ROSELLE PARK, NJ — Incumbent Mayor Carl Hokanson will run as an independent candidate in the November election after the local Democratic Party voted unanimously to endorse 30-year-old Joe Signorello III instead.
Hokanson, who in 2013 secured the local Democrats’ endorsement for the primary mayoral election, said that he will run as an independent after not receiving their nod this time around.
“Yes, and to ensure that I would be on the November ballot,” he said in a phone interview on March 13, later adding that, “I felt it was the best thing for me.”
Hokanson, a former Roselle Park police lieutenant and councilman at large, first announced his candidacy for the upcoming mayoral election in a statement on his official Facebook page.
“I have met and discussed my perspective with the Roselle Park Democratic Committee and spoke them as to what I feel my role as your mayor should be,” his March 4 statement read. “Through these discussions, it has been decided that our paths were not aligned.”
Roselle Park Democratic Committee Chairman Daniel Petrosky said his party’s endorsement for the June primary wasn’t given to Hokanson because he “wasn’t a team player.” Petrosky said it was “a hard decision to make” since he’s known Hokanson for more than 50 years and
is “friends” with his family.
The mayor “doesn’t get along with any of the Democratic council people,” Petrosky said in a phone interview. “My brother’s been on council for the last four years. … He hasn’t talked to my brother at all. When there’s a decision to make (Hokanson) doesn’t talk ahead of time, he just brings it up at the meeting.”
While Signorello is a newcomer to politics, his family has roots in the borough. His father is the current fire chief and also sits on the local board of education.
He graduated from Seton Hall University and works in a technology position in the banking industry, grew up in Roselle Park and attended Union County Magnet High School in Scotch Plains. He also participated in the borough school district’s sports teams.
Hokanson, in a phone interview, said Signorello lived outside the country for five years before returning last year. But Signorello said he views that as a positive experience, not a negative one.
“I did really well in New York out of our Manhattan offices for a Swiss bank and they thought I was good enough to go to the headquarters in Zurich,” Signorello said. “I think Roselle Parkers should have the opportunity to learn things overseas and take those lessons back home.”
He noted that many young people move to big cities and then run for office somewhere else, which creates a “vacuum of useful energy that these small towns need.”
Signorello said, if elected, he would want to be as “effective and efficient” with tax dollars as possible, and focus on making transit riders and families “happy” by highlighting the borough’s transit hubs. He would also want to focus on making the borough more environmentally friendly.
Hokanson, meanwhile, described himself as a nearly “full-time” mayor who plans to continue focusing on residential and commercial development in the borough. He had multiple meetings planned with contractors, and noted the mixed-use Meridia on Westfield development broke ground in September during his tenure.
Petrosky and Hokanson both said they think the recent split will not boost Republicans’ chances in the November general election. Petrosky called Signorello a “strong” candidate, while Hokanson said he can gain votes from both Republicans and Democrats.
The local Democratic Party has also endorsed 2nd Ward Councilman Joseph Petroksy for re-election and Robert Mathieu for 5th Ward councilman. Roselle Park Republican Committee Chairman Larry Leone told LocalSource that his party has endorsed a slate, and will announce those endorsements later this month.