With experience in local, county, and state government, Anthony Vainieri is running for freeholder in Hudson County, representing North Bergen and parts of Secaucus and Jersey City. The North Bergen business owner officially announced his candidacy on March 27 for the 8th District seat currently occupied by retiring Freeholder Tom Liggio. Vainieri’s rival for the post is North Bergen Police Sgt. Henry Marrero, profiled here last week.
Among those endorsing Vainieri are State Senator and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, Hudson County Democratic Organization Chairman Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, and Secaucus Mayor Mike Gonnelli.
Early start in politics
“I started engaging in politics at the age of 8 years old,” said Vainieri. In 1971, his father ran for commissioner in North Bergen.
“We would have all the literature and the signs in the living room, almost like a mini-campaign headquarters,” he said. “And I went out on my bike with the literature and I gave them to all the people in my neighborhood. I would see mayors come to my house, elected officials, and I always wanted to be one of those people. So I had it in my blood since I was a kid.”
“I started engaging in politics at the age of eight years old.” –Anthony Vainieri
Vainieri’s first elected office was as Democratic county committee member in North Bergen in the early 1980s. Sacco, then a commissioner, engaged Vainieri as a part-time aide in 1986.
“I started in the community service office,” moving up to a role as aide coordinator, said Vainieri. “And then [Sacco] was elected in 1991 as mayor. He took me right into the mayor’s office when he was elected. I was one of his aides in the mayor’s office.”
Vainieri currently serves as Sacco’s chief of staff, with the official title of confidential aide.
“I got appointed to the Hudson County Schools of Technology by County Executive Tom DeGise,” said Vainieri, who has served on the schools’ Board of Education for about 10 years.
He has also served as a housing commissioner for the North Bergen Housing Authority.
In addition to his political roles, Vainieri manages the family business, the Vainieri Funeral Home on Kennedy Boulevard in North Bergen.
“I got my state funeral director license in 1986,” he said. “I still work here with my sister [state Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri] and my parents. It’s family run and owned.”
As a former member of the State Board of Mortuary Science, appointed by Gov. James McGreevey, Vainieri was responsible for overseeing every funeral home and funeral director in New Jersey and monitoring their compliance with state regulations.
He has two children, a son aged 22 and a daughter aged 14.
Freeholder qualifications and goals
Speaking of his qualifications as freeholder, Vainieri said, “Working in the mayor’s office, I kind of became the liaison for Mayor Sacco to the county executive’s office. I have a good rapport with the county executive and his staff.”
“I have two major things that I’d like to focus on,” he said about his goals as a freeholder. “One is the James J. Braddock Park. I grew up in North Bergen all my life. I played in that park. I see the park utilized a lot but I’d like to make some changes.”
As an example, he cites groups coming from New York and taking over large portions of the park from 5 a.m. Vainieri suggests limiting the size of groups and requiring an application fee as well as a deposit to ensure that groups clean up after themselves.
He would also like to see overgrown areas of the park cleaned up, and a permanent food establishment by the lake.
“My second biggest thing, I’m working on trying to establish Hudson County to have a police academy,” he said. “Right now Hudson County police officers have to go to Essex County or Bergen County to train. The municipalities pay for the officer to go train in that county.”
Having a police academy in Hudson County would mean the revenue would stay local. “Our municipalities in Hudson County are giving out to other counties because we don’t have a police academy,” he said. “If we had our own police academy, money from this pot would stay in this pot. Which in the long run could maybe offset some of our county taxes.”
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.