Alberto G. Santos, who had served as Kearny’s mayor for the last 23 1/2 years, is now a Superior Court Judge in Hudson County and as such, Kearny now has a new acting mayor in Council President Carol Jean Doyle.
The state Senate voted unanimously Monday, June 26, to give Santos the nod along with several other judicial appointees.
Earlier that same day, Santos also spoke for just a little more than four minutes in front of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, where fellow Hudson Democrat Brian Stack is the chairman.
No members of the committee asked the new judge questions, but Santos offered a heartfelt opening statement at the time, thanking members of the Kearny Town Council, past law colleagues, his colleagues in Hudson County and others.
But it was also a time for him to recall his family and the town.
“(Thank you) to the residents of the Town of Kearny for whom I had the honor of serving for 23 1/2 years,” Santos said. “I extend my gratitude to my family, my mother, Doralice, who is a few weeks away from 91, my brother, nephew, niece, and I also express my gratitude to the Portuguese-American community who have always supported me.”
Now what happens?
Immediately, Doyle has become Kearny’s Acting Mayor. She should be at the helm of the council meeting that had been scheduled for Tuesday, June 27 (this newspaper went to print before that.)
Doyle is also the council president as the longest-serving member of the governing body, one she was first elected to in November 1996.
She has 30 months left on her council term, and she has noted regardless of what happens, this will be her final two and a half years on the council, whether she serves as mayor or as a councilwoman.
The Democratic County Committee, meanwhile, will then have to choose three candidates for mayor, one of whom would serve as interim, until a special election takes place this November.
The Town Council would choose the mayor from the list of three and have to vote on whom to “hire.”
To this point, only Doyle has expressed interest in the seat to The Observer.
Whomever the appointed mayor is — and presuming she or he is from within the governing body, as a current member of the Kearny Town Council, they would be required to relinquish their council seat.
Anyone who decides to run in the aforementioned special election would have to do so as declared candidates by petition.
This would all likely open up one or two seats for the town council.
Whomever the new mayor, it will only be the second of the new millennium. Santos, in his 1999 victory when he ran for the top spot when he was serving as Second Ward councilman, defeated former Republican Councilman John Leadbeater in the general election, having fended off two challengers in that year’s primary — former Democratic Mayor Peter J. McIntyre, who served one term from 1998 to 1999 and former Democratic First Ward Councilman Edward Callaghan. McIntyre became mayor after he stunned many by beating former Mayor Leo R. Vartan, who was deeply hurt by what was then an extremely unpopular “water deal” the town had made with the City of East Orange and the East Orange Water Commission.
McIntyre never expected to win that election — and it showed during his term. The council was marred by massive chaos, disunity — and at times, things would get so heated at council meetings, the general public were often seen screaming at elected officials from the floor. Meeting attendees often had to be ejected from the council chambers by the police. But that all changed after Santos brought immense calm and unity to the council for a majority of his mayoralty, beginning the very first day of his mayoralty, when formerly bitter rivals united to find a consensus.
Prior to 2005, Kearny’s mayoral and council terms were only for two years.
This is an ever-evolving story. As soon as more details emerge, we will share them with you online at www.theobserver.com.
Learn more about the writer ...
Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.