Illustration by staff illustrator Sakura Siegel.
As we dive deeper into the importance of local politics and its tangible effects on the lives of its citizens, a huge aspect of local government is City-elected officials who were voted to represent the interests of the community members who supported them.
Elected officials are in charge of different departments where they meet with other town officials to discuss policies and resources.
Hudson County, New Jersey is one of the fastest growing counties and the most densely populated counties in New Jersey. Union City, West New York, Guttenberg and Hoboken were some of the most densely populated cities in the United States according to the 2010 Census.
Jersey City holds the title of being the most diverse city in the United States. Newark, New Jersey is the most populous in the state.
Having a densely populated area with a diverse population can present some unique challenges. It is important for leaders of these communities to rise up to these challenges and serve their constituents as best they can. The elected officials of West New York, Union City, and Jersey City have a huge responsibility. Let’s further examine their roles.
Union City and West New York have a similar structure in their primary elected official representation and role. There is the Department of Parks and Recreation, which is the department that is responsible for maintenance of City parks and recreational activities.
The division of Public Works is broad by definition and may be different for each city, but the broad function of the division is to set up infrastructure projects for the public, such as hospitals, roads, schools, public squares and more, which are funded and built by the government.
According to Tampa.gov, “The Department of Revenue and Finance ensures the financial stability of the city by managing all financial functions in an efficient, cost-effective and responsive manner. The director oversees long range strategic financial planning and provides city departments and the public with timely and accurate financial information, while assuring clarity and accountability.”
The department of Public Affairs covers recreation, community outreach, special events and programming for the general public.
The Mayor is the leader of the City Council, the executive authority, the public face and advocate for the city in which they represent. City staff members ultimately report to the Mayor.
The town of West New York currently has five primary elected officials: four commissioners and one mayor.
Current mayor of West New York, Gabriel Rodriguez, was elected in May of 2019. The town’s Commissioner is Margarita Guzman who is the Director of Revenue and Finance. Cosmo A. Cirillo is the Director of Public Affair; he was Sworn in full term in May of 2015. Victor M, Barrea is the Director of Parks and Public Property. Yoleisy Yanez is the Director of Public Works.
The Mayor and the current board of commissioners won the election in 2019 and will be up for reelection in 2023.
Meetings are held one to two times a month on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. ET and is open to the public. The town of West New York is 76.6 percent Hispanic, a defacto vast majority. At least four out of five of their elected members are of Hispanic descent.
Union City works similar to West New York.
There’s five primary elected officials including a Mayor on the City Council. Long-time Mayor Brian Stack has served in his role since 2000.
The Department of Public Affairs is headed by Lucio Fernandez, who was elected to the City Commission in 2006. Fernandez has had a dynamic and successful career working extensively as an actor, singer, director and producer.
The Department of Revenue and Finance is headed by Maryury Martinetti, who has been a Commissioner since 2004. The Department of Parks and Recreation has Celin J. Valdiva. He was appointed by Mayor Stack in spring of 2013; he won his election eight months later in the November race.
Wendy Gruyon is the Commissioner for the Department of Public Works. According to the U.S. Census. Union City has a Hispanic population of 79.9 % and a White population of 13.9 percent. Mayor Stack is a Caucasian male and has been popular enough to be elected to multiple terms.
According to Union City’s official website, the City Council mainly meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month. In addition to regularly scheduled Council meetings, there are several public meetings for boards across the city.
Jersey City has a different setup than the two cities described prior.
The City Council consists of elected officials from different wards. Nine members are on the City Council; one council member for each of the city’s six wards and three more At-Large council seats that represent the whole city.
According to Jersey City’s official government website, the nine members are:
- Joyce Waterman, Council President whose term ends in Dec. 31, 2025 just like all of her fellow council members
- Daniel Rivera Councilman At Large
- Amy Degise, Council Woman at Large
- Denise Ridley , Council Women Ward A
- Mira Prinz Arey,- Council Woman Ward B
- Rich boggiano- Councilmen Ward C
- Yousef J Saleh- Councilmen Ward D
- James Soloman- Councilmen Ward E
- Frank E Gilmore – Councilmen Ward F
Also Mayor Steven Fulop, who does not attend regular city council meetings, has been Mayor of Jersey City since 2013.
Jersey City is the most diverse city in the country. According to the U.S. Census, the Black population is 22.4 percent, Asian is 25.4, Hispanic is 27.5. and White is 22.4 percent.
The current council consists of three Black councilmen; four White people – two men and two women; a Hispanic man and Yousef Saleh, who comes from a Palestinian family. Mayor Fulop is a Caucasian male.
Elections will not happen until 2025, which will be the next opportunity for a change for diversity within the council people.
The council meets on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. ET and they are open to the public. Members of the public who want to speak must contact the City Clerk prior to the meeting.
Jersey City, out of all the three cities mentioned, struggles the most with their elected officials demographically representing their constituents.
Of the nine councilmen named, none of them were Asian and only one was Hispanic.