Sgt. Henry Marrero of the North Bergen Police Department on March 7 stood on the steps of the Brennan Court House to announce that he would seek election to the North Bergen/Secaucus freeholder seat in the June Democratic Primary. He will face off in June against Anthony Vainieri, who has been supported by the county’s Democratic organization to run for the seat being left open by outgoing incumbent Thomas Liggio.
Despite the cold day and brisk wind, Marrero said he wanted to make a point about bringing a fresh perspective to county government.
Surrounded by family and a small group of supporters, Marrero hopes to win against the Democratic political machine.
Marrero is the first Hispanic to run for the seat in the 8th District. The seat is held by Thomas Liggio, who said last month that he will not seek reelection to a fifth term.
This pits Marrero against Anthony Vainieri, who has the support of North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco as well as the Hudson County Democratic Organization.
Vainieri, a trustee on the Hudson County Schools of Technology Board of Education, is also the chairman of the North Bergen Zoning Board.
As the longtime chief of staff and confidential aide to Sacco, Vainieri had been rumored to replace Liggio for more than a year.
Overcame rough childhood to become a cop
In seeking the post, Marrero said his history of overcoming adversity as a kid allowed him to understand the need for a stronger community.
He said he and his older brother, Pete, faced years of racial discrimination and were constantly bullied by their peers. When his brother was drawn into an altercation that landed him in prison, Marrero was inspired to pursue a career in law enforcement. He saw it was that sense of unfairness and bigotry that made him work to help those in need and to protect the people who needed it most.
The youngest of three boys, Marrero was born to Puerto Rican parents, who perished from illnesses after they arrived in North Bergen in 1981.
Marrero described his youth as “troubled,” something he vowed to rise above with his seeking to become a police officer.
He currently resides in North Bergen with his wife, Connie, and their five children.
“My family has worked hard for everything we have and at this time, we want to give back to the community that gave us so much,” Marrero said.
“This is an opportunity to get new voices on the Freeholder board.” -- Henry Marrero
“The community is tired of seeing the same old politicians shepherding their friends into government positions,” Marrero said. “I am running to give a voice to those who do not have one and be an advocate for their needs and their priorities.”
Hired as a corrections officer in the Hudson County Correctional Facility in Kearny in 1997, Marrero soon made use of his street skills when he was promoted to lead investigator in the Hudson County Gang Activities Unit where he worked for four and a half years.
In 2001, he joined the Hudson County Sheriff’s Department.
When an opportunity arose to join is home town police department, he accepted the transfer. He currently serves as a sergeant assigned to the Juvenile Gang Unit. He is also a member of the FBI Hostage Negotiation Team, the town Arson Investigator, Megan’s Law Investigator, and a member of the police Emergency Response Team.
Marrero also has ties to several civic organizations in North Bergen, Secaucus and beyond. He is a member of the Hoboken Chapter of the NAACP. The Secaucus-Hudson Mason’s Lodge No.71, the Special Olympics Fundraising Committee of North Bergen, and the Moose Lodge of North Bergen.
He currently serves as president of the Latino Police Officers Association, a member of the Hudson Corrections FOP Lodge 77, and a member of the East Coast Gang Investigators Association.
Oddly enough, Marrero has had close ties to Mayor Sacco as the mayor’s representative to the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission and as vice chair of the North Bergen Parking Authority.
“This is an opportunity to get new voices on the freeholder board,” he said. “That’s why I’m running.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.