Esteves will seek Third Ward council seat in Kearny

If you lived in or around Kearny over the last 40+ years, chances are at some point or another you’ve met Fred Esteves. Perhaps it was at the celebration of Kearny’s 150th birthday. Maybe it was at a council meeting. Maybe you were there the day his son, Danny, was installed as a Kearny police officer. Or, perhaps it was even that time you attended a planning board or UEZ meeting or event.

Regardless, after considering his four-plus decades of service to the town, coupled with the reality he has retired from his long career as an engineer, it has all translated into Esteves’s desire to take the next step, so he’s decided to run for the Kearny Town Council’s open Third Ward seat.

As of now, Esteves will square off in the June Democratic primary against Renato da Silva, the councilman who currently occupies the seat vacated when Carol Jean Doyle became mayor in November. The term runs through 2025, but state law dictates that while the seat can be filled temporarily, there will be a special election in 2024 to determine who completes the term.

Whomever wins this race will face whomever becomes the GOP’s nominee. While it is as-yet unclear whether the Republicans will have a candidate (or more) in the primary, recent history tells us this is more than possible. Then, anyone who chooses to run unaffiliated — what one might consider and “independent,” candidate — will square off in November. The winner of that race will take the seat as soon as the election is certified.

Learning more about Esteves

Esteves first came to Kearny more than 40 years ago. He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He and his better half, Doralice, have two children — the aforementioned Danny, who continues to work as a Kearny police officer and David, who is an ultrasound technician.

The longtime Third Ward resident says he first got the itch for local politics in the 1990s, when the Town of Kearny sold its water department to the City of East Orange via the East Orange Water Commission.

“I was very much against it,” Esteves said of that bygone era in Kearny history. “I thought that was a bad decision, so I decided to get involved politically.”

He was part of a coalition that fought vociferously to overturn that decision. And he and his cohorts — including Doyle — did just that. It was one of the first times he had a direct impact on Kearny’s governance, but it was hardly the last.

In 1998, he worked on a campaign that led to Kearny’s first-ever Portuguese American becoming a member of the Town Council in the Second Ward and one year later, he worked on a campaign where for the first time, a Portuguese-American became the town’s mayor.

For 24 years, he was on the Kearny Planning Board, the UEZ for 20 years and before it unfortunately closed, he was on the West Hudson Hospital Board of Governors for two years.

But it hasn’t only been about government where he’s lent his time and talents.

“I volunteered my engineering services back in 1995 to the Kearny schools that created an energy savings worth $1.7 million,” Esteves said. “Currently, I am a Third Ward County Committee leader and County Committee Vice Chairman.”

Now why, after a successful career, and a long resume of service, would Esteves, a 1970 graduate of Newark’s East Side High School, and U.S. Army Vietnam-era veteran, want to be on the Town Council? It’s a simple answer, he says.

“I have been involved in politics for 26 years and I feel that my experience in public service has prepared me for the position where I can make the sound decisions that will impact the town of Kearny’s Third Ward in a positive way,” he said. “Now that I am retired, I want to create a better future for the residents of Kearny by promoting transparency and ethical government, push for more inclusive voting that puts all quality-of-life government decisions on the ballot for voters like you to decide and lastly maintain and improve community open space for a better quality of life.”

With this in mind, Esteves says he is very displeased by what he sees going on right now on the Town Council. When the council bickers and argues, little of value gets accomplished, he says, and he believes his presence on the governing body could very well help to bring the warring sides together.

“The in-fighting serves no one well,” he said. “It is my desire to connect, once elected, with those on the other side so that we can, together, make positive decisions for the entire town.”

He will certainly have his work cut out for him in that regard.

And lastly, Esteves says he’s excited about some of the upgrades coming to Kearny soon — like at the Branch Library and the soon-to-be Oakwood Avenue community center. And while he attended the Essex-Hudson Greenway meeting several weeks ago, only one aspect of it all is clear to him at this juncture.

“Of course we want a substation in Kearny,” Esteves said, referring to the state’s original decision only to place one on the Newark side of the project. “The state will do what it wants to do, but that property must have a substation — and I believe cameras with facial-recognition will be important, too. A lot of it will be out of sight generally. The cameras will be absolutely necessary.”

The primary election is set for Tuesday, June 4, 2024. The general election takes place Tuesday, Nov. 5. (By law, elections take place on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of those months.)

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.