By Ron Leir
A slate headed by sitting Mayor Robert Giangeruso made a clean sweep in capturing all five seats in the May 14 nonpartisan Lyndhurst Township Commission election.
The victorious commissioners, all of whom ran on the slogan, “Lyndhurst 1st 2013,” are: incumbents Giangeruso, a retired deputy police chief, and lending institution loan officer Tom DiMaggio, joined by newcomers CPA Theodore Dudek, electrical contractor John Montillo Jr. and township public works aide Matthew Ruzzo.
They outpaced an opposition “Leadership, Responsibility & Pride” ticket headed by former Mayor James Guida, running with tavern owner Anthony Giarrusso, IBEW leader Patrick Glover II, United Water employee Stephen Morinho 3rd and real estate manager William Vasquez, by a 3-1 margin.
Two of the three nonaligned candidates – former Board of Education member Annette Bortone and teacher Darius Hughes – garnered more votes individually than any of the Guida team members. Retired police officer Louis Bilis, also running alone, ended up with one less vote than Vasquez.
About 30% of the township’s 11,971 registered voters turned out for the balloting, according to figures furnished by the Township Clerk’s office.
Giangeruso and his teammates were to be sworn into office – marking the start of their four-year terms – at a reorganization meeting of the township’s Board of Commissioners, beginning at noon on May 21, outdoors, in the park next to the Municipal Building on Valley Brook Ave.
At a post-election celebration held at Michael’s Riverside, Giangeruso thanked his supporters for backing the Lyndhurst 1st 2013 team. The mayor told The Observer, “I love the people of Lyndhurst so much. Now we’re going to move forward. We’ll deal with the flood areas, the congested traffic, the potholes in the streets.”
Former Mayor Richard DiLascio, an attorney, who stepped down as the township’s chief executive last year but continued to the end of his term as commissioner, pointed to an enlarged ballot behind him where the vote tallies had been hand-written and said: “I have 2,814 reasons to be happy,” referring to Giangeruso’s vote total – which led the field.
“We started something eight years ago,” DiLascio said, “moving an agenda forward of infrastructure upgrades, senior citizen activities, opportunities for our children, all in a safe environment.”
Like fellow Commissioners Brian Haggerty and Joseph Abruscato, DiLascio opted not to seek re-election but he said he planned to stay “active” in township affairs, possibly with the Board of Education in some capacity.
While a DJ played rock music and campaigners toasted each other at the victory party, uptown at Vivo’s Ristorante, within hailing distance of the Municipal Building, the mood among the remnants of the Guida camp was somber.
“The people have spoken,” Guida said. “I wish [the victors] the best. I was surprised at the low turnout. We tried to be honest with our campaign but the people ignored what we said.” But the Giangeruso campaign seemed focused on discrediting him, in particular, Guida said, “and the people seemed to believe it.”
Guida said he and his team did their best to impart their message: “We tried to bring back some sense of reasonable spending and prudent management. People live by the credit card today.” And the Lyndhurst government is no exception, he said.
“In February, they’ve got a $36 million bond coming due,” Guida said. “How are they going to pay it? I feel we’re in trouble.”
Running mate Glover agreed that the decisive majority at the polls gave the Giangeruso team “a mandate” to pursue its policies. “I hope this administration keeps to their word, doesn’t sell off our water utility, fixes our roads, does stabilize taxes and keeps all the promises they made so our residents will not suffer.”
But that is something that Glover finds somewhat incredulous. “To them, fountains [like the one in Town Hall Park] are more important than families and pools [the community pool at the high school] are important than people,” he said.
Asked if he planned another run for office, Guida, 82, said: “No, this was it for me. I wouldn’t do it again.”