John D. Burzichelli., a former Mayor of Paulsboro and the father of Assemblyman John J. Burzichelli, passed away today. He was 83.
Burzichelli, a Republican, first ran for Councilman in Paulsboro in 1964, but lost in the Democratic landslide that year. He ran again in 1967 on a ticket with Harry C. Smith and beat incumbents Carleton Kandle and Ezio Fiorile. Burzichelli won by 53 votes, 1,197 to 1,144. Until then, Democrats held all six seats on the Paulsboro Council.
In the same election, Democratic Mayor Louis Damminger – father of Gloucester County Freeholder Bob Damminger — beat his GOP opponent by a near 2-1 margin. In 1969, Burzichelli challenged Damminger for mayor and lost. He sought re-election to the council in 1970, but he and Smith were defeated by Democrats John Hunckler and Tony Morina; Burzichelli lost by 380 votes.
Burzichelli ran again for councilman in 1971, but lost to Democrat Elwood Hampton, a labor leader and the first black to hold public office in Paulsboro, a town that was 77% white. In 1973, he made another bid for councilman, but lost by just 58 votes in a heavily Democratic year.
In 1974, Burzichelli challenged Hampton in the race for mayor. This was the Watergate Democratic wave election and he lost – but by just 41 votes.
Burzichelli’s comeback year turned out to be 1975, when he defeated Hampton by 545 votes – a landslide in Paulsboro. He was re-elected by just 19 votes in another rematch against Hampton.
In 1987, Burzichelli was re-elected to a fourth term by 185 votes in yet another battle with Hampton.
Despite the anti-Florio wave of 1991, Burzichelli lost re-election to Democrat James Sabetta, the council president, by 138 votes.
John J. Burzichelli, now an Assemblyman, avenged his father’s loss when he defeated Sabetta in the 1995 mayoral race. He was elected as a Republican, but later switched parties. Bob Damminger, was re-elected to the Paulsboro Council in the same election.
Burzichelli worked for Mobil Oil and also served as a school board member, and a member of the Gloucester County Utilities Authority.
Visitation will be held on Tuesday evening from 5:30 to 8:30 PM and on Wednesday morning from 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM at the St. Clare of Assisi Parish, St. John’s Church, in Paulsboro. A Mass will be celebrated at 10:30 on Wednesday morning.