If enmity existed behind the scenes, none showed at the Hudson County Freeholders reorganization meeting on Jan. 5, when Union City Freeholder Tilo Rivas was named the new chairman of the board while Jersey City Freeholder Bill O’Dea was named vice chairman.
Adding intrigue to what is usually a routine rotation of power, rumors had suggested that O’Dea would not be named vice chairman, even though he was in line for the promotion from pro temp.
The board has three leadership positions, with chairman the most powerful, vice chair next, and pro temp third. Following established custom, the vice chair from the year before is usually elevated to chairman at the start of the new year, and the chairman pro-tempore is elected to vice chair. The board then selects a new chairman pro-tempore.
“This is a special day for District six, for Union City, and for the people of Hudson County.”— Tilo Rivas
But O’Dea, like Rivas, was elected unanimously – although not without humorous comments from several freeholders, who believe he talks too much. The comments came from Hoboken Freeholder Anthony Romano and West Hudson Freeholder Al Cifelli, in something that resembled a comic roast.
Freeholder Anthony Romano joked before the vote, “Oh God, help us.”
The annual tradition was broken only once in recent history, when then-West New York Freeholder Sal Vega retained the chairmanship in 1999, denying then Jersey City Freeholder Bill Braker command of the board. Vega retained the chairmanship until he resigned his freeholder seat three years ago to become state Assemblyman and West New York mayor, at which time the freeholders reverted to the old formula.
Rivas takes over for Bayonne Freeholder Doreen DiDomenico, whom he thanked for her leadership over the last year.
Saying he was more than a little nervous, Rivas thanked his close friend, state Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack, for having confidence in him. Rivas was named to the board in 2004 when Stack resigned to become state Assemblyman. Rivas thanked God, his wife, and his family for encouraging him every day, and for the confidence his colleagues showed in voting for him. He offered congratulations to O’Dea as well as Jersey City Freeholder Eliu Rivera who was named chairman pro-tempore.
“This is a special day for District six, for Union City and for the people of Hudson County,” Rivas said, emphasizing his desire to “bring county government to the people we are here to serve.”
He asked his fellow freeholders to work together with him to make Hudson County a better place and to improve the qualify of life for all its residents
O’Dea, noted for his sometimes lengthy diatribes, got snickers when he said he would keep his remarks brief.
“Some administrations in the past – not the current administration – tended to treat me like I was number two [meaning a second class citizen], but it is good to actually be number two,” O’Dea said. “We are part of a team and we are doing good things together and we expect good things to come about.”
Freeholder Jeffrey Dublin was chosen as the board’s voting member of the New Jersey Association of Counties, Freeholder Jose Munoz as the alternate voting member for the association, and Hudson County Administrator Abe Antun as the second alternate voting member of NJAC.
Questions about Bank of America
Serious business, however, did intrude on the otherwise cheerful proceedings when O’Dea tabled a motion that would have named Bank of America as one the official banks for county funds.
While he said the staff at the local branches tended to be good, corporate policies seem to have created problems for local people, such as monitoring accounts for potential theft and user fees. He has asked for a representative from Bank of America to come before the freeholders to see if these issues can be resolved. Freeholder Jose Munoz asked for a list of other banks the county can use if these issues can not be resolved.