Tearful goodbyes would not quite describe the sentiment at the City Council meeting on June 23, which was the last for four of the five council members. But any disagreements that existed between them faded in favor of a more nostalgic tone, as each member said farewell.
Council President Vincent Lo Re – still packing up his office full of memorabilia prior to the meeting – and Councilman John Halecky will go down in history beside former Councilman Neil De Sena as the longest sitting council members, each having served 20 years. Both declined to run for reelection this year.
First Ward Councilman Theodore Connolly also chose not to run for reelection, while 3rd Ward Councilman Gary La Pelusa Sr. failed in his reelection bid, losing to Ray Greaves in a runoff election on June 15.
“I like to think that the reason for my longevity was not my excessive speaking or showboating.” – John Halecky
Connolly, who is leaving after two four-year terms, thanked supporters and friends and the citizens of the 1st Ward, especially the Bergen Point Merchants Association and Parish of St. Andrew’s Church. He praised the city department heads, saying they made his job easier.
“I’m sure the incoming council will rely on you the same way I did,” he said, and he called these people “the unsung heroes” of municipal government.
He also had kind words for each of his council colleagues, and said that he was glad to have had an opportunity to serve.
Halecky also thanked the people of Bayonne, calling his service of 20 years as something special.
“I like to think that the reason for my longevity was not my excessive speaking or showboating, but by being responsive to people’s individual concerns,” he said.
He said he’s been in people’s homes, and they have visited him in his home, his business, and in City Hall, as well as phoned him. If he could help, he did, or explained why he could not.
He oversaw some of the great accomplishments in Bayonne: Cape Liberty Cruise Port, the Bayonne Golf Club, and the opening and expansion of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail line in Bayonne.
Like Connolly, Halecky heaped praise on the department heads and his fellow council members, and he wished success to the incoming council members.
La Pelusa, who is leaving after one term in office, called the department heads “special” and said they went out of their way to help them during his term. He recalled some of the trials and tribulations as a councilman, as well as some of the successes – including his role in helping to keep Bayonne Medical Center from closing.
“I know I made a difference,” La Pelusa said. “I have had a great opportunity for the last four years.”