The Hudson County Democratic Organization honored outgoing County Executive Tom DeGise at their annual summer barbecue at the Liberty House Restaurant last night.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Before the program began, HCDO Chair Anthony Vainieri, also the North Bergen Department of Public Works commissioner, held a moment of silence for late Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who passed away suddenly on Tuesday.
“I don’t know if there will ever really be peace in the State of New Jersey, but I do know that no one could ever win New Jersey without Hudson County,” began state Senator (D-32)/North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco.
“We have great candidates, people with great aspirations, and I know that we’re gonna be successful when the smoke clears. In Jersey City, in the governor’s office, and everywhere else that we control, we will control the State of New Jersey.”
One of the few guests from outside the area was state Senate President Nick Scutari (D-22), who was still serving as acting governor last night due to Oliver’s death.
“First and foremost, I want to thank Tom DeGise for his many years of service. The County of Union, where I also serve as Democratic chair, and Hudson County had a great relationship, we worked together on many, many different venues and many, many different issues and I know Craig Guy’s gonna do a wonderful job,” he said.
He joked that he had several bills to sign before Gov. Phil Murphy (D) returned to the Garden State, getting some laughs when he said Sacco had a few bills in his car.
As for Guy, he noted that DeGise has reached a number of communities in Hudson County due to his time as a high school history teacher (he remarked off the cuff that not too many of DeGise’s high school classmates are still around), Jersey City Council president, and of course his current role that he will retire from on December 31st.
Guy currently serves as DeGise’s chief of staff and won the June primary to succeed him by about a 3-to-1 margin, making him the Democratic nominee for Hudson County executive. He also does not have a Republican challenger on November 7th.
“Nobody served this county with better intentions and the integrity as Tom did, and does continue to do, until the end of the year.”
U.S. Rep. Rob Menendez (D-8) thanked DeGise for his mentorship and commended him for his accomplishments before Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, the only declared gubernatorial candidate thus far, took the podium.
“Tom DeGise has been an unbelievable leader and I just want to speak on behalf of all the residents of Jersey City here,” he began.
“We live in a complicated city, the single most diverse city in the entire country with a lot of different opinions, but I know today, and I think Jerry Healy and Gerry McCann – who also served as mayors – can attest to the fact that Tom has benefitted Jersey City more than anybody in the last 30 years.”
U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who was instrumental in getting DeGise in the county executive seat after his predecessor, Bob Janiszewski, was indicted, first remarked that he didn’t have time to change out of a suit since “my staff worked my ass off today and didn’t give me time to change” to great amusement from the crowd on hand.
He had been in Jersey City earlier that day to have a listening roundtable session with LGBTQ+ at the Hudson Pride Center.
“When I think of the challenges and the issues that we face in America, I think about what we do back home in Hudson. If you want to see how people can turn to each other, instead of against each other, come to Hudson County,” asserted New Jersey’s senior senator.
“If you want to see how we bequeath to the next generation of Americans, an environment and a park system that can bring families together, come to Hudson County. If you want to see how we can make sure that every person has a quality education and that higher education is in their reach, come to Hudson County and see what the Hudson County Community Colleges do.”
DeGise began by thanking his family, his wife Caren, his daughters Amy (a Jersey City councilwoman-at-large) and Linda, and his sister Lois, before also noting that while he is getting credit for a lot, he couldn’t have done anything without a great team.
“We work as a team because it’s the only way to get things done and the 3,000-plus county employees, joined by the great guys with Norman Guerra at the HCIA, the community college, and the schools of technology – and I could go on – we’ve become a team,” he stated.
“And as a team, we are able to advance forward.”
DeGise also said that while he didn’t invent the concept of short speeches, he has embraced them and wasn’t going to start going off course now.
Other dignitaries in attendance included Sheriff Frank Schillari, Registrar Jeff Dublin, Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis, East Newark Mayor Dina Grilo, Guttenberg Mayor Wayne Zitt, Kearny Mayor Peter Santana, Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-31, also the Democratic state Senate nominee), Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-33, also the Democratic state Senate nominee (D-32), Assemblyman Will Sampson (D-31), Democratic state Assembly nominees Barbara Stamato (D-31), Jessica Ramirez (D-32), Julio Marenco, and Gabriel Rodriguez (both D-33), Hudson County Commissioners Bill O’Dea (D-2), Jerry Walker (D-3), Yraida Aponte-Lipski (D-4), Anthony Romano (D-5, the chairman), Fanny Cedeno (D-7), and Bob Baselice (D-8), Bayonne council members Neil Carroll and Loyad Booker, Hoboken council members Emily Jabbour (the president), Tiffanie Fisher, Mike Russo, and Joe Quintero, Jersey City Council members Joyce Watterman (the president), Mira Prinz-Arey, Rich Boggiano, and Danny Rivera, Kearny Council members Carol Jean Doyle (the president) and Statis Theodoropoulos, as well as Union City Commissioner Celine Valdivia, among many others.