Former Union County Democratic leader Charlotte DeFilippo has died, according to a statement released by the current regular political organization boss, Assemblyman Gerald Green.
“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of former County Chairman Charlotte DeFilippo,” wrote Green in an email statement. “A prolific County Chairman known across the state of New Jersey and beyond, Charlotte was a tenacious and brilliant strategist who led countless Democratic efforts to victory.”
“In her legendary career, Charlotte was a Municipal Clerk, a Municipal Chair, a member of the Hillside Board of Education, a member and Chairman of the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the Chairman of the Union County Democratic Committee, senior advisor to countless Democratic candidates, and our friend,” said Green. “Our country, our state, and our county are better places because of her. She will be missed.”
“Charlotte was one of a kind in politics,” said state Sen. Raymond Lesniak. “Loyalty was her compass.”
During her tenure, Democrats virtually eradicated Republicans from county government and initiated a significant building program that erected county, local and private projects, from a new public safety complex to fire stations and solar panel installations — most of which were the subject of heated criticism from debt hawks and watchdogs suspicious of public contracts.
In 2013, DeFilippo resigned her post as Union County Improvement Authority executive director and announced she would not seek re-election as party chair, saying she was the target of unjustified attacks from political adversaries, including Tom Neff, chairman of the state Local Finance Board.
Neff, an appointee of Republican Gov. Chris Christie, said it was reckless for the authority’s board to allow DeFilippo, who at the time was 68 and used a wheelchair, to work from home.
DeFilippo defended her record and said that in the 13 years she lead the improvement authority, it was transformed a “long-dormant” agency and completed $330 million in public projects. The authority provides financing to pay for road improvements, parking facilities, business relocation, and police cruisers and fire department vehicles among other items throughout the county.
“Charlotte DeFilippo had been a close friend, even when we were not on the same page politically, and I will miss her counsel and motherly advice,” said Democratic strategist James J. Devine. “She was an enormous influence on Union County, who took precious little time for herself because she was always driven to lead and serve.”
“I’ve known Charlotte since I was ten years old. She always encouraged me in everything I did, especially in politics and the environment,” said Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel. “She was a close friend of mine who helped get me started in campaigns when I was in the fourth grade delivering flyers for Hillside Democrats.”
“I worked with her very closely on numerous local campaigns, including her campaign for Town Clerk and so many others from Jimmy Carter to George McGovern,” said Tittel. “We also worked together on electing Alex Menza to Town Council, Mayor, Assembly, and State Senate. We advocated for a nuclear-free zone in Union County and to clean up parks and toxic sites in Hillside. Charlotte was one of the most knowledgeable people in politics and one of the best internal fighters I’ve even seen.”
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