Funeral home owner fills vacant Rahway council seat

Photo by Rebecca Panico
Joseph Gibilisco, left, owner of Lehrer-Gibilisco Funeral Home on Lake Avenue, was selected on Jan. 25 to fill the vacant 6th Ward seat on Rahway’s city council. He replaced Raymond Giacobbe, who was picked to be mayor after Samson Steinman resigned.

RAHWAY, NJ  — A local businessman who is active in the community will represent the 6th Ward in the city council on an interim basis, filling the vacancy created by the elevation of Raymond Giacobbe to mayor.

Joseph Gibilisco, who owns the Lehrer-Gibilisco Funeral Home on Milton Avenue, was unanimously approved Jan. 25 by the council to fill the vacant seat. He replaces Giacobbe, who was appointed mayor Jan. 8, after the abrupt Christmas Eve resignation of former Mayor Samson Steinman.

Gibilisco said he will consider running in the special election in November to retain the 6th Ward seat for the remainder of Giacobbe’s original term, which ends in 2020.

“I’m trying politics,” Gibilisco said after the meeting. “I just don’t want it to become a political thing. I want to do things that will help people, like I do now.”

Gibilisco is treasurer on the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Rahway Foundation Board of Trustees and holds an unpaid position in the Rahway Redevelopment Agency, an appointment by the city council. He’s also a former member of the local chamber of commerce.
One of Gibilisco’s goals in his new role is to address the rise in opioid use, and he said his work at the funeral home has shown him the impact of fatal drug overdoses have on families.

“My son went through that,” he said. “He’s five and a half years clean now and I went through hell with it, and I know what it’s all about. I want to help other people. Plus, also I work with the county morgue, with the county medical examiners, and I pick up so many people and I see their parents, what they’re going through.”

The Rahway Democratic Committee nominated three people to fill the 6th Ward seat Jan. 13, as required by law.
Democratic Committee Secretary Jeff Robinson and Annette Heim, another committee member, were both nominated along with Gibilisco. The city council was then tasked to select one of the three.

Giacobbe, who had been elected to a four-year term to represent the 6th Ward in November 2016, was chosen to serve as interim mayor in a similar process. He has previously said he will run for mayor in November.

“I’ve known (Gibilisco) for many years,” Giacobbe said at the Jan. 25 special meeting at which Gibilsco was sworn in. “He’s a great man. Truly loves the city of Rahway and I know he’s going to do a great job as councilman.”

The November mayoral election will not be a special election since Steinman’s term was slated to end this year, according to the Rahway City Clerk’s Office.

An interim mayor had to be selected after Steinman resigned in December, stating in a letter sent to city officials that he could not “give the position the effort it requires and the effort citizens deserve.”

Steinman, who told NJ Advance Media that he is bipolar, twice crashed his city-issued car and took a seven-week medical leave during his tenure as mayor.

Rahway Democratic Committee Chairman Kevin O’Brien said that filling the vacancies has brought stability to the city government.
“Both Mayor Giacobbe and Councilman Gibilisco went through a thorough review process with the committee and we’re very enthusiastic about their ability to serve the city,” O’Brien said in a Jan. 29 phone interview.