Third Ward Republicans picked Planning Board member Mark LoGrippo over Downtown Westfield Corporation board member Diane Barabas to fill the seat left vacant by former Councilman Mark Ciarrocca’s as a .
Republicans made the pick – expected by political observers since the were disclosed last week – during a meeting Sunday night at the Gardens home of Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, the town’s GOP chairman. LoGrippo is scheduled to be formally appointed to the seat by the Town Council during a meeting Tuesday night at 8 p.m. in the . He will also fill Ciarrocca’s spot on the November ballot.
Bramnick declined to discuss the specifics of the committee’s internal workings and vote between Barabas and LoGrippo. Barabas confirmed that her name was placed in nomination by Bill Palatucci, but that she did not know the exact vote between her and LoGrippo for the seat.
To conform with the state law mandating that three names be placed before the Council for appointment to fill the remaining six months of the term, Bramnick said that Board of Adjustment members Maryalice Ryan and William West have both been nominated. LoGrippo will be the formal choice on Tuesday. It is common in New Jersey for political parties to put the names of two uninterested candidates up along with the formal pick in order to comply with the state law. Bramnick indicated he delivered a letter with the three candidates' names to on Monday morning.
LoGrippo will face off in November against Democrat and independent for a full four-year term. The interim appointment expires on Dec. 31.
Under state law, the remainder of Ciarrocca's current term can only be filled by a Republican and by appointment. The Council has 30 days to pick between LoGrippo, West and Ryan for the interim seat.
Bramnick said he supported the LoGrippo decision because he felt that he met Bramnick’s requirements for a candidate.
“One of the things that I have always desired as the chair is people who are regular people, who are likeable,” Bramnick said. “Real people who are likeable, that is the first thing. He is a real likeable guy. He is a regular guy who has a couple of kids. Nice and smart are what I look for.”
LoGrippo, 43, said he chose to run for office due to his desire to give back to the town. A Long Island native, LoGrippo has lived in town for four-a-half-years. He and his wife, Maria, have a four-year-old son, Francesco, and a three-year-old daughter, Gemma.
“I love the town and people, I plan to raise my family in Westfield,” he said. “We’re going to in Westfield a long time.”
LoGrippo said his biggest issues are reducing property taxes and town spending, along with reducing the size of government and recruiting more volunteers into town government. He declined to discuss specifics for his tax and government reduction platforms, but said volunteer recruitment will be key to reducing spending. He said he is still working on the specifics of the plan.
LoGrippo declined to take a specific position on the third ward’s most controversial issue, the on a private resident’s lawn on Central Avenue, just in from the intersection with Clover Street. The light, which was placed there as part of the overall traffic safety improvements along the Central Avenue corridor, has been vocally opposed by Adina Enclescu, whose lawn the light sits on, and Enclescu’s neighbor, Maria Carluccio. Enclescu and Carluccio have spoken out against the light at Council meetings since September, asking for the light to be moved 100-feet to the intersection with Clover.
“I was not involved in the initial decision,” LoGrippo said. “I will get up to speed. I want to wait till of the data is presented with the options of what is best for the safety of Westfield residents.”
Mayor Andy Skibitsky indicated in early June that the police department is currently conducting a study of the light, which could take as long as 90 days to complete. Skibitsky and Ciarrocca, who helped design the Central Avenue project, both said in the past that the study could not start until the light had been operational for 90 days, which was in early June.
Sontz has spoken out against the light’s location and Kasko is aligned with Enclescu and Carluccio in asking for the light to be moved.
LoGrippo, who holds a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University and an MBA from Adelphi University, is a sales executive with Verizon. He has served on the town’s Planning Board since 2010, a position he’ll need to resign to take the Council seat. LoGrippo has been active in Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America for five years, mentoring a 12-year-old boy in Brooklyn and raising over $30,000 for the group. A Republican council committeeman, LoGrippo was active in Skibitsky’s 2009 reelection campaign, along other town Republican campaigns in 2009. He indicated he was also active in Republicans politics while living on Long Island.
LoGrippo’s activity in town Republican circles, and close relationship with Skibitsky and other Council members, made him the frontrunner to succeed Ciarrocca. Barabas, a local Realtor who was an unsuccessful Republican nominee for county freeholder in 2006, said she sought the seat since she felt it was the right time to run for Council.
“I got some nice response,” she said.
Barabas did not comment on LoGrippo, saying she did not know him that well.
LoGrippo is the first appointed councilmember in Westfield since Republican Darielle Walsh was appointed to the other third ward seat for a six-month term in 2005. Walsh, who was appointed to succeed Skibitsky, who had been appointed to the mayor’s chair left vacant by Greg McDermott’s resignation, was defeated by Haas for a full term in 2005. Haas himself had been appointed to this seat by Democrats in 2003 following the resignation of former Councilman Kevin Walsh. Haas lost the 2003 election to Ciarrocca.
Bramnick indicated he is pleased that LoGrippo will be joining incumbent Republicans Frank Arena in the first ward, Joann Neylan in the second ward and Jim Foerst in the fourth ward on the town’s November slate.
“I am really happy about Westfield and I am happy about who sought office,” he said.