Mondella to challenge Vertreese to become mayor of Hillside

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HILLSIDE, NJ — Councilwoman at large Nancy Mondella announced her candidacy for mayor on Thursday, June 10. Mondella, who previously served on the Hillside Board of Education, said the current executive branch isn’t putting residents first, something she promised to do.

“We need to set goals and achieve results for Hillside. Effort is no longer good enough, and blaming others for lack of success is not acceptable,” Mondella said in a statement on Thursday, June 10. “Leadership is getting things done through and with people. As we begin our campaign, we plan on knocking on every door to listen to the residents’ concerns and introduce our platform for putting Hillside residents first.”

She said that while no one could have anticipated the COVID-19 pandemic, Hillside Mayor Dahlia Vertreese’s administration hadn’t been moving forward as much as it should.

“This was the first time a mayor and her council were elected together, and we still couldn’t get anything done,” Mondella told the Union County LocalSource on Monday, June 14. “It’s a sad state of affairs. Our finances are not good. Our streets are tired. Our people are tired, and we can do so much more. I couldn’t sit back and say to myself, Maybe we’ll get it done next administration. So, I decided to throw my name in the ring and step out on behalf of the Hillside residents, because that’s what it’s about.”

Mondella said she believes the way to getting back on track is by being business friendly, holding everyone accountable and cleaning things up.

“We’re not a wealthy community compared to Short Hills, but we have people who work hard every day. The majority pay their taxes and want to do the right thing, but they need some help,” she said. “We can’t balance a budget on the backs of taxpayers. We need to recruit businesses. … This is a township that doesn’t have a chamber of commerce because we don’t really have a lot of commerce. That’s the first step.

“Hillside is a great town, and we need to reinvigorate it,” Mondella continued. “When things go unchecked, people don’t always realize what’s happening. When people are disenfranchised or not being responded to, we shouldn’t be used to that. We need to complain. We pay high taxes, and we deserve services in exchange for that. Bringing business in and cleaning up our streets, freshening things up a bit; this all starts with being business friendly and putting our residents first. We need to grow. There is not a lot happening, and we’ve got to look at what we have and make the most of it. When you don’t have a lot, you must maximize what you have, and, incrementally, you make small steps forward.

“I look forward to running. It’s going to be a journey well worth it,” she added.

Elected as mayor in 2018, Vertreese announced she was running for reelection in February.

“I make decisions that make sense to someone working multiple jobs, who is a taxpayer and has children in our public schools. I’m the mayor who is truly with you,” Vertreese said in a video she released. “My first four years consisted of work, research, solutions and overall cleanup. But my next four years will implement my vision, a vision where residents will welcome an economic development, new and improved equipment, a brand-new park and pool, as well as a brand-new library, which would serve as a community center, a site for job training and access to corporate space for small businesses.”

The mayor insisted she was about change, not about doing things the same way they’d always been done.

“That is neither progress, nor a sustainable future,” Vetreese said. “I am doing the work, I have a vision, and I am the mayor who is truly with you block by block, person to person, building connections for our future together.”