In a surprise move, Kearny Town Councilman Michael Landy has announced his resignation from the municipal governing body, effective Dec. 31.
Landy, who has represented the Fourth Ward on the council for the past 15 years, gave no reason for his decision in an official notification, but in a brief conversation with The Observer, Landy said it came down to “personal reasons.”
In a Dec. 4 email to Mayor Alberto Santos, Landy wrote: “Please consider this letter as my formal resignation from the Kearny Town Council as of 12/31/18.”
Landy, a Democrat who was re-elected to his council seat in November 2017, has three years remaining in his 4-year term. He has been the council’s liaison to the municipal Recreation Commission and has chaired the council police committee.
Santos told The Observer that the town plans to fill that vacancy with a one-year interim appointment who would serve through November 2019.
To that end, Santos – who serves as municipal Democratic chairman – said: “The vacancy will be filled until November 2019 in accordance with state law, which means the following: a meeting of the Kearny Democratic Committee will be called in January, at which three candidates who are Democrats and reside in the Fourth Ward will be nominated.
“The Town Council and I will then select, at a public council meeting, one of the three nominees.”
In November 2019, a special election would be scheduled to fill the remainder of Landy’s term, according to Santos.
Santos paid tribute to Landy’s longtime public service.
“During his tenure, he has had a measurable impact on improving the town’s recreation programs and facilities,” he said. “Over the years, he was often a voice of reason on difficult financial and labor issues. We sometimes had our disagreements, but most of the time we agreed on the best course for our town.”
This year, Landy took issue with the mayor’s position on awarding a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) to a developer for the old bat factory site on Passaic Avenue.
Landy and the mayor disagreed on how much to raise fees the town charges nonprofits — both in-town and out-of-town groups — for the use of municipal athletic fields. Currently, the council’s Ordinance Committee is reviewing a proposal to increase fees by a lesser amount than originally proposed. The town Recreation Commission will be asked for its input in January and the council figures to take up the issue in February.
And the councilman clashed with the mayor on design plans for the soon-to-be-renovated Gunnell Oval athletic complex on baseball vs. soccer priorities.
Still, in a phone interview with The Observer, Landy gave no indication that his occasional disagreements over policy matters played any role in his decision to step down from the council.
“Personal reasons — nothing else,” he said. It was “other commitments” in his life that motivated him.
Landy didn’t want to elaborate on that theme but certainly the demands of his full-time job as principal of Harrison’s Washington Middle School, his coaching of kids’ teams and family ties (he and his wife Joette have three children – one in college and two in high school) – likely influenced him, friends and associates said.
“I wish everyone well,” Landy said. “I learned a lot during my time on the council. It was a good experience. I worked with a lot of good people.”
Saying he has “no regrets,” Landy acknowledged he “wanted at least to see us go to bid on the Oval project and get started with construction” while still in office. (The town has received bids and is expected to award a construction contract next month.)
“You try to do your best … you never get done all you wanted to get done,” he added.
Fourth Ward council colleague Susan McCurrie, who has served with Landy during most of his tenure on that body, said: “I’m gonna miss him. Mike was very passionate on recreation and other matters. He was very involved with the Gunnell Oval project and his input was very important. I’d say the Oval will be part of his legacy.”
Other local lawmakers were equally laudatory of their colleague.
Second Ward Councilman Peter Santana, who also worked with Landy as an IT administrator in that town’s school system, said he “loved working with Mike on the police and recreation committees. It’s with a heavy heart I see him go.… He was always there for the town of Kearny. He always wanted to put himself forward 100% for the town.”
Richard Konopka, the other Second Ward council representative, said: “Mike was a big part of the Gunnell Oval so I’m a little disappointed he didn’t say to see the project happen. He was always looking out for the youth of Kearny.”
First Ward Councilman Albino Cardoso called Landy “a good friend” and said he was “surprised but also not surprised” that his colleague was leaving. He said he suspected that his dedication as an educator – and to his family – probably weighed heavily in his decision.
Council president/Third Ward representative Carol Jean Doyle, said she’s “enjoyed serving with him all these years. He did an excellent job as recreation chairman.” She said she’ll miss Landy’s ability “to cut to the chase” to get to the heart of an issue.