience, your diligence with them, and the kindness that you showed them. You taught them that winning wasn’t everything and you just do the best you can. And it really made a difference for them.”
Local citizens and town groups also got into the act with expressions of gratitude, including the superintendent of schools and the staff of St. Matthew’s. The Department of Public Works provided Bueckner with a fake “stop” sign decorated with the signatures of all department employees. The Secaucus VFW post gifted him with a plaque in recognition for “his service in the military, U.S. army and his continuous service to the town of Secaucus.”
Councilman Costantino summed things up by reading a quote from Abraham Lincoln that is affixed to wall of the Town Hall building. “It says, ‘I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.’ This whole community is proud of you and I’m proud to have served with you.”
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.