By Ron Leir
It’s all over but the swearing in – which was scheduled to happen at the next meeting of the mayor and Town Council on Tuesday, Feb. 24.
Marytrine DeCastro was to be installed as the newest member of the governing body, filling the seat formerly occupied by First Ward Councilwoman Alexa Arce, who resigned Jan. 5 with three years remaining in her four-year term.
DeCastro emerged as the uncontested winner following a closed ballot vote by members of the Kearny Democratic County Committee last Tuesday at the Frobisher American Legion post, according to committee chairman Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos. Sonia Hill and Jenny Mach were also up for the job.
County committee members last month submitted the names of all three candidates, from which the Town Council was to appoint one. But, after the council failed to reach a consensus at its Feb. 2 meeting, the selection – as determined by Town Counsel Greg Castano – was tossed back to the county committee.
Of the 59 committee members (there’s one vacancy), 43 participated in the voting, after each of the nominees was given an opportunity to introduce themselves and field questions, Santos said.
Only a simple majority was required of the victor and, according to Santos, DeCastro easily outdistanced her competitors.
Hoping to capitalize on their willingness to be put forward for civic duty to the town, Santos said Mach, a Tenafly middle school physical science teacher, and Hill, a state-certified patient access representative for St. Barnabas Hospital, were offered positions on the Kearny Library Board and Kearny Planning Board, respectively. As of last week, they were still considering the offers, he said.
DeCastro currently serves on the Kearny Board of Health and Santos said that the town was researching whether she could continue doing that while sitting as a member of the Town Council. Her term on the Board of Health runs through Dec. 31, 2015.
DeCastro will serve on the council through the November general election, at which point she said she plans to seek election in hopes of keeping her First Ward seat by filling out the remaining two years of Arce’s unexpired term.
A registed nurse and the single parent of two children, DeCastro has served on the town’s Beautification and Environment Committee and Juvenile Conference Committee. Her sister, Lyla DeCastro Lawdanski, is a part-time mayoral aide.
Asked if she was surprised by the county committee vote results, DeCastro said: “Very much so,” adding that both Mach and Hill “are fantastic and I am looking forward to working with them, my First Ward council colleague Albino Cardoso and the other council members.”
She added that she was grateful for “the opportunity to represent my First Ward constituents” and to “offer my dedication – along with the rest of the council – to promoting the Kearny community and to seeing local businesses thrive.”
Among the projects affecting members of the First Ward she plans to monitor is the planned upgrade of Pettigrew Playground at Highland and Woodland Aves. which is due to be put out to bid later this year.
“It’s been recommended that the age range for that playground’s use be expanded from 2 to 5, to 2 to 12,” De- Castro said, “and there will be another public meeting coming up to hear community suggestions on the types of play facilities that might be appropriate. There’s been one recommendation made, for example, for a rock climbing wall.”
Councilman Cardoso said he, too, looked forward to working with his new First Ward partner. “I think we will make a good team,” he said, “and I would have been very honored to serve with any of the three nominees.” Council President Carol Jean Doyle, who said she’s gotten to know DeCastro and her family members from their having worked on prior political campaigns, recalled that DeCastro was asked to consider running for Town Council 10 years ago, “but at the time she was the parent of two young children and she was going to nursing school,” so that never happened.
“Now, I’m happy to say, she’s ready,” Doyle said. “But the other two ladies were great candidates, too, and I hope they’ll accept the offer to serve on our boards because we need people who are interested in the future of Kearny and we’re lucky to have them.”