Union County's Most Interesting People of 2010
From wounded Marines to political junkies, activist teachers to activist governors, the faces of 2010 will have a lasting impact on 2011.
Governor Chris Christie wants our money back. And he's got Carmen Centuolo to help him reclaim it. Frank Bottone is leaving the gridiron after 48 years, while Michael Brattole gave his all on the battlefields of Afghanistan. From politicians to just regular folks determined to make a difference around the world, Union County residents have kept everyone talking. In no particular order, here are 2010's most interesting people in the county.
Dickson, the Summit Councilwoman, made a lot of news this year when she ran for Union County Freeholder. She didn't win, but she became the face of the Republican ticket, garnering most of the attacks from the County Democrats. And Dickson emerged from the fight, ready for more. She said from the first day of the campaign that even a loss in 2010 would become a springboard for her 2011 campaign. Dickson says she's determined to raise awareness about county government and open up dialogue about what services should reside in the county's purview and which ones belong at the municipal level.
G. MORRISON "MORRY" HUBBARD
Summit lost a true city icon this year when Morry, a 101-year-old lifelong Summit resident who was best known for his philanthropic efforts around town, passed away. He donated a portion of his property on Hobart Avenue to the Reeves-Reed Arboretum and donated money to the Summit Public Schools and the Summit YMCA. In fact, the Lincoln-Hubbard school is named for Morry! The spirit of Morry will live on forever in the hearts of all who knew him and in the Summit residents aided by his generosity.
CHRIS CHRISTIE AND CARMEN CENTUOLO
As the Governor and the Union County Executive Superintendent work to implement the salary cap of $175,000 on school superintendents' annual salaries, district boards of education try to get new contracts finalized and grandfathered before the February deadline. Centuolo's denial of Westfield Superintendent Margaret Dolan's deal is just one of many issues facing all county school districts. Most districts found a way to trim their 2010-11 budgets, but the next budget will be even harder to balance. And all the while, Christie and Centuolo will be front and center in their war against new spending.
All Cerchio wanted to do on Sept. 19 was have a nice day off down the Shore. The firefighter thought he'd spend the day with his family relaxing on an unseasonably hot fall day. His idyllic day ended quickly, when Cerchio saw a woman and her son being pulled under the rough Point Pleasant surf. A former lifeguard on that very beach, Cerchio rushed into the water, battled the waves and got the two safely back on dry land. Cerchio's heroics earned him commendations from the fire department, the Town Council and the state legislature. All the while remaining somewhat shocked by what happened that day and the attention ever since. "You can only pray if you are in harms way there is someone there to help them as well," he said the day after his heroic save. "There were a lot of things against us. The size of the woman and her son didn't help and the waves. There was definitely help from somewhere else that pushed us back in."
At some point, someone in the school system is going to have to rewrite a job description for Sara Soriente, because whatever is on file for the WHS earth science teacher is nowhere near accurate. Sure, she teaches, grades tests and meets with parents, but that almost seems to be the easy part of her job. This year, Soriente helped lead the Project 79 trip to the Dominican Republic, working with students to help upgrade the country's housing. But on her own time, Soriente traveled to Haiti over spring break to help the rebuilding efforts after the devastating earthquake. Before she left, she made her trip a town-wide effort, organizing a medical-relief program to bring thousands of Band-aids and other medical supplies to the people of Haiti. She also organized to have her students create games and coloring projects for Haitian children. And when she returned to her other job, as JV WHS volleyball coach, Soriente continued on as a driving force behind the annual Play for Pink breast-cancer awareness volleyball game, which is one of the town's top fundraisers for the Susan G. Komen Fund. Her efforts help WHS routinely rank in the top tier of high school fundraisers for the Komen Fund.
The only football coach New Providence High School has ever known shocked borough residents in early fall when he announced his plans to retire at the end of the season. After leading the Pioneers for 48 years, he finished with 330 wins, 15 conference championships — and his eighth state title — after leading the Pioneers to a Dec.4 victory in the NJSIAA Section 2 Group 1 State Championship game at the New Meadowlands Stadium. Players from Bottone's first team to his 2010 squad, honored him before the Thanksgiving game. At a football reunion that followed the Thanksgiving Day game, he promised to keep an eye on the Pioneers, even if he'll be spending his Saturdays from now on in the Lieder Field stands.
On Nov. 15, as the rest of town was preparing for Thanksgiving and the start of the holidays, Marine Sergeant and Clark-native Michael Brattole, 22, was a world away in Marjah, Afghanistan when he was hit with a fragmentation grenade. Though he sustained serious injuries requiring two surgeries to retrieve shrapnel from his heart, legs and arms, Brattole's first thoughts in recovery were concern for the rest of his team. Coming home to recover a few weeks later, Brattole modestly demurred the fanfare and the hero title, telling Patch " What is the definition of a hero? I was just doing my job."
J. BROOKE HERN
The New Providence councilman made waves around the borough this year, defeating former Mayor Al Morgan in the June Republican primary by less than 50 votes and defeating incumbent Mayor John Thoms, a lifelong Republican who ran as an Independent, by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. This was almost the same losing margin to the controversial referendum question on whether to sell Oakwood Park to the county in exchange for $3.5 million to renovate the park. In his campaign, Hern pledged to honor the wishes of borough citizens with regards to the park, but would take steps to improve the park if the referendum was voted down. Mayor-elect Hern will take office on Monday, Jan. 3 at the borough's reorganization meeting.
Wine Library owner, social-media innovator, master web entrepreneur. Think it's hard getting into or out of the parking lot of this bustling shop? It's nothing compared to the worldwide customer base Vaynerchuk has built among oenophiles. Since 2006, Vaynerchuk has run his online show, "Wine Library TV," presenting his always-entertaining, unpretentious take on wine. The show is watched by more than 90,000 viewers and earned Vaynerchuk praise, honors and fame. In 2009, he became a New York Times best-selling author with the release of his book "Crush It! Why Now is the Time to Cash in on your Passion," and throughout 2010 he was a fixture in print and on TV.
In January, 2010, the then 25-year-old Shehady became the youngest mayor in Springfield history. The Dayton High and NYU grad was far from inexperienced, though, having already served as a Township Committee member and legislative aide to the late Assemblyman Eric Munoz—not to mention serving overseas as an infantryman in the U.S. Military. In his time steering the committee, the Republican made a series of dramatic changes, ranging from running the campaigns of fellow GOP councilmen Marc Krauss and Jerry Fernandez, changing the format of Committee meetings to imposing (and later repealing) a separate RVSA utility fee. While he lost his bid for reelection, possibly due to the implementation of the RVSA fee, it is clear he left his mark.
Derrick Caracter says he doesn't think about the past. Stepping onto the basketball court at the Prudential Center on Dec. 12, wearing the purple-and-gold uniform of the Los Angeles Lakers, he says he focused on the present: what he needed to do to help his team beat the New Jersey Nets, and continue holding his spot on the Lakers roster. Caracter's past, however – his nine-year journey from the Fanwood to Los Angeles – was fraught with uncertainty. As he struggled academically and athletically, it filled with detractors. By age 20, sports bloggers pronounced him "washed up," finished. Hence, his return to New Jersey this month marked a triumph, a victory over the adversities and critics that had hounded his path from the Garden State to the Golden State. Read on here.
While it has been over a year since the passing of former Mountainside mayor Robert Viglianti, he is still very much in the hearts and minds of many residents and local politicians alike, which is why the naming of a street in his honor was the perfect tribute to the man known as "Mr. Mountainside". Elected mayor of Mountainside in 1987 and re-elected five times -- Viglianti spent almost 22 years in charge of the borough. He previously had spent nine years on the borough council, including seven years as council president. Earlier this month, the graduate of Westfield High School and Waynesburg College was honored with a street named in his honor. Mayor Paul Mirabelli hosted Mountainside's annual Christmas tree lighting, featuring the unveiling of a sign dedicating the access road from New Providence Road to Borough Hall to the memory of Viglianti. Mirabelli, reading from the resolution passed by the town council, said that Viglianti "made government accessible for so many for so long." "Bob would have been honored, proud and humbled by this beautiful sign in his name," said Linda Viglianti, his widow. "This tree lighting was one of my husband's very favorite events."
Touloumis is one of the best soccer players to have ever played for Cranford High School's varsity program and he continues to make a name for himself —on the pitch and off. As a starting forward for Division I Marist College, he has distinguished himself as a key leader on the team. And while he puts in a ton of hard work on the field, he's even more devoted in the classroom, where the business major has earned the title of Academic All-American.
The Democratic mayor-elect is set to begin his fourth term in the township's top post. And it appears he'll be just as controversial this time around. In the past, he's championed a broad-based democratic advisory committee made up of common citizens — a concept he is pushing this year, putting out a call to financial specialists in the town to form an advisory board to help advise the Township Committee on how to make budget decisions. As a former mayor, he has also been criticized for failing to certify the town under New Jersey affordable housing (COAH) regulations, the move prompting two lawsuits from developers. Nonetheless Aschenbach and the new Democratic majority will play a large part in forming the budget — and perhaps making tough decisions about who and what to cut — under Gov. Christie's 2 percent property tax cap.
A former Garwood councilwoman, the Republican Quattrocchi refused to give up in her bid to hold elected office. She remained undaunted in numerous bids for council and county freeholder seats as well as trying to buck the trend in the historically Democrat-controlled borough. When she put her name on the mayoral ballot in the 2010 election race, nobody gave her a shot of winning the spot. But Quattrocchi pulled out a win against two-term incumbent Dennis McCarthy. With the rest of her slate winning council seats to even out the Democratic council weighting, Republicans Jim Mathieu and Victor DeFillippo will fill the seats left by exiting councilmen, Republican Anthony Sytko and Democrat Stephen Napolitano, 2011 should be an interesting year to say the least. What will Pat do next?
Check back tomorrow to see Summit's Most Interesting People in 2010 list!