For weeks, you couldn’t walk down Broadway in Bayonne without someone stopping to ask about whom Mayor Mark Smith was going to select for his five City Council candidates. In the overflowing reception hall of the Knights of Columbus on March 11, Smith unveiled his ticket, coming up with a number of unexpected new candidates.
The mayor/council election will be held Tuesday, May 11.
Smith, who is seeking to be reelected for his first full four-year term as mayor of Bayonne, stood on stage with five people he hopes will bring a new face to the City Council.
With long-time councilmen Vincent Lo Re and John Halecky deciding not to seek reelection, the Smith ticket will have only one incumbent, At-Large Councilman Terrance Ruane, who was appointed to the council last June and won a special election last November.
“I do not regret running for mayor, and I am again a candidate for mayor in May.” – Mayor Mark Smith
"These are exceptional people who work hard behind the scenes to get things done for Bayonne,” he said. “This team comes from us, they are the fathers and mothers, sons and daughter, parents and volunteers of this community.”
Smith has served as mayor for the past 16 months after winning a special election in November of 2008, saying that he has lived up to the campaign promises he made to downsize government and make it more efficient.
“People said I must be crazy to want to run for mayor,” he said. “Maybe I am crazy. But I do not regret running for mayor, and I am again a candidate for mayor in May.”
He said since running last time, his administration has made “a leaner and more efficient” local government with fewer employees than at any time since the mid-1990s.
In kicking off his campaign, Smith said he is running on his record of stabilizing property taxes, improving public safety, streamlining city government, revitalizing economic development and creating private sector jobs.
Running with Mayor Smith for the two council-at-large positions are Councilman Terry Ruane, a retired Bayonne postmaster, and Debby Czerwienski, a Catholic school teacher at All Saints Academy. The 1st Ward council candidate is Agnes Gillespie, a veteran Bayonne High School educator. Second Ward Council Candidate Joe Hurley is a retiring Bayonne Fire Department deputy chief. Third Ward Council Candidate Ray Greaves is a union leader and executive board member who represents New Jersey Transit employees.
Other than Ruane, who was just elected in November, none have served on the City Council before. All five candidates are homeowners who have long records of service to Bayonne families and important local organizations.
“I am very proud to run with this council team of fresh new faces and independent new leaders,” Smith said. “These are exceptional people who work hard behind the scenes to get things done for Bayonne. They are fine citizens who love our great city as much as I do. They are parents who care about our future. They are volunteers who work with our kids, or seniors, or people with special needs. They teach, they save lives, they get involved and they care very deeply about our home.”
One by one
Ruane, a retired Bayonne postmaster, is running for one of the two at-large council seats. He said he shares Smith’s vision for the future of Bayonne, but cautioned the gathering that “there is still a lot of work to do,” and urged followers to elect Smith’s team.
An U.S. Army veteran, Ruane is a graduate of Jersey City State College and currently serves as one of two council representatives on the Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority.
Debby Czerwienski, who is also running for council at large, is a parent, a teacher, a youth leader, a volunteer, and currently teaches fourth grade at All Saints Academy. A graduate of Bayonne Public Schools and Montclair State University, Czerwienski is active in John Hughes’ Boy Scout Troop 25 and has served as a commissioner of the Bayonne Municipal Utilities Authority, a commissioner of the Bayonne Historic Preservation Commission, and a trustee of the Bayonne Board of Education.
“She is the most intelligent, upstanding and nicest person on this ticket,” one political observer said.
Agnes Gillespie, who is running in the 1st Ward on the Smith ticket, last ran for City Council in 2006 when she was on a ticket headed by Vincent J. Militello Jr. She currently as director for the School Based Youth Services Program and also directs the Bayonne Teen Center at the Bayonne Family Community Center, providing a “safe haven” for young people in need. Gillespie, a former member of the Planning Board, the Mayor’s Council on Drugs and Alcohol, the Bayonne Historic Preservation Council, and the Bayonne Medical Center Board of Directors, is currently the president of the Bayonne Child Abuse Prevention Council.
She said one of her focuses if elected will be on the youth of Bayonne.
In the 2nd Ward, retiring Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Hurley joins the Smith ticket. A decorated firefighter, Hurley has been involved with community service programs, including raising money for victims after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
“My family has contributed more than 100 years in public service to this community,” Hurley said. “It is in my blood and I want to continue.”
In the 3rd Ward, Ray Greaves, the director for the Transit Employees Credit Union, currently serves as an executive officer to the Amalgamated Transit Union N.J. State Council, representing over 7,000 members – many of whom showed up to cheer him on during his introduction.
He praised Smith for his efforts to make certain that new development projects in Bayonne bring jobs to the city as well as tax revenues.
“Many of these jobs are going to be union jobs,” he said.