MADAME MAYOR: Doyle sworn in as Kearny’s first elected female mayor

Doyle, right, is sworn in as Kearny’s new mayor by Town Clerk Pat Carpenter, left, as Doyle’s family and friends look on. Photo by Marty Nystrom

Kearny has its first female mayor since 1938 and the first ever who is the elected the choice of the people.

Carol Jean Doyle, who for the last 27 years had served as a Third Ward Councilwoman, won the town’s mayoralty on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023, fending back challenges from former Councilman and former interim Mayor Peter P. Santana and town realtor Sydney J. Ferreira.

Doyle ran as an unaffiliated Democrat (her opponents kept trying to call her “independent,” but make no mistake about it — she was and still is a fierce Democrat), opposed by the Hudson County Democratic Organization, whilst Santana ran as a Democrat with the HCDO’s backing politically and financially and Ferreira as a Republican with state GOP support.

The most recent results had Doyle with 1,720 votes or 37.5% of the votes; Ferreira with 1,439 votes or 31.37% of the votes; and Santana with 1,412 votes or 30.78% of the votes.

The only other woman who served as mayor of Kearny was Therese Jones, who became mayor herself when her own husband, Arthur Jones, died in office in 1938. Her mayoralty was the briefest in town history and lasted from Oct. 12, 1938 until Dec. 31, 1938. Santana’s term, similarly, was the second-shortest mayoral time in office, spanning a little under four months.

The morning after the election, Nov. 8, 2023, Doyle was sworn-in at a mostly low-key affair at Kearny Town Hall. Unlike four months earlier when the interim mayor was sworn-in, there were no bagpipes, no elaborate processing, no out-of-towners  — just the people who helped her to get there and several residents.

In fact, before the ceremony began, she made it clear she wanted all who were present in the council chambers to stand behind her as Patricia Carpenter, the town clerk, administered her oath of office.

“I wouldn’t be standing here without all of you,” Doyle said.

Then, once the oath was over, Doyle was flooded with thunderous, extended applause by the 50 or so in attendance. Then the new mayor once again addressed those assembled.

“For those of you who weren’t with me last night, thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Doyle said. “It is never easy going against the norm. But we did it, we did it for the right reasons, we did it fairly, with dignity, and certainly with the support of all of you. I so appreciate you. We have a job to get done. We have to govern this town and move it forward for all the people who live here.

“I want to give a special shout out to Chief Harris — I missed him last night. …Each one of you know how special you are to me personally, so thank you. Thank you for being here and doing this. Thank you.”

Among those who were present were scores of her campaign committee members, Doyle’s son Norman A. Doyle III, Councilmembers Marytrine DeCastro of the First Ward and Jerry Ficeto of the Fourth Ward, Fire Chief Joseph Mastandrea, Deputy Police Chief Scott Macfie, Town Administrator Steve Marks, PBA President Mina Ekladious, Deputy OEM Coordinator Richard Poplaski Jr., soon-to-be-sworn Deputy Mayors Melanie A. Ryan and George Harris, town photographer Barbara B. Goldberg and numerous others.

Now speaking of the people who were there for the 9:30 a.m. ceremony, perhaps even more stunning were those who were conspicuously not there. That included five members of the Town Council who were Santana supporters — freshmen George Zapata, Stathis Theodoropoulous and Dennis Solano and Eileen Eckel and Richard Konopka. It should also be noted on July 31, 2023, when Santana was sworn in by Judge Alberto G. Santos, every sitting member of the council was present.

Nor was the aforementioned Santana, who told Doyle he had to be with his family after the unfortunate death of his uncle. However, Doyle noted she did invite Santana to be present the night before, so presumably, the other four were aware of the ceremony and chose not to attend it.

Election night exuberance

The mood at Doyle Campaign Headquarters on Election night was extremely festive and celebratory. When word spread she had won, those gathered at the Kearny American Legion over on Belgrove Drive, the place went nuts. When things settled down — that’s a relative term, mind you, since everyone was reportedly excited until the crowd fizzled down late into the night — we spoke with some of her supporters.

Take, for instance, the already-mentioned Ryan, a long-time friend and supporter of Doyle’s. Ryan reflected on more than just final day of the often-contentious election.

“While it has been a long four-month election cycle, it is but a pittance compared to the time Mrs. Doyle has spent in service to and for our town,” Ryan said. “There are people who may disagree with the choice; however, it will not affect her dedication to helping you should you need assistance. She has hopes that now the election is done we can come together and move forward with the issues facing our beloved town.

“There are people who genuinely believe their vote does not matter, but this election showed us that the people have a voice. We can make a difference and have our opinions count. It is not about age, party, ward or ethnicity it is about what we the people need and deserve.”

And then was Carol Manley. Many of you know her because at one point or another, she probably gave you a parking ticket or she crossed you or your child when she was a Kearny crossing guard. Now retired, the moment Doyle announced her candidacy, Manley was on board, she campaigned hard for Doyle — and now remains elated, days after the election.

“I was so honored to be a part of the election campaign to help bring  Carol Jean Doyle into the position of mayor, the job she truly earned and deserved,” Manley said. “My only other wish would have been to see unity and support for her amongst the councilmembers and the Democratic Committee. What a shame that was; however, the residents spoke and she now is right where  she belongs — in the Office of the Mayor!”

Kearny’s ‘First Daughter’

We also reached out to Meghan Doyle Decker, the new mayor’s daughter, who like her late father, is an attorney. She was absolutely elated her mom was victorious.

“I am so proud of my mom,” Doyle Decker said. “She could have sat down and been bullied, but she did the exact opposite. She has always put Kearny first and I think the people of Kearny made it very clear that’s what they wanted — a person who put Kearny first.

“I think she will be an amazing mayor. It is my humble opinion that when people watched as a small group tried to say she was no longer a Democrat, it was obvious to the voters that group was not putting Kearny first.”

Rarely have truer words been uttered.

Ferreira gave it his all and did it well

Last, but hardly least, we spoke with Ferreira who ran a very spirited, positive campaign. Indeed, he was disappointed, but held his head high knowing he finished second — and with more votes than a seated mayor.

 “I would like to congratulate our new Mayor Carol Jean Doyle,” Ferreira said. I’m confident our two camps can work together to help build a better Kearny. Mayor Doyle will have my unwavering support, as long as her policies continue to put our town first and stand to benefit all of our residents. 

“Thank you to all of our supporters, donors, and volunteers. Despite the close results, we didn’t get the desired outcome, but we still ‘won.’ Together, with the Doyle camp, we defeated the Hudson County machine that has long controlled our town. We sent a clear, resounding message that we the People Who Love Kearny run our town, not the Jersey City politicians. 

“I will continue to spread our message and grow our movement, so that in two years, when Mayor Doyle steps down as she has promised, we will be able to recruit the best candidates for Council and Mayor. 

“I look forward to the next two years with great optimism that our community will continue to move forward. 

“And so, my friends, we continue the fight together to make our town a better place for all of us.” 

Editor’s note: Doyle has already said, well before the election, she has reconsidered her decision to serve just the remainder of Santos’s original term and may seek re-election in 2025. 

Long-time friend chimes in from Florida 

Meanwhile, Doyle’s late husband, Norman Jr., was Larry Brady’s long-time law partner. 

From Florida, Brady says he’s thrilled Doyle was the victor in last week’s election. 

“Having known Carol Jean Doyle for over 50 years I am certain that the town of Kearny is in very capable and dedicated hands,” Brady said. “No one will outwork her or spend more time taking care of the residents than Carol Jean. She is a dedicated public servant.” 

No comments from Santana 

Meanwhile, of the three candidates, it was only Santana who did not respond to The Observer’s request for comments on the election results. 

That, however, was par for the course throughout his entire four months as interim mayor. 

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.