By Patti McNamara
Hundreds crowded the Bergen County administration building in Hackensack on Jan. 2 to watch Democrats Steven Tanelli, of North Arlington, and Tracy Zur, of Franklin Lakes, become the newest freeholders and David Ganz take over as the board’s chairman. The Democrats now have a 4-3 majority and control of the board for the first time in two years.
There were so many politicians and well wishers at the event that television monitors and additional seating was set up in the hallway for late-arriving guests. After an invocation by Rabbi David Fine of Temple Israel, Bergen County Clerk John Hogan certified the Nov. 6 election results by confirming that Tanelli garnered 175,817 total votes and Zur 170,535.
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez was invited to swear Tanelli into office. Menendez referred to Tanelli as “guardian to the next generation of Bergen County residents” and noted that Bergen County residents will be well-served by both Tanelli, a former councilman in his hometown, and Zur, an attorney.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker was asked by Zur to administer her oath. Booker who opened with a story about legendary Notre Dame football Coach Lou Holtz, described Zur as an extraordinary woman and encouraged her to “advance our common aspirations and make this community rich.”
The board elected Freeholder Joan Voss as vice chairwoman, Freeholder John Felice as Chair Pro Tempore and Ganz, now in his 11th year of service, as chairman. Ganz had his wife at his side as well as all of his former freeholder aides as State Sen. Bob Gordon administered the oath of office. Gordon claimed he discovered Ganz years ago while campaigning door-to-door in Fair Lawn and encouraged him to become involved in local politics.
“The rest is history,” Gordon said.
Ganz was presented with a gavel by Lou Stellato, chairman of the Democratic Committee of Bergen County. Stellato’s off-the-cuff jokes mixed with praise for Ganz had the crowd guffawing and applauding. Stellato, a funeral director, watched Ganz unwrap the new gavel and then noted that it was 100 percent oak, the same wood used to create his coffin one day.
Stellato, all kidding aside, told Ganz, “You get it” and urged his friend to “Use this gavel the best way you can.”
Ganz was then joined at the dais by many of the freeholders with whom he has served, past and present. Voss told the crowd that Ganz is not only a freeholder, but “an awesome lawyer, author of over 30 books and one of the nicest people you will ever come in contact with.”