2009 Man of The Year: Brian P. Stack!


He could very well be Man of the Decade. Since taking office in 2000, Union City Mayor Brian P. Stack hasn’t had a regular 9-hour day. He works up to 14 to 16 hours a day, and has been workaholicking himself in community service and politics for 30 years. During the last 10 years he has been mayor of Union City, Stack has dramatically improved the quality of life of the residents, and effectively rose from what his enemies used to pejoratively call “a neighborhood sergeant” to the rising star in New Jersey politics. (The guy who called him “neighborhood sergeant” in a local pamphlet in 1998 served time in prison for corruption, later coming back to Stack begging for him to place an ad in his pamphlet).

Brian has served as a UC Commissioner, Hudson County Freeholder, NJ State Assemblyman, Mayor of Union City and NJ State Senator. He has performed admirably in each elected position and he carries an impressive following that manifests itself in the amount of votes he gets in every election.

Last year he brought millions to Union City, and unlike past administrations and the town next door- you know the one that is going through a recall, What’s his name?- Union City residents can actually see the money in the multiple improvements Stack has made in the city: A high-tech, brand new high school which houses up to 2,600 young people receiving the best quality education ever offered in Union City. A brand new recreation park, Firefighter’s Memorial Park, with an olympic-sized swimming pool, a huge recreational pool, and water parks for kids, all facing the skyline of New York City. The park has a special meaning. In September 11, 2001, hundreds of Union City residents gathered on the site to watch the events of the day. One day later, they lightened candles and prayed for the victims, many of them firefighters.

Most of Union City’s streets are newly paved, most of the city’s parks have been renovated with water fountains and sports facilities like the one on 39th Street especially for skate boarding. The Union City Police Department, as well as the Department of Public Works, are working in an unprecedently efficient manner in the history of the city.

Before Stack, the city was under the grip of a corrupted political machine. At one point even two Civil War cannons disappeared from a park and appeared near the home of a former commissioner. The streets were dirty. Politicians were indicted and convicted. All public positions, including teachers, had to be won in exchange for “political favors”. And improvements were never seen, except for the contributions that the Cuban community brought with local business in the 70s and 80s. The city had two Cuban mayors who are remebered for raising taxes 33 and 34%, respectively. Political power fell in the hands of Mayor Bruce Walter, a founding member of the Alliance Political Machine. In 1997, it was Brian Stack who took it upon himself to dismantle the corruption and it wasn’t until 2000 that he started to make positive changes. Still the web of networking in terms of nepotism, discrimination, and ambition for power has to suffer significant changes in order for the city to run according with the times. Brian Stack has done a lot in 10 years. He will do much more, city- and county-wise, in the next ten. He is on the right track.

This year, Stack also organized dozens of art festivals, making music, poetry, and art accessible to all residents. In the music and arts field Stack has been assisted by no other than the Musical Commissioner: Lucio Fernandez. Every week Stack manages to legislate in Trenton and come back to Union City. On Thanksgiving, he broke his own record, giving away 16,000 turkeys to his constituentcy. On Christmas, he managed to give thousands of toys to the needy.

In 2009, he still answered all his phone calls. His motto “Call me anytime, not only election time” is as real as the progress Union City has achieved under Stack’s leadership. For more than 12 years, at least in my personal experience, Stack answers all his telephone calls. How he does it? Simple. He works more and with a bigger passion to serve than any other politician.

Stack has always maintained his independence from the HCDO. This year was no exception. While New Jersey’s Mayor maintained his loyalty to the Democratic party, finally supporting former governor Jon Corzine, he invited then gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie to the National Night Out Against Crime in Union City. That night Stack proved that he was an independent Democrat, and that he was willing to take the criticism from Corzine’s zealots to show that he wasn’t a machine politics puppet, but a real leader.

Like other outstanding leaders, Stack has his enemies, to whom he administers a genereous beating in every election, or the police catches handing out illegal flyers in the street at night and arrests them. Throughout the years, Brian has been able to keep the loyalty of his friends. If you work hard with him, he’ll never forget it. If he tells you “You have a friend for life,” he means it. I know. Stack is a true friend who rarely talks about personal matters, or, rather, all he talks about is personal, because that’s politics for him. That will not prevent him from being a great human being and when he shows his considerable human side he’ll let you know the same way he’ll let you know what he thinks in politics.

This past year was a rewarding one for Brian. I am sure the highlight was the inauguration of the new Union City High School. “It was a dream of a lifetime,” he said at the ceremonies. Yet to him, this dream is beyond politics. It’s about people, and people is what he really cares about.

In 2010, he will face re-election as Union City Mayor, where we call him New Jersey’s Mayor. In both his mayoral and senatorial election Stack might face a rival but he’s not alone. With him, working in his campaign, he’ll have hundreds of willing volunteer that can attest for his commitment and love for the people he serves.

Congrats Brian! God be with you!

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~ by Rafael Martel on December 31, 2009.

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