Candidates make their case

Council, mayoral candidates say why voters should pick them

In less than a month, Secaucus residents will go to the polls to elect a new mayor and three representatives to the Town Council.
Next week, the Reporter will host a debate with all seven candidates running in this year’s election, which will be videotaped and posted to our web site. The debate will cover several major issues that are of concern to voters as they head to the polls on Nov. 3.
Residents will be able to access the debate to hear the six Town Council candidates – Democrats Dawn McAdam, Frank Trombetta, and John Reilly and Independents Rob Costantino, John Bueckner, and Bill McKeever – and Independent mayoral candidate Michael Gonnelli address such issues as municipal spending, the Recreation Center, taxes, the need for a supermarket, development, affordable housing, and other topics.
An overview of the debate will run in next week’s edition of the paper. This week, the Reporter offers brief bios of the candidates and asked them to state why they are the best candidate for the office they are seeking.

The Democratic ticket:

Councilwoman Dawn McAdam, Democrat

1st Ward

A longtime resident of Secaucus, McAdam was appointed to the council in March to finish the remainder of Richard Kane’s term after he resigned from office. Kane’s term ends on Dec. 31. McAdam is now running for her first full term after successfully fending off a primary challenge in June.
A resident of Humboldt Street, McAdam became politically active after the town concealed the scope of environmental damage left by a metal company that once operated in a residential neighborhood near her home. She ran for Town Council in 2000 as an Independent and nearly defeated the incumbent.
McAdam worked for many years as an executive in the auto industry. Her husband, Dave McAdam, works for the Secaucus Department of Public Works (DPW). Together they have a daughter, Ashleigh, who attends college.

Why are you the best candidate for the 1st Ward?

“I believe I have grown in dealing with the responsibilities I have taken on as councilwoman. With the cooperation of the DPW, I have achieved much, especially in the area of safety for 1st Ward residents and for all residents of our town. The following have been accomplished due to my diligence and determination: the elimination of huge puddles (which became ice hazards in winter) on Roosevelt Avenue and Third Avenue; the installation of a digital “head” on the traffic signal on the corner of County Avenue and Dorigo Lane to make it safer for pedestrians to cross this busy roadway; the installation of catch basins and pipes at several locations to alleviate or eliminate local flooding; the posting of safety signs in playground areas; the improvement of lighting on the Rte. 3E Service Road Island; and sidewalk repairs on County Avenue between Center Avenue and the Paterson Plank Road. Because some resident concerns have often been ignored – such as traffic conditions around Clarendon School – I’m working hard to keep my seat on the council, so that I can make a difference on behalf of the 1st Ward. I consider myself a community activist. I am committed to working with the community and the council to preserve and improve the quality of life for the residents of Secaucus.”

Candidate Frank Trombetta, Democrat

2nd Ward

Currently a member of the Secaucus school board, this is Trombetta’s first campaign for Town Council. As a member of the school board, he says he has championed technological advancements in the classroom and better facilities for athletics and extra-curricular activities.
As president of the Little League, Trombetta has been a coach for 20 years and is active with several local youth teams in town.
President of a family-operated carpet company in Lyndhurst, Trombetta was tapped by former Mayor Dennis Elwell to run for the 2nd Ward because of his experience as a small businessman. Elwell believed his perspective as a small businessman would be useful to the council.
He and his wife Cheryl have been Secaucus residents for 30 years and have five children.

Why are you the best candidate for the 2nd Ward?

“As a member of the school board, I currently serve on the shared services committee. One of the things that I want to do, if elected to the council, is forge a relationship between the council and school board so that we can combine services and share costs. This will help protect taxpayers from high tax increases down the line, both from the school system and from the municipality. This is something the state is already urging us to do. But I think there are ways we can reduce spending and taxes in Secaucus by sharing more services between the town and school board.”

Councilman John Reilly, Democrat
3rd Ward

A decorated Vietnam War vet and a recipient of the Purple Heart, Reilly has served as 3rd Ward councilman for more than 16 years. He was a member of the Secaucus Volunteer Fire Department for 30 years and now serves as the council liaison to the Police Department and EMS. He is a board member of the Hudson County 200 Club, which supports emergency services countywide. He is also a delegate to the Board of Trustees of Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center.
A retired United Parcel Service employee, Reilly is married to his wife, Annette.

Why are you the best candidate for the 3rd Ward?

“I have a long track record on the Town Council. Keep in mind during my tenure as councilman we’ve had relatively stable taxes, excellent municipal services. Our community is safe. It’s clean. I know people complain about some things, but if you compare us to most other towns in the state, and certainly in Hudson County, you will see that we are one of the best places to live and raise a family. As a longtime member of the Town Council, I’m proud of that. I think we’ve accomplished a lot in my time on the council. If I’m reelected I would just want us to continue doing the things we have been doing for the residents of this community.”

Note: The Democratic Party has decided not to run a mayoral candidate in this year’s election.

The Independent ticket

Councilman and mayoral candidate Michael Gonnelli, Independent

A longtime member and former deputy chief of the Secaucus Volunteer Fire Department, Gonnelli was elected to the Town Council in 2006. Since then, he and his allies on the council have championed various open government initiatives, including open meetings, televised meetings, and pay-to-play legislation. The Independent faction of the council led by Gonnelli has often been at odds with Democrats on the governing body.
Gonnelli was a commissioner with the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC) for 10 years. He has been a member of the Secaucus Planning Board and was a founding member of the Shade Tree Committee and Environmental Committee. A 32-year town employee with the DPW, Gonnelli was eventually promoted to Superintendent of the DPW. He retired from the municipal post before running for council.
He and his wife Linda Haslach-Gonnelli have four adult children.

Even if you had an opponent in this race, why would you be the best candidate for mayor?

“I have devoted most of my adult life to serving the people of Secaucus in a number of roles, so running for mayor is just another way of doing what I love to do. I have many years of experience as a Deputy Fire Chief, DPW Superintendent managing dozens of employees and a multi-million budget, as well as membership on the NJMC and the Planning Board. I know the concerns of people living in every corner of Secaucus and I trust most people know me well enough to judge the kind of person I am and what kind of mayor I would be. There are tough challenges ahead. Unless we take action, our new recreation center is going to run a deficit of nearly $1 million each year. We have to once again concentrate on financial responsibility and accountability. We have to make sure the tax collector scandal never occurs again. And we have to try to maintain our municipal services without huge tax increases.”

Candidate Rob Costantino, Independent
1st Ward

Raised in Secaucus, Costantino’s family accounting firm has operated in town for 23 years. He earned an undergraduate degree in accounting from Montclair State University. He coaches youth athletics teams and is a founding board member of the Strobert Foundation, formed to honor a former resident who died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. He and his wife Debi have three sons – Anthony, Alex, and Dean, who attend Clarendon School.

Why are you the best candidate for the 1st Ward?

“I believe the Town of Secaucus has changed over the last few years, not all for the better. I see overdevelopment and overcrowded schools. I see a corrupt political climate where town employees are forced to pick sides in order to secure advancement. I also see a severe loss of public trust in some of our officials who are supposed to fight for the people’s best interest, but instead are misled by Hudson County political influence. Lastly, the town’s reputation has been tarnished by the scandals involving our tax collector and ex-mayor. I am not a politician and I think that is the last thing we need to fix our problems. We need to start operating this town like a business and hold people accountable. With my accounting background I believe we can develop and implement extensive changes that will allow Secaucus to run more efficiently and still offer services people have come to expect. A major issue I had with the current administration is the failure to include the three Independent councilmen in budget discussions and stalling the inevitable tax increase until after a primary election, for obvious reasons. We need a new generation of leadership in Secaucus and I believe I can help our community change for the better. I will remain an independent and work for the people of Secaucus to restore honesty, integrity and trust in our government.”

Councilman John Bueckner, Independent
2nd Ward

A Secaucus native, Bueckner is a retired business systems analyst who previously worked for Lucent Technologies. He earned a BS in business management from Fairleigh Dickinson University. A U.S. Army veteran, Bueckner served on the local school board for 12 years and was board president. He has served on the Town Council for 16 years. For 32 years he was a baseball coach and was manager of the recreation girls’ softball program for 25 years.
He and his wife Madeline Kraszyk Bueckner raised two daughters in Secaucus.

Why are you the best candidate for the 2nd Ward?

“For seven straight years, up until Mike Gonnelli and Gary Jeffas were elected and joined me on the Town Council, I was the only minority member opposing the Elwell Democrats. Any significant ideas I brought forth to be more accountable to taxpayers, reduce spending, or put checks on development were completely ignored by them, and I was kept out of the loop on important decisions. Now that Elwell has resigned, my colleague Mike Gonnelli will be our new mayor and I am confident that together we can get a lot accomplished. We have some major tax and financial challenges ahead of us that must be addressed. Spending must be scrutinized, waste and duplication eliminated. Secaucus has to become Independent from the county political machine. My opponent offers no plan for Secaucus, but will say anything he can to get elected. Recently he has been telling people how well he can work with Mike Gonnelli. If that is true, then why was he running for council as a member of Team Elwell opposing Gonnelli? My opponent’s election would ensure the continuation of the problems we must now address. I feel confident the people of Secaucus will elect an Independent majority to the Town Council on Nov. 3rd.”

Candidate Bill McKeever, Independent
3rd Ward

A licensed realtor, McKeever grew up in Secaucus. He served in the military, ultimately becoming a U.S. Army Sergeant. A Vietnam War veteran, McKeever retired from careers in the business and trucking industries. For 10 years he served as a pension fund trustee and has been a trustee of a medical fund. He has also been a union shop steward. His community involvement includes Little League coaching, as well as volunteer work with the American Legion and VFW.
Now a widower, McKeever was married to Lorraine Fers. Together they raised two children in Secaucus.

Why are you the best candidate for the 3rd Ward?

“Secaucus used to be a place where people could disagree politically without being harassed or fired from their jobs. Somehow that changed over the past several years and that is not a change for the better. Somehow politics became a blood sport in our community. This has to change. We have to address the town’s problems in a sincere way, focused on the people we should be serving, not in a political self-serving way. We weren’t told the complete truth about the full costs of the recreation center. We have an investigation into the tax collector’s office. This year we had a late budget, late tax bills, and a tax increase with another increase looming next year. The choice between me and my opponent is clear. I want to become an important part of a new mayoral administration which must initiate the changes our community needs.”
E-mail E. Assata Wright at

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