First Ward candidates offer experience, civic mindedness, youth
Gillespie, Cotter, and Herrera vying to represent downtown residents
by By Joseph Passantino
Reporter staff writer
Apr 02, 2014 | 6355 views | 0 0 comments | 408 408 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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One is the sitting representative with four years of experience, who helped guide the city through one of its darkest economic hours. Another is an education and recreation volunteer, who feels his years of civic mindedness and community activism are his strong suits. The third is a college student, who says his youthful vigor and fresh ideas are his best traits and ones that represent him most.

Who are they, and how do they affect your life?

If you are a First Ward resident, they are your council choices in the May 13 municipal election, and one of them will be your council member sworn in on July 1.

All three of them want your vote, and all three gave their reasons why you should cast your ballot for them come the second Tuesday in May.

Thomas Cotter

Thomas Cotter is a lifelong resident of the First Ward, where he lives with his wife, Stephenie Fisette. His parents, Aggie and Danny Cotter, spent most of their adult lives in the same neighborhood. Cotter’s First Ward roots are deep.

He says he’s running because he feels his ward’s issues are not being addressed.

“I love Bayonne and I’m disappointed in the lack of representation the residents of the First Ward are receiving,” Cotter said, “concerning taxes, [Bayonne] Bridge issues, cleanliness of our streets, and lack of adequate playing fields and facilities for our residents.”

If elected, his goals would be to advocate for an elected school board, vote to stabilize taxes through “sensible development,” and limit tax abatements. He would also like to see a city community center.

Cotter thinks he should have your vote over his two opponents, and he’ll tell you why in an instant.

“The residents of Bayonne are looking for a candidate who is visible, accessible, and responsive to the needs of the city. They are looking for a hard worker who will advocate on their behalf. I’m that person.”

Cotter is retired from International Matex Tank Terminals in Bayonne. Prior to that, he was a member of the AFL-CIO local, and served as union representative.

Since his retirement, he has been busy raising his children, and has been active in their school and extracurricular activities. He is a member of the Henry Harris PTA and served as its president for seven years. Cotter has also been involved with Bayonne Little League Baseball, and serves as president of the Charlie Hattenberg Minor Leagues.

Cotter counts among his achievements helping to raise thousands of dollars for technology upgrades at Harris, most notably for “smart boards” in the classrooms, as well as working with local businesses to secure more than $100,000 for Pony League field improvements.

He attended both St. Andrew’s and Henry Harris grammar schools, and graduated from Bayonne High School. He went on to study accounting and business law at St. Peter’s College in Jersey City.

Agnes Gillespie

Agnes Gillespie’s First Ward roots also run deep. She lives with her husband, Jack, on Kennedy Boulevard in the home where her grandfather lived when he emigrated from Ireland.

She is running for reelection because she wants to finish what Mayor Mark Smith, her council colleagues, and she started four years ago.

“Right now Bayonne’s booming,” she said. “We worked hard with the mayor to get where we are today. We’re revitalizing the old, and giving birth to the new. Yes, we can become the gem of Hudson County, and we deserve the title.”

Gillespie pointed to the accomplishments she said were achieved over her four years in office with Smith and her council colleagues: not letting Bayonne fall into bankruptcy, reducing the city’s debt by more than 40 percent, and attracting companies once again to develop in the city.

“They are coming here. They are interested,” she said. “’With all this working, we were able to have no tax increase this year.”

Gillespie says that her experience is the difference between her and her opponents, and that should be the motivating factor for voters casting their ballots for her.

“I’ve been in the process for the last four years. I know where we’re going with all this,” Gillespie said. “I have first-hand knowledge of all that’s going on. I have the qualifications. I have the experience.”

Gillespie said she genuinely likes serving her ward and community.

“I totally, totally, enjoy being a councilwoman and talking to the people,” she said. “I love getting constituent calls. I will call different department heads to get information for residents. I feel I’m making a difference.”

Gillespie listed the reasons that First Ward residents should vote for her.

“I am loyal and I’m dedicated to the community; for over 40 years,” she said. “They can trust me. I will work particularly for the good of the people in the First Ward, as well as the full community of the people of Bayonne.”

Gillespie is a graduate of St. Mary’s grammar school and Holy Family Academy. She also attended Caldwell College and Kean University.

Daniel Herrera

Like his opponents, Daniel Herrera came up through the Bayonne educational system, graduating from Bailey grammar school and Bayonne High School. And he feels that education was the basis for him to be able to succeed in life.

“I actually owe them [my teachers] a lot, because without a Bayonne education I wouldn’t be where I am today,” he said. He is attending The Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

Herrera has already had his successes in the real world, serving as the state chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based Young Americans for Liberty, researching for the Republican National Committee and at the New Jersey Republican Committee, and interning for U.S. Representative Robert Turner.

“I was responsible for keeping in contact with constituents and allowing them to have the proper assistance they needed,” Herrera said. “One outstanding responsibility I had was helping residents during Hurricane Sandy, by giving them the information they needed to reach the proper authorities. To some, the help I provided was critical to ensure their families were safe.”

Herrera said he is running so that local government will know firsthand what the needs and wants are of First Ward constituents.

“I want to give people a voice,” he said. “I’ll work with whoever is the mayor to see the people are heard in city hall. I want to increase accountability there.”

Herrera said that being a college student in Washington should not be a factor in voters supporting him.

“I’m knocking on doors from 10 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon, every weekend here,” he said.

He keeps in touch with Bayonne residents easily because he’s active on all types of social media. People send him messages that way.

“Just because I’m in Washington, D.C., doesn’t mean I’m not a good candidate,” he said.

Herrera feels his youth and freshness on the Bayonne political scene will serve him well.

“So many people comment on my youth,” he said. “I offer a new face and new alternatives.”

Joseph Passantino may be reached at

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