Kearny has a new mayor — for at least the next 117 days.
Then, all bets are off.
Second Ward Councilman Peter P. Santana was appointed to the interim mayoralty during a meeting of the Kearny Town Council Tuesday night, July 11. Santana had been one of three nominees for the position made by the Democratic County Committee a day earlier — the other two were Council President and Third Ward Councilwoman Carol Jean Doyle and retired Councilwoman Susan McCurrie, who appeared to have been a placeholder nominee.
The vote to send Santana to the mayor’s chair was not unanimous, either, a rarity in Kearny.
In fact, it passed by one vote, even though the final tally was 5 to 3 in favor.
Voting in Santana’s favor were his colleagues George Zapata, Richard Konopka, Eileen Eckel and Stathis Theodoropoulous. Santana’s vote was for himself. Voting against Santana was the aforementioned Doyle, Councilwoman Marytrine DeCasto and Gerald “Jerry” Ficeto.
In this case, an absolute majority of the remaining council was required, which means no fewer than five affirmative votes would have been necessary for an ascension. Had the vote been 4-3 in favor, that would have been a defeat.
Santana first took office as councilman early in 2017 when he was appointed following the unexpected and tragic death of former Second Ward representative Jonathan Giordano. He currently serves as an IT administrator for the Harrison School District and is the local night school principal.
In voting for himself, Santana paused, and then commented about his decision to seek the seat.
“First, I would like to thank my colleague, Eileen Eckel, for nominating me and for trusting that I will be here for the long term,” Santana said. “I vow to work with everyone … but I just want to say the reason why I want to do this job is because I love my town and I want to be here for the long term. And that’s why I am doing it, so (I vote) ‘yes,’”
Doyle, meanwhile, who works in risk management in Hudson County, has said it had all along been her intention to close out Santos’s term, which ends Dec. 31, 2025. Apparently, her opponents didn’t like the idea of a transitional mayor, something that is very common in politics after a long tenure as was Santos’s (23+ years.)
“It’s certainly been a pleasure serving this town for 27 years,” Doyle said. “And my interest has always been for the people who live here. It doesn’t make a difference what political party you’re in, whether you’re rich, you’re poor, what ethnic background you come from, when you made that call to me, I reached out and tried to help you.”
She said not everyone always liked her answers, but she never failed to answer. Then again paused, before voting “no,” saying: … “I will continue to serve in my capacity as councilwoman but I will run in November against Councilman Santana.”
She continues to vow only to serve as mayor through 2025 if she is elected in a few months.
Aside from DeCastro, who simply voted “no,” all others prefaced their votes. though one vote seemed rather intriguing. Just two weeks earlier, Ficeto was nominated to join the town’s Department of Public Works committee, but that measure was defeated after the Santana faction all voted against the measure.
When it came time for Ficeto to vote, he used similar verbiage used when his measure was defeated when he voted this time.
“Nothing against Peter Santana, but ‘no,’” Ficeto said emphatically.
That election comes Tuesday, Nov. 7. Anyone else aside from Doyle and Santana — from any political party — may also seek the seat providing they’ve lived in Kearny for at least one year prior to election day and meet all other eligibility requirements.
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.