Democratic sources in Essex County confirm that talks are underway for Essex County Undersheriff Kevin Ryan to succeed Assemblyman Fred Scalera (D-Nutley), who has accepted a private sector job that will take him out of the legislature.
Sources say Ryan has the support of Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman Phil Thigpen, who would not comment.
Thigpen this afternoon is said to be conversing with Passaic County Democratic Chairman John Currie and Bergen County Democratic Chair Mike Kasparian, intent on locking up their support for Ryan, who is a resident of Nutley.
Scalera has already submitted his letter of resignation.
“Yes, he wrote a letter to the speaker and CC’d the clerk’s office, effective Nov. 29th, today,” said Dana Burley, clerk of the General Assembly.
A Nutley firefighter with eight years in the legislature, Scalera said he encountered a global company three years ago that wanted to do business in New Jersey. He said he didn’t get involved. Later, the company approached him. A month and a half ago, he accepted their job offer.
“This is not an easy decision for me,” the former assemblyman said.
State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) wouldn’t comment on a specific successor to his districtmate except to say that the person should be from Nutley.
“That is a Nutley seat,” said Sarlo. “With the current makeup of the district, it’s a longstanding tradition to have an Essex, Passaic and Bergen representative. Essex County will have the ability to pick an interim successor.
“We’re going to miss Freddy,” the senator added. “His expertise on homeland security an emergency services have been very helpful to both us and the state as a whole. We’re confident Essex Democrats will put forward another strong candidate.”
In a statement, Assembly Majority Leader Joe Cryan (D-Union Twp.) lamented Scalera’s departure.
“Assemblyman Scalera’s decision to move to the next challenge in his life is understandable yet still disappointing news. Fred has been a lifelong public servant, and his expertise when it came to public safety and homeland security was invaluable to both his colleagues here in the assembly and to the public he so dutifully represented,” said Cryan. “Assemblyman Scalera had more than 100 bills signed into law uring his tenure in the assembly. That’s an impressive output, especially considering how many of them have to do with improving and ensuring public safety and looking out for those most in need.”
But most of the late day talk turned to the intrigue around a Scalera successor. A frenzy surrounded Bergen County and whether – notwithstanding Sarlo’s aherence to the power sharing rules governing the 36th District – Bergen County would agree to Essex deciding the fate of the seat.
In any other year, Nutley is Nutley would end the argument, but sources persist in questioning whether Nutley will even be in the 36th District after redistricting next year. One map would fuse the north Essex town to Belleville and Newark as part of a new look 29th District. Another would shimmy Nutley into the 40th.
“It’s basically a Republican town,” said one source. “Chris Christie won Nutley.”
The instability that marks the town on the eve of that redistricting fight apparently has several South Bergen politicians at the local level dialing up Kasparian and telling him not to give the seat away to Essex, according to sources.
Below is reprinted a copy of Scalera’s going away letter.
“To all of my friends, supporters and constituents; I would like to first thank all of you for the support I have received over the almost past 8 years.
“My life has been about public service since I was 14 years old. As some of you probably know I began as a junior volunteer firefighter in Nutley and continued serving my community over 35 years in the Fire Service retiring as the Deputy Fire Chief and then also serving 1 year after my retirement as the Nutley Volunteer Fire Chief. During that time period I have been involved in many Civic groups also benefiting the residents of Nutley. Truly I can say Nutley is and will be always part of my life. I plan on continuing to be active on committees and Civic groups within the Township. There are far too many to list here. I am not ruling out running for public service again at a later date.
“In 2003 I was approached by Former Senator Carmen A. Orechio and Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo who are both great community and civic leaders within our state who I have a great respect and admiration for. They proposed that I accept an open seat in the Legislature as an Assemblyman which was being vacated by Senator Furnari becoming a Judge. I was honored and accepted the offer. I accepted that position with the same thoughts I have always had in public service to serve my Township the best I could and now my district and the residents of New Jersey. During my time in the legislature I have had over 100 bills signed into law protecting the citizens of New Jersey. I have also been able to serve my Township and District with many grants, from open space, to Public safety, to Autism, to education, to civic endeavors as well as many other community projects. I have always stated that there is nothing greater than public service and giving back to your community.
“During most of my public life I have never put myself first it has been about serving people. The past few years I have been pushing for nationwide Interoperability for emergency services which was sighted in the 9/11 commission report written by Former Governor Thomas Kean. I have pushed for Public safety Broadband nationwide in which New Jersey became 1 of 6 states to obtain. I did this while serving as the Chairman for Homeland Security for New Jersey, working with our Federal Legislators’ namely Congressman Bill Pascrell and Senators Lautenberg and Menendez.
“Then for some time a global company has been trying to recruit me to work on those same issues on a nationwide wide basis and I had been telling them thank you but I was not interested. Then looking back over where we are at today in need of this type of interoperability and my love of working on those issues I was again approached to work for a global company again on these issues. I sat down and discussed it with my wife and son and what it would mean for our family.
“Never have I placed myself in front of public service but I made the decision that this was an exciting opportunity. I think of beginning as a firefighter and working on local, state and national issues and responses to receiving an offer to work on them globally. It is for this reason and this reason alone that I must retire from the legislature for now.
“Some that are reading this that have never served in Public Service as I have done, my entire life, will never understand how difficult this decision has been. But my service in volunteerism will continue in my Township, this county and the state as I have done my entire life.
“I tell everyone that I have been honored to serve in the Legislature and that it has been a privilege and not a right as some may feel. Having grown up and spent my Life in Nutley we have been blessed within our Township to always have had good government and elected officials. From our past Township Commissioners to our current Board of Commissioners including Mayor Joann Cocchiola who I have grown up with and working with her Father who proceeded her, Commissioner Tucci and Commissioner Evans which have been friends of mine for quite a long time, to Commissioner Scarpelli who’s father back to my youth have worked hard for this community and to our newest Commissioner Petracco who I have known since he was young. We have been fortunate to have them and I have been fortunate to have been able to support them and would like to thank them for their past support of me.
“In my current District I have also served with 2 committed individuals that I have worked with in my District and in the State for the Residents of New Jersey. They are Senator Sarlo and Assemblyman Schaer. They also have that passion of caring for people, a statement that cannot be made about all that seek Public Service.
“In closing my staff of Ann Lynn Eisenfelder an individual that has been involved longer than I have in the Township, my Chief of Staff Peter Botsolas, Marty Higgins and Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. are all products of our Township who give back to our community and this state every day.
“Again Thanks to the residents of Nutley and my District for have given me the opportunity to have served in what I feel was the most trusted and honored position that I have ever held in my life.”
Sincerely Frederick Scalera