Kearny Councilman George Zapata takes the helm as clerk to Hudson County Board of Commissioners

At 25, George Zapata is without question and by far the youngest councilman in Kearny — and perhaps in all of Hudson County. Just a few years ago, at 19, he stunned the Kearny political world when he ran for and won a seat on the Board of Education. He is the first person in his family to attend and graduate college. So he is living proof the American Dream is alive and well.

And now, the freshman councilman who has served in that position for the nearly the last eight months, can add one more thing to his already-budding resume — he’s the new clerk to the Hudson County Board of Commissioners, having officially replaced Alberto G. Santos, who left the position (as well as the mayoralty in Kearny) to become a Superior Court Judge last month.

Zapata will earn in excess of $109,000 annually for his work as a county employee and will also have access to a county-owned vehicle of his own.

We spoke with Zapata recently to learn what he’ll do and how he got to this point in his career.

“To start, this has all been very humbling,” Zapata said. “As clerk, I will do things like take minutes for every meeting, keeping an accurate record of what is discussed. I will prepare ordinances and resolutions.”

Zapata says he was immediately impressed by the diversity in his office when he first arrived and started to get settled in at the county admin building in Jersey City a few weeks ago.

“To be in this position and to see the staff looks like me is wonderful,” he said. “I see people who speak the language who are my parents age. Again, humbling.”

Zapata says he was also humbled when Commissioner Al Cifelli, of Kearny, presented him to the rest of the commissioners, as a candidate for the job. Cifelli, he said, spoke very highly of him and he came highly recommended from others, as well.

“They all knew my predecessor and I know I have big shoes to fill,” he said. “It is my goal to do the job as well as he did. I am grateful the commissioners have placed their trust in me to do the job.”

Zapata says he is a first-generation American. His family, therefore, were thrilled when they learned was getting this position.

“My family was filled with joy,” he said. “After it became official, I had a Facetime call with my mom and I showed her the office and the photo I have framed. It was an emotional moment.”

That frame he noted contains a photo of his sister and his late grandmother. And no matter where he’s worked — he was most recently a paralegal prior to becoming the commissioners’ clerk — he’s taken that frame with him as a reminder.

“I saw how devoted my grandmother was,” Zapata said. “She always told me she thought I would have some sort of office job, at a desk, and that has been true. That photo keeps reminding me I have work to do and I have to do it well.”

Zapata, who represents Kearny’s First Ward on the Town Council, will continue in that “part-time” role, one he was elected to in November 2022.

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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.