A celebration of the life of former North Brunswick Mayor Sylvester “Sal” Paladino will be held on Sunday, February 2 at the Emanuel Lutheran Church in New Brunswick.
Paladino died on November 25. He was 87.
His political career began in 1977 when he became the Democratic candidate for the North Brunswick Township Committee.
One of the Democratic incumbents on township committee, Edward Leppert, was not seeking re-election. Democrats picked Paladino and former Board of Education president Joseph Fekete to run. They had a 3-2 majority on the township at the time.
The other incumbent, Republican Frank Triarico, was seeking re-election. His running mate was former South River mayor Frank Razzano.
Paladino was the top vote-getter, running about 80 votes in front of Fekete and around 650 votes ahead of Triarico. Razzano finished nearly 750 votes behind Paladino.
That increased the Democratic majority to 4-1.
In 1980, Paladino sought re-election to a second term in a race that featured nine candidates for three seats that followed internal battles within the two political parties.
Fekete resigned early that year after losing a fight with the Democratic mayor, Charles Nicola.
Nicola had been renamed mayor for a fifth year after the township committee was deadlocked for more than a month. Fekete had felt the post should be rotated; Paladino abstained on the vote.
He was replaced by Richard Stoop, the former zoning board chairman.
A second seat opened when the governing body named Township Committeeman Dominic Teneralli as the new municipal attorney. Former school board president Peter Kuker was appointed to fill his vacant seat.
Paladino ran with Kuker and Stoop, who was seeking an unexpired term.
Republicans ran Anne Mignone, James Danna and Leo Ryan.
An independent Reform Coalition ticket also ran three candidates: Harriet Hems, Michael Ventola and Theodore Acchione.
Paladino topped the local ticket again with about 3,300 votes, but Hems captured the second seat with around 3,000. That put her about 120 votes ahead of Danna, who finished in third place. Kuker finished sixth.
The race for the unexpired term was won by Mignone, who defeated Stoop by around 175 votes. Ventola finished just 30 votes behind Stoop.
That left the township committee with three Democrats, three Republicans and an independent.
When the governing body reorganized in January, they were unable to agree on a choice for mayor. None of the nominated candidates received a second.
They broke their stalemate two weeks later when Paladino was elected mayor. He held that post again in 1982.
North Brunswick changed their form of government in 1983, with Democrat Paul Matacera becoming the first directly-elected mayor. Matacera defeated Hems, who had run as a Republican, by more than 1,000 votes.
Democrats swept all township council seats in the first race to replace the township committee form of government. Paladino was easily re-elected to a third term.
In 1987, Paladino was re-elected to a fourth term. He and councilman Frank Paul won by more than 1,000 votes over Republicans Phyllis Giglio and Alan Randzin.
Paladino lost his bid for a re-election in 1990, a victim of vote anger against Gov. Jim Florio’s $2.8 billion tax increase that cost down-ballot Democrats their seats across the state. Republicans won races for freeholder and county clerk in Middlesex that year.
Republican William Cook unseated Paladino by around 350 votes.
Paladino returned to local government in 2004, when he was appointed to the township council following the resignation of Adam Weiss. He did not seek election to a full term.
In late 2016, Paladino, at age 84, returned for a third tenure as a councilman when he was appointed to fill a brief vacancy after Councilwoman Shanti Narra resigned following her appointment to the Middlesex County Board of Freeholders.
A retired educator, Paladino was a teacher before beginning an 18-year stint as an elementary school principal in North Brunswick in 1980. He was a U.S. Navy veteran.
In retirement, Paladino worked as a volunteer docent at the New Jersey Statehouse.
His son, Christopher Paladino, is the president of the New Brunswick Development Corporation and a former assistant counsel to Florio.
Paladino is also survived by his wife of 62 years, Alberta, another son and a daughter, and eight grandchildren.