Long-time councilman selected as interim mayor in Monroe

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MONROE – Long-time councilman Stephen Dalina has been selected as interim mayor until a special election is held in November.

The Township Council unanimously selected Dalina during a special meeting via Zoom on Jan. 20. He was sworn in with his wife Susan and two sons by his side.

The Monroe Democratic Committee submitted three candidates for consideration – Dalina; Township Council President Miriam Cohen, who was serving as acting mayor after the passing of Mayor Gerald Tamburro on Dec. 31; and Terence “Terry” Van Dzura, president of the Monroe Township Democratic Club.

In his comments, Dalina said he was humbled by the support from his fellow council members. He acknowledged his father, the late Stephen “Pete” Dalina, who was the longest serving Middlesex County freeholder. He passed away in 2013.

“He’s always in my heart and I carry his guidance and wisdom with me every day of my life. He set the standard for being an outstanding public servant that I try to live up to,” he said, adding his brother and nephew also followed his father’s example.

Dalina said he first took the challenge of “filling big shoes” when he became a councilman in 2011.

“Now I follow in Mayor Tamburro’s capable shoes,” he said. “I think from the many tributes over the last month since his passing, there’s no doubt that his tenacity, feistiness and character will leave an indebted mark on Monroe. Yes indeed, big, big shoes to fill.”

Dalina said he looks at becoming interim mayor as an opportunity.

“An opportunity for me to continue working for Monroe and to maintain our quality of life at the highest level,” he said. “I hope during my time on the council I have proven myself to be someone very open and willing to listen and someone who works for all the residents. Everyone on the council, past and current members, can attest to my willingness to collaborate to find new ways to work together for the betterment of all of our residents. I have always strived to act fairly and impartially throughout my years of public service. I promise to bring that philosophy with me into the mayor’s office, the same Steve just a new location. I am humbled by this opportunity and I welcome you all to join me on this journey.”

Dalina said his initial focus as mayor will be the implementation of the COVID-19 vaccine in Monroe.

“The groundwork has already been laid by our administration and council president,” he said. “I will work very hard to make sure Monroe has the resources, tools and infrastructure so our residents have access to the vaccine in an orderly and seamless fashion and I will prioritize communication to ensure our residents are kept updated. I know there are numerous moving pieces and many levels in the process including state and county and I assure you Monroe will do everything possible to be ready. This is a matter of life and death to our community and I take this very, very seriously.”

In his first few weeks in office, Dalina said he plans on reaching out to various individuals and groups to start conversations and foster inclusivity.

“It is important for me to renew some old relationships and begin to make new ones so we can face the pandemic and other pressing issues in our community together,” he said.

Dalina has served as councilman at-large since 2011. He moved to the third ward with his wife and two children in 1998. He is currently the assistant director for Rutgers University’s Business and Administrative Services. He also serves as a part-time lecturer in the School of Communication at Rutgers. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Rider University and has a Master of Library Science from Rutgers University.

Dalina formerly served as chairman of both the Monroe Township Zoning Board of Adjustment and the Recreation Advisory Board. He is a past member of the Monroe Township Baseball Association Executive Board, serving as league president in 2007 and 2008; is the former president of the Rutgers Club from 2005-10; and previously served as secretary, treasurer and president of the Northern New Jersey Chapter of the Association of Records Managers and Administrators.