Gary Riebesell, Tom Troyer, and Charles Krajewski won decisive victories over four other candidates Tuesday in their bids to join the Secaucus School Board. Voters also approved the 2009-2010 school budget.
Seven candidates had competed for three positions on the school board this year. Since three incumbents on the board who were up for re-election chose not to run, the campaign was largely a battle among new candidates competing in their first or second campaign.
Riebesell was the big winner of the night, claiming 21.3 percent of the votes cast. Krajewski came in second with 19.42 percent of the vote. Troyer, who received 18 percent of the vote, was a close third.
Candidates Robin Mottola, Tom Roarty, Joseph Tringali, and Darryl Lewis finished in fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh place, respectively.
Riebesell, Troyer, and Krajewski will now each serve a three-year term on the school board, which has a total of nine members.
Try and try again
For Riebesell and Troyer, the results Tuesday were a complete turnaround from last year’s school board race, in which the two men finished sixth and seventh, respectively, out of a field of seven candidates.
Riebesell, a lieutenant with the Hudson County Sherriff’s Department, garnered the most support of the night, receiving 1,066 votes.
A captain with the Secaucus Volunteer Fire Department, he received broad support from firefighters in town, as well as allies of 2nd Ward Councilman Michael Gonnelli. The local Democratic machine, which has close ties to the Sherriff’s Department and is headed by Mayor Dennis Elwell, also supported him.
On election night, while celebrating at the Paterson Plank, Riebesell said: “I just want to thank everyone that supported me and believed in me and recognized what I’ve done in the past with the children of Secaucus. I look forward to working with the board for our children.”
“If this doesn’t cheer me up, nothing will.” – Tom Troyer
“If this doesn’t cheer me up, nothing will,” said Troyer, who was ill on election night but was still present as results came in.
“I’m pleasantly surprised,” he said. “We had a good field of candidates this year. I said all along, I can work with any one of the people who are running this year.”
Looking to the future, Troyer said he wants to form a subcommittee to get school board meetings taped and aired on public access TV. Troyer has long advocated televised town council and school board meetings. The council is currently working on that issue.
Closed schools impact election?
Public schools in Secaucus were closed last week and many families with school-age children went away, a fact that may have impacted the election.
Mottola, a former PTA president who had expected to draw support from young families and PTA members, received fewer votes than anticipated. Meanwhile, Troyer may have benefitted from a voting pool that was skewed more towards older voters who are familiar with him and his past history on the school board.
Both candidates admitted that the school calendar likely affected voting patterns.
“It probably gave me a better chance,” Troyer said.
“I think that hurt me,” Mottola said after the election results were posted. “I think there were people who planned to vote for me. But they went out of town, and by the time they thought about absentee ballots, it was too late.”
She received 684 votes.
Asked if she will run again next year, she said, “I may. I don’t know. We’ll have to see.”
Krajewski: No surprise
If the victories of Troyer and Riebesell raised some eyebrows, Krajewski’s did not. Leading up to the election, many voters expected him to win.
A business education and computer technology teacher at Memorial High School in West New York, Krajewski received 980 votes.
Like most of the candidates running this year, this election was Krajewski’s first foray into politics. A married father of two children, he graduated from Secaucus High School before earning a business marketing degree at Monmouth University and a teaching certificate.
“It feels great to win. It’s an honor,” Krajewski said moments after his poll numbers were finalized. “I’m excited to work with all the new and current members. The last couple weeks of campaigning have been tiring. But this is a great reward.”
Last month, the board had proposed a $35 million budget for next year, a figure that includes grants and debt service. On Tuesday, residents had the opportunity to either approve or reject the tax-supported portion of the budget, which was $33.23 million, a 2.46 percent increase over this year’s budget.
Voters approved the budget by a vote of 831 to 734.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.