Hoboken’s ‘Stick’ Romano: In Politics, ‘No Matter How Much You Think You’re Part of the Team, You Could be Dumped’

Romano

It’s not everyday you meet someone named Stick, but if you do, may he hail from the town where they played the first game of organized baseball, who learned the rudiments of the legendary game at Wallace Schoolyard playing, what else, stickball.

That’s how Anthony “Stick” Romano came into the moniker, and now he’s running for mayor of Hoboken, one of four top tier candidates for the job, and the one who an lay claim to holding the highest elected office among them as a Hudson County Freeholder.

“I’m staying focused and working hard,” Romano told InsiderNJ. “I hope I’ve proven myself as a leader, both as a freeholder and with my experience in the police department.”

Romano served Hoboken as a cop for 32 years before retiring as a captain.

His father was a captain, too.

“I had no intentions of getting into it, I graduated as a teacher, and ended up on police desk,” Romano recalled. “For a little while I did both jobs. I was also a father. I don’t think my father was happy about me following him into the police department, but I finished high on the test and I loved it.”

He stuck.

How would his professional background help him as mayor?

“The traffic at both exits – we need help,” he said. “We need help with infrastructure. Did you know that there has been no new fire house in Hoboken since the early 1900s? We need more parking solutions, and I have the understanding of those issues to offer real improvements.”

While Councilman Ravi Bhalla and Council President Jen Giattino battle for the reformer bloc of the local electorate, and Councilman Mike DeFusco nibbles among all quadrants, Romano fulfills the role of Hoboken born and raised, which he feels has become a cliché, or an easy way for opponents to consign him as that candidate who most easily might have played a bit part as a ruffian on the docks in On the Waterfront.

“I feel the use of that term ‘born and raised’ has become passe,” Romano told InsiderNJ. “Look, it’s interesting, I just bumped into a guy the other day who told me he’s 21 years old. He’s born and raised. SO this is not some group of older people who can be accurately depicted as ‘born and raised.’ It’s just a mode of divisiveness, which I believe has truly started to dissipate. I happen to have been born here, but I have made tremendous friends from everywhere who make their home in Hoboken. As a freeholder, I supported the kayak club. I don’t know if a lot of those guys are born and raised. We got them some money. I’m in an adult softball league. That wasn’t put together by people who were born and raised.

“Then the so-called ‘reformers,” he added. “A lot of those people have worked in county government. They try to come across as fresh faced, but it’s a misnomer. I think the reformer guard has reformed itself out.”

Romano wouldn’t opine in any detail on the argument out there that Bhalla and Giattino saw into the so-called reformer base left behind by their ally, Mayor Dawn Zimemr, who’s retiring at the end of this year after serving two terms as leader of Hoboken.

“Yeah, between the two camps I thought they were ‘one for all and all for one’, then the way Dawn departed suddenly, I think it caused the schism, but I don’t know enough about those dynamics there, that’s between them to sort out,” he said.

Or not, if they cannibalize each other, which works in his favor.

On State Senator Brian P. Stack’s (D-33) bad side right now after a local enemy of Stack’s surfaced at a Monday fundraiser for Romano, the freeholder and mayoral candidate said he can’t imagine what he did, but had no intention of sticking it to Stack. “As a human being I would never want to offend anyone,” he said, and declined to comment further.

If Stack indeed does have it out for him and attempts to mobilize the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) in another direction, Romano has before been the outside man. It wouldn’t be the first time. In 2014, the organization jettisoned him from the team when he attempted to run for reelection. He won off the line.

“That election showed me that no matter how much you think you could be part of the team, you could be dumped,” he said. “I’m running like I’m scared. I’m running like I’m behind. The other thing is I’m running with a sense of humility. Humility is very important.”

 

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