Frank J. Fuzo, a strong vote-getter during his fifteen years as a Hunterdon County freeholder and the last Republican mayor of Lambertville, died on June 3. He was 68.
Fuzo made his first bid for public office in 1984 as the lone GOP candidate for the Lambertville City Council. He lost by a 2-1 margin against incumbents John McManus and Kenneth Harms.
The following year, when no Republican filed for mayor, Fuzo mounted a write-in campaign to win the nomination. He lost the general election by a 66%-34% margin to the Democratic incumbent, Mary Sheridan.
Fuzo ran for city council again in 1986, but was again unsuccessful. Democrat Edward Nalence was the top vote-getter with 580 votes, followed by Republican James Rosso (512). Fuzo finished third in the race for two seats with 433 votes.
On his fourth try for local office in 1987, Fuzo finally prevailed. McManus won the first seat with 5225 votes, but Fuzo ousted incumbent Democrat Frank Masterson by about 130 votes to win election to the Lambertville City Council.
Sheridan essentially disappeared from her job before resigning without explanation in 1988. She had run the city for 45 years, first as city clerk, treasurer and administrator, and then for five years as Lambertville’s first directly-elected mayor.
Fuzo ran for mayor that year and defeated Democrat Michael Lacy, a former lobbyist for the New Jersey League of Municipalities, by about 55 votes, 52%-48%.
In 1990, after incumbent Harrie Copeland III decided not to seek re-election, Fuzo mounted his sixth campaign in seven years as a candidate for Hunterdon County freeholder.
No other Republican entered the race.
In the general election, Fuzo defeated 30-year-old Delaware Township Mayor Ronald Zwizanski by more than 6,000 votes, 62%-38%.
Before taking office as freeholder, Fuzo briefly floated his name for State Assembly.
The State Senator from the 23rd district, Dick Zimmer (R-Delaware), was elected to Congress in 1990. Assemblyman Bill Schluter (R-Pennington) was seeking a return to the Senate. The winner of the open Assembly seat was 38-year-old Leonard Lance (R-Clinton Township), a former assistant counsel to Gov. Tom Kean.
Fuzo sought re-election as Lambertville mayor, but lost the Republican primary to David Burd by just 13 votes.
Burd lost the general election to Democrat David DelVecchio, who held the post until Julia Fahl unseated him in the 2018 primary election.
In 1993, Fuzo was re-elected to his second term on the Hunterdon County Board of Freeholders. He defeated Democrat Eddie Pagan, Jr. by over 15,000 votes, a 72%-28% margin.
He came freeholder director in 1996 and was re-elected that year. Fuzo won a Republican primary against an 18-year-old high school student, and the general against 70-year old Democrat Thomas Beetel, a former assistant Hunterdon County prosecutor who had lost a State Assembly bid in 1957.
Fuzo launched a bid to take on Hunterdon County Republican Chairman Henry Y. Kuhl. He lost a close race by just 20 votes.
Despite his loss in the county chairman’s race, Fuzo had no primary opposition when he sought a fourth term in 1999.
In the general election, he walloped Flemington Councilman Joey Novick by a 62%-38% margin.
Fuzo was re-elected to his fifth term in 2002 with 63% of the vote against Jeffrey Marshall.
In 2005, after fifteen years as a freeholder, Fuzo decided to retire. He was succeeded by Erik Peterson.
Two years later, Fuzo sought to return to the freeholder board as a candidate for the seat of George Muller, who was running for sheriff.
Incumbent George Melick easily won renomination in the GOP primary, but Fuzo lost to William G. Mennen, an heir to the deodorant empire, by over 1,000 votes. He finished fourth, nearly 800 votes behind now-freeholder Shaun Van Doren.
Fuzo served in the U.S. Army Reserve and was assigned to the Emergency Management Command Bus after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
He worked in the insurance business before beginning an 18-year career as senior vice president for government banking at PNC Bank in Flemington. He served as president of the Whitehouse Rescue Squad.
Fuzo is survived by his partner, Joni, his daughter, and two grandchildren.