Passaic Councilwoman Zaida Polanco died suddenly in her home on Wednesday.
The cause of her death was not immediately clear. She was 41.
“Throughout her life, Zaida fought to expand economic and educational opportunities to the City of Passaic,” U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez said in a statement. “She was an exceptional leader in the Hispanic community, often giving voice to the voiceless. Whether on the school board or city council, Zaida always remembered who she was fighting for. Passaic is better off because of her.
In addition to her position on the City Council, a seat she held since first winning it in 2011, Polanco worked as director of Human Resources for the Passaic public school system.
“Zaida was a friend to our entire community and a valued colleague on the council, and I will miss her tremendously,” said Passaic Council President Gary Schaer, who is also an assemblyman. “Words cannot express the depth of my shock and the tremendous loss resulting from her passing.”
Passaic Mayor Hector Carlos Lora said he spent the morning with Polanco’s family.
“The City of Passaic, the State of New Jersey and the Dominican Community are mourning the loss of a friend and true public servant,” Lora said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends.”
Passaic County Democratic Chairman John Currie called Polanco “an important part of the county’s Democratic family, and a selfless public servant.”