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Former Essex County Freeholder John M. Alati. (Photo: Joseph DiVincenzo via Facebook.)

John Alati, former Essex freeholder, dies at 73

By David Wildstein, January 15 2021 12:50 pm

John M. Alati, a popular former Essex County freeholder who was one of the most influential people in county politics in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, died on January 15.  He was 73.

He was elected freeholder in 1984, representing the East Orange/Irvington District 3 seat.   He defeated incumbent Corrina Kay, who had lost party support for re-election to a second term, by a nearly 3,000 votes, a 57%-43% margin.

He easily defeated Republican Carl Jackson in the general election.

Alati resigned from the freeholder board in 1987 to become the chief of staff to County Executive Nicholas R. Amato.  His successor was LeRoy Jones, now the Essex County Democratic Chairman.

Amato had been the Democratic surrogate for fifteen years before switching parties and unseating Peter Shapiro in 1986.

Shapiro had named Alati as the director of Essex County Division of Community Development after he took office in 1978.  He had served as community development director for the county under the old form of government and was one of the machine Democrats Shapiro retained.

Later, he served as executive director of the Essex County Improvement Authority before departing to run for freeholder.

Alati served as Unico National President from 2002 to 2003 and was chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Italian American Organizations.

A 1970 graduate of Villanova University, Alati started out in politics as an aide to Freeholder Joseph Iannuzzi.  He served as Essex County Young Democrats Chairman in 1974.

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