By Ron Leir
Three political novices – all women – were under consideration for appointment to the First Ward seat on the Kearny Town Council that was left vacant Jan. 5 by the resignation of Alexa Arce.
A decision was expected by the council at its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 27. The council was due to interview the nominees, before the meeting, at 6 p.m., in the council chambers.
“These are three good candidates,” Mayor Alberto Santos told The Observer last week after local members of the county Democratic Committee (chaired by Santos) convened Jan. 20 at the American Legion post to choose three people whose names would be presented to the council for its review.
“This will be difficult to choose,” the mayor added, referring to the list of nominees selected by the committee. “They are all First Ward residents and all involved with the community.”
They were: Marytrine DeCastro, Sonia Hill and Jenny Mach.
DeCastro, a registered nurse for the Daily News production facility in Jersey City, is a member of the Kearny Board of Health, a former member of the town’s Beautification and Environment Committee and has also served on the local Juvenile Conference Committee. DeCastro, sister of part-time mayoral aide Lyla DeCastro Lawdanski, is a single parent with two children.
Hill, a state-certified patient access representative for St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston for the past 15 years, is an elder with the First Presbyterian Church of Kearny and a member of the PTA at Garfield Elementary School where her daughter attends first grade. She is the wife of James Hill, vice chairman of the Kearny Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Mach, a sixth-grade physical science teacher for the Tenafly public schools, is a co-founder, with her husband David Mach (a member of the Kearny Municipal Utilities Authority) and others, of the town’s Butterfly and Community Gardens in Riverbank Park.
Santos said that he and Councilman Albino Cardoso, the other First Ward representative, reached out to members of the county committee to see if any wanted to be considered for the council seat but “none expressed interest.” At that point, he said further inquiries were made to members of the community at large.
In the end, Santos said, “we presented a slate of the best possible candidates.”
The mayor said that the search for potential candidates began “right after the Christmas holiday. We were going through voter and [appointive town] board lists to try and find out who might be interested.”
Santos said that “community involvement, communication skills with fellow council members and residents and any special interest or expertise currently lacking on the council” were used as criteria to help narrow the search for possible nominees.
Asked if there was any predisposition to draft only women candidates to replace the departed Arce, the mayor said, “That was not the intent. It was just coincidence we came up with three women nominees.”
At the county committee meeting, there was a suggestion that the daughter of one committee member should be considered but she didn’t make the final slate chosen by the committee, Santos said.
If the council hasn’t filled the vacant seat this week, then, “by state law, an appointment must be made by Feb. 4,” the mayor said.
In any case, whoever is picked to occupy the seat would serve only “until the next general election in November 2015,” Santos said. In that election, the seat would be up for grabs again and whoever wins would fill out the remaining two years of Arce’s term, he said.