NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Just ten days after two city councilmen announced their retirement, the city's Democratic Committee voted to endorse a ticket of three candidates for New Brunswick City Council in a closed meeting Thursday night.
The candidates include one incumbent, Elizabeth "Betsy" Garlatti, who has served on the Council since 2004.
The organization's "executive" committee met privately this week to interview four candidates for the remaining two spots.
One of the organizational endorsements went to John Anderson, a member of the Parking Authority's Board of Commissioners since 2011 and principal at St. Joseph's High School in Metuchen since 2006. He began working at the school in 1996.
Anderson started his career in education as a substitute teacher at New Brunswick High School in 1974 He also taught at St. Peter's High School and two catholic elementary schools in New Brunswick, before taking a job at Mater Dei High School in New Monmouth, NJ. He eventually became the school's athletic director in 1986 and an assistant principal in 1991.
Glen Fleming, a teacher in Hamilton's public school system and an elder at the Abundant Life Family Worship Church on George Street, ran unsuccessfully in 2000 without the support of the party organization. This time he was considered a frontrunner for the party line, thanks to his vocal opposition to changing the city's form of government when a question was put to voters in 2009.
Fleming's astroturf group, "Unite New Brunswick" was supported by Mayor James Cahill who opposed the question and tried unsuccessfully to keep it off the ballot. Unite New Brunswick formed in August 2009 and dissolved following the election, where the ballot question was defeated by 81 votes.
The political committee raised over $29,000 to defeat the question. Though they claimed to be an independent grassroots organization, the largest contribution to their campaign was $7,200, the maximum allowed, from Cahill's re-election fund.
In his letter to the Democratic Committee seeking the endorsement, Fleming touts his involvement in the "Grassroots" campaign, writing, "The City's governmental structure as we have known it was very close to being changed."
He claims on his resume that defeating the referendum, which would have expanded the Council to include representatives from each part of the city, "helped to save the city from higher taxes, elevated crime rates, corruption, and low performing schools."
Other items on the resume include an unsuccessful campaign to save St. Peter's, "at the time the oldest Catholic School in New Jersey." Fleming also sits on the City of New Brunswick Citizens Recreation Committee.
Garlatti's mother served as Mayor of New Brunswick from 1967 to 1974. When she retired and left the city, she sold the family's house on Llewelyn Place to her daughter. Garlatti has worked in the administration of NJ Governor Jim Florio, and is currenlty employed by the state Commission on Higher Education.
Fleming also grew up in the city's 4th Ward, but he now resides on North Pennington Road in the Rutgers Village neighborhood. Anderson lives on Suydam Street in the 2nd Ward.
Both Fleming and Anderson have strong ties to the religious community. Fleming has been an elder and ordained minister at Abundant Life Family Worship Church since 1994. Anderson has been an usher and served on the Parish Council at Sacred Heart Parish Church on Throop Ave. He also served as a Grand Knight in the Knights of Columbus, the world's largest Roman Catholic fraternal organization.
Both running mates also share another passion: athletics. Anderson has played softball in the City of New Brunswick Softball League for an impressive 38 years according to his resume. Both he and Fleming have won multiple "Coach of the Year" awards for their work in youth sports. Anderson served as President of the Athletic Assocation at Sacred Heart.
Anderson is a member of the New Brunswick Elks organization, and his resume lists "Former New Brunswick Parks Counselor" and "Former New Brunswick Library Bookmobile Driver."
The Democratic organization's screening committee interviewed two other candidates who did not make the cut: Cedrick Goodman and Jerry Mercado. Mercado run unsuccessfully in 2006 and 2008.
Mercado interviewed for the party endorsement in 2010, but the openings went to Kevin Egan and Rebecca Escobar.
Editor's Note: The author of this article has since become an independent candidate for New Brunswick City Council. He also worked as a volunteer on the 2009 referendum to change the city's form of government.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and was an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick in 2018.