VINELAND— For Ruben Bermudez, Tuesday’s mayoral runoff election contained an unusual twist to his political career.
The local businessman and former City Council member won the Mayor’s Office by outpolling incumbent Robert Romano by more than 1,100 votes.
This was Bermudez’s second run for mayor. He lost in 2004 to Perry Barse.
But on Tuesday, it was help from Barse that likely helped Bermudez win the mayor’s seat.
Barse did not pull enough votes in the Nov. 6 election to make it onto the mayoral runoff ballot. Three members of his Vineland Taxpayers First City Council slate made it to the City Council runoff. And they joined two members of Bermudez’s Moving Forward … Together City Council slate to form Team Bermudez.
The revamped ticket not only helped propel Bermudez into the Mayor’s Office, but also claimed all five City Council seats. That control of city government will likely allow Bermudez to make all the changes he wants.
Bermudez, the city’s first Hispanic mayor, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
However, Bermudez said during the campaign that one of his goals as mayor would be to hire what he called a “professional administrator” to run city operations. He has not named any possible candidates. Romano claims that Barse is one possibility.
Should Bermudez fulfill that campaign promise, it means that current city Administrator Denise Monaco’s job is in jeopardy.
Another potential target for change is Municipal Utilities Director Joseph Isabella. Romano appointed Isabella to the post with instructions to make significant upgrades to the Vineland Municipal Electric Utility, the city-owned electric company. Barse wanted to dissolve the VMEU when he was mayor.
If Tuesday’s balloting was good for Bermudez, it was also something of a moment of redemption for Barse.
Romano ousted Barse as mayor in 2008. Barse has since wanted to reclaim that seat.
As for Romano, he was visibly upset Tuesday night while attending what he had thought would be a victory celebration for himself and his City Council ticket in the banquet room at Mori’s restaurant. He said Bermudez faces some difficult financial decisions, starting with how to handle several million dollars worth of increases in health-care costs for city workers.
“I hope he knows what he’s getting himself into,” Romano said as a disc jockey played music to which few people danced.
Vote totals provided by the city Clerk’s Office on Wednesday show that Bermudez defeated Romano by a vote of 5,266 to 4,103.
Elected to City Council were Anthony Fanucci with 5,023 votes, John Procopio with 4,946, Paul Spinelli with 4,906, Angela Calakos with 4,722 and Maritza Gonzalez with 4,398.
Residents also cast 3,896 votes for Mayra Arroyo, 3,880 for Peter Coccaro, 3,830 for Maria Laboy, 3,503 for Nelson Thompson and 3,451 for Antonio Romero. Arroyo and Coccaro are incumbents. Coccaro is City Council’s president.
A time, date and place for swearing-in ceremonies for Bermudez and the victorious City Council candidates is yet to be set.
A mayoral runoff contest is held in Vineland when no mayoral candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote during the initial election. City voters then pick a mayor from the top two finishers.
A City Council runoff election is held when no two candidates get more than 50 percent of the vote during the initial election. Local voters then picked five City Council members from the 10 candidates who received the most votes.
The Nov. 6 election here featured 5 mayoral candidates and 18 City Council hopefuls.
Mayoral runoff elections were last held here in 2000 and 1996.
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