Surprising Twist to Clifton's Mayoral Selection as Some Leave Tradition Behind


For weeks, Clifton residents have been discussing and debating the way our mayor is chosen. It hasn't been an issue in decades, as Jim Anzaldi has held that seat since 1990 and has not been challenged on it. Even before he took over as mayor - he'd been on the council since 1978 - Clifton's tradition had been that the council selects whomever received the most votes in the run for council. The assumption by many was that Ray Grabowski, who had the most votes by over 1,000, would then be selected by the new council to serve as mayor.

This time, two council people - Rosemary Pino and newcomer Tony Latona - shared their intent to deviate from tradition and to nominate someone other than the person who had earned the most votes. At a December council meeting Bill Gibson addressed the suggestion of being nominated for Mayor, saying that although he had not asked for it, if nominated he would accept. 

The ensuing debate focused largely on the difference between tradition and law. Clifton has no legal requirement that the mayor be selected by highest vote and residents only vote for council people and do not cast a ballot for mayor specifically. Many in the community were outraged by the idea that this new council might veer away from this long-standing practice. The last few council meetings saw many more speakers from the community than what is customary, most who spoke in favor of sticking with tradition.

In the first City Council meeting of the new year and before a packed room of citizens, the nominations for mayor began. Newly elected Joe Kolodziej nominated Ray Grabowski and Lauren Murphy quickly seconded the motion. Many expected Rosemary Pino to nominate Bill Gibson but in a surprise twist, she instead nominated Antonio (Tony) Latona. There was an audible collective "gasp" as the residents in attendance waited to see what would happen next. Bill Gibson, expected to be the contender for the mayoral post, instead offered a second to Pino's nomination. With both Grabowski and Latona accepting their nominations, the vote was three to three with the tie-breaker falling to Mary Sadrakula.

As all eyes turned to her Sadrakula said, “This vote is about unifying the city...what has gone on for four years cannot go on," she said. “My vote is for the top vote-getter,” she finished, not mentioning Grabowski by name. The room erupted in applause and cheers as the council people stood to offer congratulations to Mayor Grabowski.

Congratulations to Mayor Ray Grabowski and to the rest of the newly-sworn Council. 

Correction: Bill Gibson was incorrectly identified as the councilperson who seconded Tony Latona's nomination. That second came from Latona himself. Gibson supported Latona during the vote.

Photo credit: Lily D'Amato

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