Democrats announce candidates for council

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:48

    The West Milford Democratic Club announced their two candidates for the November township council elections last Tuesday night. The two contenders, Andrew Gargano and Paul Romero, were backed by a group of local and county officials keen to bolster the Democrats influence in the town. Passaic County Sheriff Jerry Speziale and five of the county's freeholders were on hand to lend their support and voice their belief that both will find themselves elected by the end of the year. The candidates themselves bring vastly different experiences to the table. Gargano is a former West Milford councilman who served from July 2001 until the end of 2003 when new election regulations were introduced. Gargano played the leading role in the controversial sale of 460 acres of land to the state's Green Acres program which had been earmarked for a golf course. Gargano's biography also credits him with numerous achievements during his time on the council and in his near 20 years as a resident in town. In his campaign pledges Gargano spoke of his promises. "I intend to promote open government, tax stabilization and ensure clean water for generations to come. I also believe in free access to information for residents." Romero, on the other hand, is entirely fresh to the election process. He is a 17-year resident of West Milford and hailed "A genuine hero" by council member James Warden. Warden recounted a story of when Romero, while walking from his car to a meeting in a Trenton office, came up on a man who had suffered cardiac arrest. Romero quickly applied CPR and as a trained member of the West Milford Ambulance Squad was able to resuscitate the man and save his life. Romero brushed aside the "hero" label and said, "I just hope to continue the work James and Bob [Council member Bob Nolan] have done in the past year. I know I can bring hard work and a strong determination to serve the people of West Milford." Gargano attended the April 14 council regular meeting and used the public portion of the night to launch a fierce verbal attack on the Republican members of the council. Gargano was particularly critical of the council's handling of the litigation involving Martin O'Shea and the approximately $80,000 spent to date by the council arguing its position. At the Democrats press conference Gargano spoke on how he would deal with the issue of access to information and the litigations if he were presently elected. "I'd handle it the way I did handle it when I was last on the council. I'd make everything that was not strictly confidential available to the press and the public at every meeting. This situation would never have gotten to court." Gargano recalled O'Shea pursuing the township during his time on the council but said that litigation was always prevented because he ensured all publicly available information was made accessible to O'Shea. Freeholder Director Elease Evans, who herself will face an election contest this year, said of Gargano and Romero, "We support you and we are here for you. We care about West Milford and will support you on open space and water preservation." The current make-up of the town council leans towards Republican candidates who hold four of the six council seats with the Democrats gaining their two in last November's elections. There was great confidence from all in the room, however, that the balance of power in town is shifting. West Milford resident and Freeholder Terry Duffy said, "The tide is changing." The West Milford Republicans have also unveiled their candidates for this year's council elections. Current council member Carmen Scangarello will bid to retain his seat on the council and will be joined on the GOP slate by former Mayor Phil Weisbecker. Paul Bailey, currently elected to the township council, will step down from his position at the end of this year but will be attempting to remain in public office by running instead for a place on the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders.