Without any final words, Union City Commissioners Tina Yandolino and Ray Lopez attended their last Union City Board of Commissioners meeting on May 7 at Roosevelt School at 47th and Hudson streets.
The new five-member board that votes on city laws will be sworn in at the next Board of Commissioners meeting on May 21 at City Hall.
After this Tuesday’s municipal election, in which Union City Mayor Brian Stack and his ticket of commissioners are running unopposed, current Board of Education Trustee Tilo Rivas and Union City Planning Board member Luis Martin will be filling the commission vacancies left by Yandolino and Lopez.
Both Yandolino and Lopez were elected to the board in 1998 as part of former Mayor Raul “Rudy” Garcia’s original commissioner ticket. Assemblyman Ralph Fraguela, who was replaced by Commissioner Christopher Irrizary in January, was also a member of that ticket. Fraguela resigned to dedicate more time to his new position as 33rd District assemblyman.
Yandolino and Lopez both plan to remain active within the municipality. Yandolino will keep her positions on the city’s Planning Board and Redevelopment Agency and Lopez will continue his career with the city’s police department.
A woman’s touch
After four years as commissioner, Yandolino said that she is leaving office the same woman that she was when she entered.
“Politics has not changed me,” said Yandolino after the meeting last week. “When I became a commissioner, I walked into City Hall with my head held high and a smile on my face, and when I leave City Hall, I will go with my head held high and the same smile on my face.”
While she was commissioner, Yandolino was instrumental in the progression of the city’s new redevelopment areas, such as the Swiss Town Property on 33rd and Hudson streets and the 27th Street bus depot.
“I am very proud that I was instrumental in stopping the construction of a supermarket in one of the city’s prime locations,” said Yandolino about a proposal of a supermarket for the 27th Street bus depot property. “I feel that more can be done with that property.”
Yandolino was also the first woman in Union City appointed to head the city’s Department of Public Works. This department also included the department of health and senior affairs.
“The workers in the Department of Public Works worked hard in all kinds of weather,” said Yandolino. “They were always out there.”
Yandolino also enjoyed working with the city’s senior citizens.
“One of my pleasures was serving the senior citizens in the community,” said Yandolino. “Many of them have become great friends of mine.”
Only in America
Lopez, who has served as the commissioner of parks and public property before his current position as commissioner of public affairs, plans to rejoin the police department as an officer after his term is up on May 14.
“I have to finish out my career,” said Lopez adding that continuing on the police department was one of the main reasons that he did not seek re-election. “That is where my priority is right now.”
Lopez was a police officer for 18 years, spending 12 years in the juvenile division, before taking a two-year leave of absence when he was elected commissioner in 1998.
Lopez, a supporter of former Mayor Garcia, remained loyal to Garcia during the anti-Garcia recall election initiated by Stack, which led to Garcia’s resignation in October 2000. Stack then was appointed commissioner and mayor by the board.
“I always stuck to my responsibility, which was to the taxpayers of Union City,” said Lopez.
Lopez was also the first Puerto Rican elected to the Board of Commissioners and to the Board of Education, which he served from 1986 to 1989.
“Only in America can a little guy like me be elected to a position like this,” said Lopez. “It doesn’t happen in any other country. “This is the land of opportunity. Anyone can find that opportunity if they try hard.”