North Brunswick school board member appointed to Township Council; first Latina to serve

NORTH BRUNSWICK – A North Brunswick Board of Education member will now join the Township Council.

Claribel Cortes was chosen by members of the governing body during the council meeting on April 6.

The seat on the council opened after Councilman Bob Corbin passed away on March 15 after a battle with cancer. He had served for 18 years.

According to the municipal vacancy law, as cited by Township Attorney Ronald Gordon, because Corbin was a member of the Democratic party in town, the Democrats had the ability to provide three potential candidates to the council to fill the unexpired term.

The term Corbin was serving will end on Dec. 31.

The position will be filled for the next three-year term during the general election in November. The new term will begin on Jan. 1, 2021 and run through Dec. 31, 2023.

Local Democrats provided the names of Cortes, Concetta Adamo and Lorraine Gagliano to the council members on April 6.

Councilwoman Amanda Guadagnino nominated Cortes and Councilman Bob Davis seconded the motion. Council members then voted to appoint Cortes to the seat for nine months.

“Thank you so much for your nomination and thank you for voting for me. I look forward to working with everyone, and please stay safe through this (crisis). I know we are going to come out of this stronger together,” said Cortes, who joined the virtual meeting via phone.

Mayor Francis “Mac” Womack said the new councilwoman will be sworn in properly, virtually, during the next council meeting.

“Congrats, Claribel. Welcome aboard,” council President Ralph Andrews said.

Cortes has lived in North Brunswick for 16 years. She is a media and business executive with more than 22 years of experience in the field of Broadcast/Digital Journalism.

She volunteers as a coach for Girls on the Run, an organization that implements an experience-based curriculum that integrates running for girls in grades 3-5. As an avid marathoner, she also helped fundraise for many organizations such as the American Cancer Society, Team for Kids and Camp Shriver.

She is also the vice-chair of the statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Cortes joined the township school board in April 2017 to fill an unexpired term.

“The work of the Board of Education is not the reflection of one person but a collective group, and I am proud to have taken part in many of the accomplishments of the BOE during my tenure. As the chair of the Community Relations Committee, we launched various community think tanks and increased our social media communication along with other improvements to our digital interface. As a member of the policy committee, we worked to ensure that our policies were aligned with the needs of our district and our Department of Education guidelines. Another significant undertaking was working towards closing the school funding gap and finding new ways to improve our infrastructure without increasing taxes. The school district was able to secure a $14.2 million Energy Savings Improvement Program grant to fund at no cost to the taxpayers for the following work at current schools,” she said.

She said she has learned many lessons from her time on the school board that will help her on the council.

“Many of my efforts within the BOE, such as community outreach, increased communication, public policy and business partnerships, are all skills that are going to be transferable and add to the initiatives within North Brunswick,” she said.

She said she entered the political realm at this time so she could do more within the community.

“I know that my diverse background and 20-plus years in business, organizational management, communication and community development will help our town move forward into the future. I would like to see North Brunswick continue to be a multigenerational town where grandparents can afford to live not too far away from their grandkids while also making this town appealing to a new generation of families,” she said.

Cortes said she already has many issues she would like to focus on as a councilperson.

“As a member of the council and taxpayer in North Brunswick, I believe it’s only fair that we have proper funding for our schools. I will continue to advocate for closing the funding gap for our school district. As it relates to programs, my goal is also to find new and innovative ways to secure grants and partnerships to help support our community, especially our senior citizens. The completion of the train station is critical now more than ever. I used to commute over two hours every day to my job, and I know how important it is to give our residents the ability to have options of their choice of transposition. The new train station will provide our residents the ability to have access to faster transportation options, alleviate the traffic congestion, save time, money, create jobs, and will also add to our property values,” she said.

According to North Brunswick Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Zychowski, once the school district receives notice of Cortes’s resignation from the school board, the vacant position can be advertised and the board can proceed to fill the opening.

Contact Jennifer Amato at jamato@newspapermediagroup.com.