Fighting for freeholder post
Two in education field face off in Democratic primary
by Joseph Passantino
Reporter staff writer
May 28, 2014 | 3809 views | 0 0 comments | 122 122 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It’s Smith versus Davis once again. The battle for the seat of District One of the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders, which will be waged Tuesday, June 3, features candidates backed by Mayor Mark Smith and his mayoral challenger, Police Capt. James Davis. Smith and Davis are locked in their own battle the following week, on June 10, when their runoff election for the mayor’s post will be held.

Kenneth Kopacz of Trask Avenue, backed by Smith, and Rafael Augusto of Kennedy Boulevard, backed by Davis, will go head to head for the Democratic nomination. No Republican candidates are vying for that party’s nomination, according to the county clerk’s office.

District One consists of all of Bayonne, and part of Jersey City, the County Village section. Half of County Village is located in Bayonne.

The two political newcomers are competing for the post being vacated by Bayonne Freeholder Dr. Doreen DiDomenico, who will retire at the end of her current term at year’s end because of personal and increased professional obligations. DiDomenico, in her third term, was first elected in 2007. During her tenure, she served as chairperson of the board and was well regarded by her colleagues.

Kopacz is running on the Hudson County Democratic Organization line. Augusto is registered with the county under the “Duty, Honor, Community” slogan.

Smith handpicked Kopacz as DiDomenico’s replacement. He is the principal of Washington Community School in Bayonne, which  has nearly 700 students and 100 employees. He has also been a teacher and coach.

Augusto is  principal purchasing assistant for the Jersey City Public Schools.

Both feel that their educational backgrounds will help them greatly if they are elected freeholder.

“I’m the son of two public school educators, and the product of local public schools,” said Kopacz.

Augusto’s educational background is on the business side, and he believes this will serve him well, if elected, because the freeholder board tackles budgetary issues.

“I’ve seen how government works inside,” he said, alluding to his work on the $28 million budget he assists with for the school systems’ Facilities and Maintenance Department. “I have a little bit of insight into the budgeting process.”

Augusto said he would be watchful of where money was going and how it would be spent.

Kopacz said he would also like to keep a close eye on county spending.

“Citizens receive real value for their tax dollar,” he said. “I’m for making sure we spend it wisely.”

Both men are thoroughly invested in the community.

Kopacz is the president of the Simpson-Baber Foundation, which helps special needs children, as well as chairman of the Bayonne Economic Opportunity Foundation, a social service agency which includes the Meals on Wheels and Head Start programs.

Augusto was formerly an assistant coach in the Bayonne Little League’s softball program, as well as a coach in the Greenville American Little League. He is also a member of the Knights of Columbus, and has served in many positions within the organization, as well as assisting with many of its programs.

Kopacz said the concern of some in the community that if elected he would not be able to perform well as both a fulltime school principal and part-time county freeholder is unfounded.

“I’ve worked multiple jobs my entire life,” he said. “When you coach three sports, you learn to manage your time. It’s really managing your time well to make sure you serve the school well and also making sure you’re serving the citizens of District One.”

Kopacz holds both a bachelors and masters degree in education from St. Peter’s University, and has New Jersey state certifications as an elementary school teacher, supervisor, principal, and school administrator.

Augusto has taken courses in accounting, data entry, public school bidding, public contract law, public school purchasing, and specifications writing.

Joseph Passantino may be reached at:

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