By Ron Leir
The township’s chief executive is stepping down from the captain’s bridge but will remain part of the crew.
With a year remaining in his term on the Township Board of Commissioners, Mayor Richard DiLascio plans to turn over the helm to fellow Commissioner Robert “Bobby” Giangeruso by month’s end.
But – for now – Di- Lascio will continue as a member of the Board of Commissioners; he’ll be switching departments with Commissioner Joseph Abruscato; DiLascio will take over fi nance and Abruscato, public works. Giangeruso will stay with public safety.
The restructuring will be cemented at the governing body’s reorganization meeting on May 31 at noon at Town Hall Park when Giangeruso is expected to be sworn in as mayor.
However, in response to a resident’s question at last Tuesday’s township meeting, DiLascio said: “I will not be seeking re-election (as a commissioner) in 2013. I will not be an elected official.” But, pointing to some 30 years of public service (with the school board and commission), he added: “I will not disappear.”
“Personally, I don’t think anything is forever,” DiLascio said in an interview last week. “And Bobby is ready for it. As a matter of fact, he was ready when he was the high vote-getter (in the municipal election) seven years ago.”
DiLascio, 57, said that the selection of his successor has been discussed among the commissioners and that a formal vote will be taken at the May 31 reorganization meeting. No opposition is expected. And, in fact, tickets are already being sold for a $100-a-plate gala in Giangeruso’s honor at the Venetian in Garfield that night. The Infernos and The Cameos will perform.
DiLascio said he’s vacating the mayoralty now because, between the hours he devotes to his law practice and following through on township projects, he feels he can’t continue being the public face of the community.
“I just can’t get to all the public (ceremonial) functions (that invite a mayor’s participation),” DiLascio said, “while Bobby’s out there every day. This (demand on public time commitments) doesn’t work well for me. I’m best suited for the nuts and bolts work.”
At a township meeting last Tuesday, DiLascio elaborated on that theme, saying that Lyndhurst “needs a little bit of a change, someone with heart” at the top. “I’m not a social butterfly.”
And, he added, chuckling, “I’m not being indicted. … I’m not moving to Nutley.”
From a strictly legal standpoint, DiLascio said, the Lyndhurst mayoralty “isn’t a powerful position under the township commission form of government. The mayor has no veto power. Under our form of government, the mayor is, essentially, an agenda setter.”
And there’s no doubt that during the seven years he’s served as mayor, DiLascio has labored mightily to set Lyndhurst’s agenda by working to remedy the financial duress inflicted by the EnCap bankruptcy, pushing forward an expensive but necessary infrastructure improvement plan and advocating for a new middle school as a key part of his “Project Tomorrow” program.
As his legacy, DiLascio sees the township-wide reassessment that has “trued up values of property taxation” as his “biggest success.” And he expects the long-running tax dispute with the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission over the 300 acres of EnCap properties to be resolved by month’s end.
Taking pride in upgrading the township’s sagging infrastructure, DiLascio points to the completion of 50,000 feet of new water mains and 1,100 revamped water service lines and increasing the number of fire hydrants from 425 – “of which only 300 were working when we came into office” – to 475.”
There is also the milling and paving of local streets, which DiLascio characterized as “probably our biggest challenge because after we did water and sewer repairs, we had to let the streets settle.” DiLascio said he understood residents’ frustrations but said the township had no choice but to wait before repaving.
“We’ve also done new curbs, sidewalks, driveway aprons and now we’re planting new street trees,” DiLascio said. “We’re replacing our pear trees because, unfortunately, they tend to split and they can fall onto cars and people. We’ve still got about 80 of them left.”
“Not building a new middle school,” as a result of voters defeating a 2011 referendum, was what DiLascio called “my biggest disappointment.”
Project Tomorrow, the mayor’s vision for a future Lyndhurst keyed to tearing down a century-old Lincoln School, putting up a new school for grades 6 to 8, and bringing in commercial development, “was all about stabilizing our community,” DiLascio said, “and particularly our schools, which are as integral to a community as anything you can name.”
Other priorities, such as upgrades to Lyndhurst’s two train stations and a possible sale of the township’s water utility, remain works in progress, he said.
When he gets to the Finance Dept., DiLascio said he’ll be focused on preparing a transition for the October retirement of Finance Officer/ Tax Collector Debra Ferrato and achieving certain “administrative” changes, such as ensuring that commissioners can get “real time” line item budget spending patterns for the past two years and changing the physical layout of the department to provide a working space more conducive to business.