COMMENTARY — Santos leaves legacy that will be hard to surpass

In 1998, the campaign I was working with said it needed a candidate to run against sitting Councilman, the late-great Manny Trueba. I thought, heck, I am only 22, I can handle the task. 

Only, Manny wasn’t the only guy who would wind up running that year. A gentleman whose name was beginning to be well known, through his letters to the editor of The Hudson Press (a now-defunct newspaper) made it pretty clear he was a serious soon-to-be player in politics. 

Alberto G. Santos went on to beat Trueba in a primary — then he trounced me by more than 400 votes in November and he served for a year as Second Ward councilman. A year later, he ran for mayor — and the rest, as they say, is history.

In that history, there were many times he and I didn’t see eye to eye. There was a lot of yelling. A lot of writing. And a lot of dislike for each other. In fact, Santos and I were both at police headquarters at like 2 a.m. the morning of the election because of a verbal disagreement on Tappan Street.

As the years went by, and I switched sides, politically and career-wise, we continued to disagree on, well, nearly everything. But then came the realization that in reality, we agreed on so much more than we didn’t agree on. And being at odds just to be at odds was ridiculous. 

We mended fences. And it was one of the best things to happen to me in my career and my life. Because we really got to witness something special and something that will be hard to replicate. Whether it was stopping sex offenders from being housed in South Kearny, the Keegan Landfill, watching Kearny turn into a redeveloping gem of Hudson, or countless other things he accomplished in 23 years, Alberto G. Santos was, without question in my mind, one of the finest leaders Kearny has ever known — and there have been some great ones over the years.

They say everyone can be replaced, but this one will be doable but difficult. It reminds me of when a former teacher of mine would praise good work by saying, “Only to be matched, but never surpassed.”

That’s kind of how I feel now, as we bid adieu to the man who — anyone 23 or younger has never known a mayor other than him. He will continue to do great things in Jersey City on the bench and is ready for the task. 

And look around — something you see in Kearny will probably be as it is because of Al. I will miss him. Many others will miss him. 

But were we ever lucky to have him while we did.

— Kevin A. Canessa Jr.

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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.