Sixth Ward Councilman Ray Giacobbe, Jr. will serve the remaining year of Samson Steinman’s mayoral term, after City Council tonight unanimously approved his appointment.
Steinman resigned on Dec. 24 with a year remaining in his term. The Democratic Committee had 15 days to come up with three nominees for the vacancy and City Council then had 15 days to select one of them to serve the remainder of Steinman’s term. The governing body officially adopted a resolution (AR-17-18) during its regular meeting tonight.
Just before the conclusion of the roughly 30-minute meeting, Giacobbe spoke for about 10 minutes, thanking a litany of family, friends and colleagues and pledging to work together with both Democrats and Republicans. The mayor and nine City Council members are all Democrats. He plans to run for a full four-year term this year. Also in attendance were local mayors Sal Bonaccorso of Clark, John McCormac of Woodbridge, J. Christian Bollwage of Elizabeth and several other elected officials from Linden and Woodbridge. A reception followed at The Irving Inn.
The Democratic Committee met Saturday to determine three nominees to present to City Council to fill the vacancy. In addition to Giacobbe, the nominees were Delores Parson, Democratic Committee vice chair, and Derron Palmer, Democratic Committee secretary, as it’s legal required to present three candidates. It’s a similar scenario to 2013 when Steinman was the only serious contender among three nominees that included former Mayor James Kennedy and the late Hilda Judah, in an effort by the party to get behind one candidate.
Giacobbe is among the least-tenured of the nine council members, first appointed to the 6th Ward seat after Steinman became interim mayor in 2013. He won a special election in 2014 for the remaining two years, then a full four-year term in 2016. It’s the second time in less than five years that the mayor has resigned and been replaced by the 6th Ward representative; Steinman was the 6th Ward councilman before Rick Proctor resigned in September 2013.
Kennedy, an assemblyman and committeman, said after the meeting that as many as six of sitting council members expressed an interest in the mayoral post. Giacobbe ultimately got the nod over 5th Ward Councilwoman Jennifer Wenson-Maier and Kennedy praised her graciousness to unite behind a candidate.
The appointment of Giacobbe creates a vacancy for the 6th Ward City Council seat. The Democratic Committee and City Council will follow a similar process to appoint someone until November, when the next municipal election is held.
Democratic Chairman Kevin O’Brien said the executive committee is expected to screen interested candidates for the seat on Friday, with the 48-member committee to meet Saturday to determine three candidates to present to City Council. He declined to say how many were screened for the mayoral vacancy. The next regular meeting of City Council is not until Feb. 12 so it’s likely that a special meeting will be called to meet the vacancy deadline. City Council has 15 days from the time nominees are presented by the Democratic Committee to fill the vacant seat.
Giacobbe was elected to a full four-year term in 2016 (all six ward seats were unopposed) but since his seat is not up for re-election until 2020, the remaining two years of that term would be up for a special election during the next municipal election this November. That would add one more seat up for election this fall, along with the mayor and three At-Large City Council seat (currently held by James Baker of Leesville Avenue, Joanna Miles of East Milton Avenue and Jeremy Mojica of Hemlock Street).
The mayor’s post has historically been considered a part-time position in Rahway, with an annual salary of $72,000. The salary rose to that level during Kennedy’s tenure (1990-2010) and City Council reduced it to less than $21,000 when Proctor was in office, citing his lack of experience, before increasing it when Steinman was in office in 2015. Council members earn about $8,000 annually.