Former Woodbridge Mayor Phil Cerria has died, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
Cerria was involved in a car crash on the Garden State Parkway early last month. His wife, Margaret, was killed in that crash.
He as 85.
Cerria was the popular Woodbridge 4th ward councilman when he ran for mayor as a Republican against incumbent Joseph DeMarino in 1983. He beat DeMarino by about 3,200 votes, a 56%-44% margin.
In that race, Cerria won big margins in the Woodbridge and Iselin areas of town and held DeMarino to narrow wins in the Port Reading, Fords, Hopelawn and Keasbey setions.
His victory was aided by the support of a dissident Democratic faction that strongly opposed DeMarino.
Republicans won control of the township council in that election after picking up four council seats. Ernie Oros, Louis Nardiello, Richard Kuzniak and Kathy Hamilton
Cerria led the charge to remove former Harrison Williams’ name from the Metropark train station in Iselin after the former U.S. Senator was convicted of bribery in the Abscam scandal.
In a 1987 rematch, DeMarino defeated Cerria by a 49%-45% margin. Independent Vincent Gioffre won 6%.
DeMarino beat Cerria in the 2nd, 3rd and 5th wards. Cerria won his 4th ward base by a large margin, but was not able to build a significant plurality in the 1st ward.
Republicans lost all four council seats that year. Among the winners was Arline Friscia, who would later go on to serve in the State Assembly.
Cerria, Woodbridge’s last Republican mayor, later served as the township clerk.
Margaret and Phil Cerria were married for 64 years.
The former mayor is survived by three children, seven grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.