Unlike four years ago, Union City Mayor Brian Stack and his four-member Board of Commissioners are running unopposed for reelection on the May 13 municipal election.
In the commission form of government, voters elect five commissioners who then choose one of their own to serve as mayor. But there is little doubt that Mayor Brian Stack will be “reselected” when the commissioners reorganize on July 1.
Heading a ticket called Union City First, Stack, who also serves as state Senator, is seeking his fourth term as mayor. Both jobs are considered part time.
As in the past, Stack says his aim is to improve the quality of life for residents of the city, something that has been on his agenda for each of his previous campaigns.
“This campaign is about continuing to enhance the quality of life for the residents of Union City,” said Mark Albiez, spokesperson for the Union City First. “We have had overwhelming positive feedback, and we want to keep it going forward.”
“This campaign is about continuing to enhance the quality of life for the residents of Union City.” -- Mark Albiez
“What other mayor is just a cell phone call away?” Albiez said.
In each election, Stack has tried to make his administration more responsive to constituent needs, saying that it’s not perfect, but getting better as he worked on it.
Creating open space such as parks and playgrounds in a city that is one of the most densely populated in the nation has been a priority for years.
The Stack administration has been successful on many levels, partly because he has lobbied for state and federal money to provide for upgrades in the community – such as the funding to help deal with impact of traffic on local streets due to Union City’s vicinity to the Lincoln Tunnel, as well as funding for schools.
Stack, a Democrat, has used his close connection to Republican Gov. Christopher Christie to help fund programs for the community.
Under his administration, the city has seen more cultural events than in the past, and has largely stabilized taxes.
Who are these people?
Although often seen as the face of Union City, Stack was born in Jersey City, but moved to Union City as a child. He graduated Emerson High School, before attending Jersey City State College where he received his degree and master’s degree in Criminal Justice.
Stack became a staunch advocate for the poor, especially in regard to rent issues. Elected mayor in 2000, Stack also briefly served as freeholder, where he helped established a committee to address issues of homelessness, a legacy that remains in place today.
If there is a sad note in this reelection effort, it is the loss of Christopher Irizarry, a strong Stack ally, who resigned as commissioner in 2012 to move out of state.
Running with Stack this year is commissioner Maryury A. Martinetti who serves as commissioner of the Department of Revenue and Finance (each commissioner gets a department to help oversee). She has served as a commissioner in Union City since 2004. She was born in Ecuador and moved to Union City with her family when she was 8 years old.
Martinetti has worked with the Board of Education for 11 years as the medical coordinator and manages the budget for that department. Now a married mother of two, Martinetti said that having children has increased her commitment to creating a community for families. She has also served as a trustee for the ARC of New Jersey, which is committed to enhancing the quality of life of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Seen as one of the people behind the arts resurgence is Lucio Fernandez, a graduate of Rutgers University with a B.A. in Theatre Arts, Fernandez was born in Cuba and moved to Hudson County at age 9. He has worked in the performing arts for most of his life and first served in a political capacity in 2003 as Deputy Director of Cultural Affairs. He was elected as commissioner for the first time in 2006.He previously served as president of Union City Library Board, and on the Union City daycare board, and as a Board of Education member. He currently works for the Board of Education as Director of Community Relations and also serves as chairman of the redevelopment board.
Fernandez and his wife founded and run Grace Theatre Workshop which provides free lessons in various fields of the arts to children and adults.
Commissioner Tilo E. Rivas, who is also running for reelection as freeholder, serves commissioner for the Department of Public Works. He was first elected as commissioner in 2002and has diverse experience in communications, journalism and business and has served on various boards and committees.He resides in town with his wife, Marianela, and is the father of two adult children. Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, Rivas moved to Union City when he was 22. Rivas has worked in research and development for Kraft Foods for 30 years. He has practiced martial arts for 30 years, holds eight black belts, and spends time each day practicing judo.
Commissioner Celin J. Valdivia was unanimously voted by the other commissioners to replace Christopher Irizarry as the new commissioner of the Department of Parks and Recreation. Valdivia is a lifelong resident of Union City, is married and has three adult children and four grandchildren, is employed by the Union City Board of Education as transportation director, and graduated from Rutgers University in Newark with a degree in Political Science.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.