With no opposition, Union City Mayor Brian Stack led his unopposed ticket to reelection on May 13.
In Union City’s form of government, five people run for the Board of Commissioners, and one is chosen to be mayor. Each commissioner gets a department to help oversee, and is paid a part time salary.
Stack, who has been mayor since 2000, led Tuesday’s voting with more than 9,000 votes. But voters also reelected Tilo Rivas, Lucio Fernandez, Maryury Martinetti, and Celin Valdivia, each of whom got more than 7,500 votes.
Stack, who also serves part time as state Senator, will start his fourth term as mayor on July 1.
Mark Albiez, a spokesperson for Stack, said that even when elections are unopposed, they serve as a report card on the administration. They are also a way for elected officials to get more information about the needs of the community.
Stack told the press that he intended to continue his close relationship with residents in the city in order to solve their problems.
“I want to thank the people who came out to support me,” Stack said. “We had a tremendous response with over 9,000 votes. This is a report card on what we are doing and I’m very happy. It’s most important to continue to improve the quality of life and being accessible to the people.”
He said he intends to keep seeking ways to improve and expand parks – and is particularly happy with the recent opening of the new and improved Washington Park.
“We’re looking for additional money for affordable housing,” he said. “We have a desperate need for more affordable housing.”
He said he will continue the strong relationship he has had with the Board of Education to continue to improve the schools.
But he said the election support is all about his dedication to bread and butter issues.
“Keeping the city clean, keeping crime down, and making sure we listen to the people,” Stack said.
Unlike some of its neighboring communities to the immediate east, the landlocked Union City doesn’t have waterfront redevelopment options, and many of its most pressing issues involve creative reuse of properties to enhance quality of life.
Finding open space for parks and playgrounds is a significant issue in a city that is considered one of the most densely populated in the nation.
Stack vowed to maintain taxes, and elevate the quality of life, a balancing act that he has successfully managed since coming into office, partly through creative political partnerships with state and county officials, partly through givebacks to the community from entities doing business in Union City.
Commissioner Lucio Fernandez, who has served as a commissioner in 2006 and has been instrumental in reviving the arts in Union City, said – during an interview earlier this year – that quality of life involves more than just redevelopment. He said it’s important to provide social and artistic events that make Union City a special place. 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 has served since 2002, is also in the middle of a contested Democratic primary race for freeholder against long-time Stack critic Jose Falto. The election takes place in June.
Falto said he had originally thought to build a ticket against Stack’s, but for a number of reasons – including informal polling that showed Stack with strong municipal support – he altered his plans to challenge in the freeholder race he believes he can win.
Falto said he disagreed with some assessments of Stack’s success, but believes he could make a difference as Union City’s freeholder rather than as one of five commissioners.
“I thought I could be more effective as freeholder,” Falto said.
Martinetti, who has been a commissioner since 2004, is among the long-time Stack allies on the ticket, while Valdivia, who was elected to his first full term, is a relative newcomer. Valdivia was appointed to replace Christopher Irizarry – perhaps Stack’s most important and trusted ally over the years. Irizarry resigned to move out of Union City last year.
A huge part of Stack’s success in maintaining services has come from his ability to broker state and federal aid. Stack was among a handful of Democratic elected officials to endorse Gov. Christopher Christie in last year’s gubernatorial election. Christie, in return, has been very generous with Union City, providing critical state funding that advanced municipal and school programs. The state last year awarded Union City funding to off-set traffic impacts on local streets as a result of Manhattan-bound traffic.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.