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Meet Kurt Peluso: Advocate for Young Families

A brief background on new councilman Kurt Peluso and what inspired him to run for office

has already shown he’s not averse to lending a voice to those he feels are without one.

Last Tuesday, against what he considered the Republicans’ fiscally irresponsible municipal appointments. By bringing attention to the issue publicly, Peluso got new borough attorney Ron Mondello to agree to reduce his salary by 20 percent.

Peluso, 28, said it was during his time at that he first realized he could be an advocate for others. When the school opted to switch prom night from a Thursday to a Friday, Peluso said he became the spokesperson for Jewish members of the school’s student body who wouldn’t be able to attend a prom held on a Friday night for religious reasons.

“I was kind of disgusted with the way the teachers handled it. They kind of said, “Oh well, we’re not a religious school,” Peluso recalled. “But I was like, you know what…you don’t have to be a religious school, but you need to show respect for the holidays. By doing it on a Friday you’re not really showing that respect.”

In the end, Peluso was unable to effect his desired change, but he said the experience gave him the confidence to lead going forward. 

“It really showed me that I can do that kind of stuff, that I can speak for other people,” he said. “And I think a lot of people need that voice. That’s the first time I kind of found myself in that role and it’s a role I’ve kind of been in ever since.”

Throughout high school, Peluso’s dedication to athletics – he was captain of the track team and a first team all-league pole vaulter – kept him from engaging in organized school politics. But after a serious knee injury during his freshman year at the University of Rhode Island ended his pole vaulting career, he shifted his energy toward public service.

“It was always something I was interested in -- serving people,” Peluso said. “My whole family, that’s what we do. We volunteer.”

Peluso’s first taste of political life came during a one-year stint on the URI student Senate. So it wasn’t all that big of a leap when he last February.

“I just see the council as another form of volunteering,” said Peluso, who helps coach Fair Lawn High School’s track team and has also been an All-Sports and volunteer. “You’re really working for this town and it’s just another way for me to serve the community.”

Peluso said he was initially hesitant to get involved politically in Fair Lawn, but that as the tickets took shape he realized he would have something unique to offer.

“I realized that no one with a young family was running,” said Peluso, the father of two young children. “I think not having someone on the council that represents young families is really doing a disservice to Fair Lawn, so…that’s a big push of why I said ‘Yes.’”

Peluso believes his full-time job as director of the Meadowlands YMCA has prepared him for a seat on council. 

“I put together programs, I look for grant money, I do a lot of hiring, a lot of, at times, firing, I work with budgets and I work with a bunch of different communities for shared services,” explained Peluso, who said he’s worked closely with the Rutherford Police Department and Board of Education, and the Lyndhurst Health Center in recent months. “Everything I do in my job goes with this position on council.”

As a representative for young families in town, limiting property taxes while maintaining social services is his top priority.

“Raising my own family here is very expensive,” Peluso said. “My wife and I both work full-time and part-time jobs just to make ends meet, and I know a lot of other families have the same struggles. So I want to make sure that property taxes are maintained, but at the same time our social services don’t diminish.”

With last week's successful stand against granting the borough attorney a pay raise, Peluso's efforts to protect taxpayers are already paying dividends.

"We really have to scrutinize over every dollar we have; we can’t be handing out increases, and just hope they’re turned down," he said. "Not every attorney is like Mr. Ron Mondello."

Julia Enerson January 10, 2012 at 05:45 PM
I've been meaning to chime in, but have been too busy finalizing a new home for The Frugal Foodie column. At any rate, I'm not sure why the labels and the call for "sit back and learn from your elders" for Mr. Peluso. Loyal opposition is always needed, as which is what Mayor Baratta and Deputy Mayor Trawinski provided in the past. I hope Mr. Peluso continues to ask questions and be bold in asking them. Just one request, please stop using "youse guys".
* January 10, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Mr Peluso decries the amount of money spent on appointments and the fees that are attributed to them.Where was HIS voice when we were made aware of the exhorbatant amounts funneled into TWO attorneys during the Democratic Majority's stronghold.(i refer to an article published in the Shopper News)... As he said,and the article revealed, not every Attorney is like Mr Mondello
Patch-aholic January 10, 2012 at 09:22 PM
adolpho after clicking your name and seeing how often you post on the fair lawn patch as well as numerous other towns, it is clear you have some wierd addiction to patch. therefore i understand it must be tough for you to read an article and not immediately add a comment. lets judge mr peluso for what he does during HIS time on council and not by previous councils that he was not a part of. he has held his elected posistion for a week. lets give him a chance before we form an opinion on him whehter positive or negative.
Sally J January 10, 2012 at 10:16 PM
Well said Patch-aholic and just for the record Mr. Adolpho this current council will also have 2 attorneys. It is very common for a borough of our size to have two attorneys. One normally deals with the day to day business and other deals with special issues and tax appeals. I really think you should stick to commenting in the town you live because you obviously have no idea how our town works.
* January 10, 2012 at 10:19 PM
The last l looked, this great country we live in GIVES us the opportunity to do whatever we wish as long as it is within legal parameters. So instead of obsessing on my participation how about taking a hard look at the facts presented. Further, why must we hear all about the self appointed kennedy stunt double's high school involvememt or affiliations with the Democratic party but need to compartmentalize his display of Jan 3 ? Frankly, with the circus atmosphere that exists there is NO time to waste. I think the evaluation begins immediately, just as he rendered on the republicans!
Deleted because of harassment January 10, 2012 at 10:21 PM
When you are elected to Borough Council, you don't get to choose who you are an advocate for - you are automatically elected to be an advocate for ALL the citizens of Fair Lawn. The childless ones, the senior citizens, the struggling ones, and the better-off, the atheists, the devoutly chucch-going, and every shade and situation in-between.You have to make every decision based upon someone that is NOT you. Someone you disagree with, that has different political views, and has never had the life experiences you have had. Until you can assume that mantle - and more than one Councilperson in recent memory never did - you will be just filling in for a real public servant. That's why the advice to sit back and get your bearings, and learn. Because when someone believes they know everything, they really know very little and empathize even less. The first time I had to buy car insurance on my own, I realized my parents were a lot smarter than I ever had given them credit for. And I learned to look to those wiser and more experienced to coach me.
Julia Enerson January 10, 2012 at 10:34 PM
I'll respectfully disagree. Whether it's a entry-level Corporate America job (do they still exist) or an elected position, sit back, watch, take it in, digest, and then maybe do something is so reactionary. Follow the rules! Color between the lines! Don't overstep your boundaries. How boring.
truthhurts January 10, 2012 at 10:48 PM
"Because when someone believes they know everything, they really know very little and empathize even less." To All: Please remember this each and every time Deleted or Adolpho post their wisdom.
BellairBerdan January 10, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Grrr you beat me to that quote thruthhurts. If Peluso sat back and had been quiet yes he would have learned. He would learn we'd be paying an extra $25 an hour that we didn't have to. He may have learned that those who are making $150-190K are out of touch with the majority of people in Fair Lawn when they don't think that's a big deal, or is at best " a nominal increase".
* January 10, 2012 at 11:46 PM
OOOH! I LIKE THE QUOTE GAME! " The greatest ignorance is to reject something ypu know nothing about" Hey Truth hurts: I bet it doez!
Bruce Knuckle January 11, 2012 at 02:23 AM
The lawyer fees are nothing compared to the items Peluso will be uncovering. The prior councils poor decisions will be brought up again and again. He works the same as Tedeschi did, the only difference, is right now, Peluso isnt trying to play both sides of the fence like Joe did. He will either be hugely successful or recalled. Either way, its better than "watching and learning"
Kathy Moore January 11, 2012 at 12:50 PM
If you guys think the boro attorney is expensive you should know that the board of trustees in Radburn has been paying their attorney $475.00 per hour for years. Probably the highest paid attorney for those living in a homeowners association anywhere! Over two million dollars has been paid out in the past several years. Oh, they'll blame that expense on me and some folks for wanting to be able to be considered members of the association we pays dues to. The association that collects "membership dues" but excludes all but about a dozen of those dues payers from being members. Obviously this has nothing to do with Mr. Peluso but I just wanted some of you to be aware of just how much attorneys can cost.
* January 11, 2012 at 01:20 PM
Wow Kathy, that is no doubt an outrageous amount!
BellairBerdan January 11, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Kathy I think we are all aware of what lawyers can cost. The point is about paying more than we have to in a time when we lay off employees, ask others to take unpaid leave and reduce the services to the taxpayers. I sense a certain pride that you have cost your neighbors over $2 million. That's unfortunate.
Kathy Moore January 11, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Pride, Bellair? Hardly, outrage is more like it. Point being made is a good attorney can be had for $125.00 per hour. Count your blessings our council has the good sense not to fleece the people of Fair Lawn with ridiculous dollar amounts by paying attorneys $475.00 per hour.
Deleted because of harassment January 11, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Take where it's coming from - someone that takes pride in someone else doing all the work while they accept having no voice because they are willing to surrender to an injustice. You are Rosa Parks, sitting on the bus, and they are the folks complaining about you slowing them down. You go ahead and remember that quote, cheerleader for the people that invaded my personal privacy. I really do not give a crap about the opinions of your ilk because you have never had any of your own - just those of your masters who pull your puppetstrings and tell you when to dance. Julia, I think you know me better than that. You can't color outside the lines until you learn where they are and what a crayon is. You can not hold an opinion when you do not know that there is an opinion to be had, nor can you make a valid point about the one you have if you don't bother to learn how to communicate it. You need to learn about that which you speak, both in corporate America and in the rest of the world, lest you look like someone whose opinions have no context and no basis. There's a fine difference between coloring outside the lines and scribbling like an infant, after all.
quest January 11, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Deleted- if mr peluso took your advice the taxpayers would still be paying mr mondello 25% more. so personally i dont care if people think he spoke out of turn or seems immature. bottom line: his speaking up on his 1st day saved the taxpayers money. kathy- too bad peluso doesnt live in radburn- he'd probably get your attorny to drop his salary by 25%
Deleted because of harassment January 11, 2012 at 04:47 PM
I was addressing his speaking out of turn at the start of the meeting and having (obviously) no clue that there was no discussion on the table, only a vote. Love how that got twisted around into giving him credit for a comment made by Swain about the cost of the appointments. She mentioned what the former attorney was paid, not Peluso, and got the response of lowering his fees from the new borough attorney. And she made her comments by addressing the chair, asking to speak, at a time when comments were allowed. Not by interupting a call for nominations and a vote. Why don't you ask to borrow a copy of "Robert's Rules" yourself and pass it on to the Councilman?
BellairBerdan January 11, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Rosa Parks??? Can you really have the nerve to compare someone to Rosa Parks unless she is a black seamstress? "Masters" ??? Oh my.
Kathy Moore January 11, 2012 at 09:48 PM
I'd like to get our attorney fees dropped a lot more than 25%, believe you me ;-)
Deleted because of harassment January 11, 2012 at 11:16 PM
"Rosa Parks??? Can you really have the nerve to compare someone to Rosa Parks unless she is a black seamstress? "Masters" ??? Oh my. Coming from someone whining about people you can't vote for spending three times the going rate for a lawsuit to fight against her and others who want to have civil rights like every other housing development in the country has to choose who spends their money and represents them. Get over yourself. You either complain about someone pouring money out with no prudence and no reguard for the people who pay those sainted "assessments" or you better be all smiling and happy over it, because you can't have it both ways.Sorry the bus isn't moving fast enough because those damn litigants want to have the same rights as everyone else. (Actually, I think you are pretty sorry, but that's another kind of sorry.)
Deleted because of harassment January 11, 2012 at 11:42 PM
Still doesn't get it. "quest' is the sort of taxpayer politician's love - the kind that doesn't pay attention and has his knickers in knots over something over his head. Kathy: You have to love someone complaining about $25 an hour on one hand, and defending having someone they have no say over spending $475 an hour to defend the right to not have as much responsibilty to the payees as any shopkeeper would have to a shopper sold defective merchandise. I think that is called being pennywise but pound foolish.

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