By Jillian Risberg
He’s been serving the people of Wayne in one capacity or another for as far back as he can remember. Councilman Joe Scuralli won a seat in the township’s primary and general election in 2004 and he’s been holding down the Fourth Ward ever since.
According to the procureman, Scuralli has consistently stepped up to make life easier for him (and others) in town.
“He’s been very vocal and very helpful to the people in the Fourth Ward to assist them in getting things accomplished that maybe they couldn’t get accomplished on their own,” Kolkka says.
In 2018, 2012 and 2009 Scuralli was Municipal Council President, a yearly position determined by a vote of his fellow council members.
According to the councilman, he was always interested in politics — even as young as grade school.
“A neighbor of mine had given me a shortwave radio they didn’t want anymore,” Scuralli says. “I started listening to broadcasts from all over the world and their political views. Some of them were friendly to the United States, some of them weren’t. It got me thinking a lot about politics.”
That prompted him to start following national and state politics.
Once he got to high school, the councilman’s history teacher, Mr. Bailey from DePaul noticed Scuralli’s strong political fascination. He asked the then student to talk about Ronald Regan, who was getting elected at the time.
“I gave a speech about Regan and really enjoyed doing that whole thing,” he says. “My father used to talk to me about politics too but I never had time to get involved because I was in graduate school — going at night and working during the day.”
After he graduated, in 1996 Scuralli joined the Wayne Republican Club because he suddenly had some time on his hands.
“That’s when I started getting involved in local politics,” the councilman says. “At that time I knew nothing about how to get on a ballot or run on a local level. I have to give all the credit to a woman named Barbara Cook — who became my friend and told me how to get elected.”
In 1997 he ran without an endorsement for an at-large position in the Republican primary and there were three spots open.
“I believe there were six people running that year and the three that were endorsed won,” Scuralli says. “My first election I lost; I came in fourth.”
Judy Orson became the mayor and the councilman says he supported her ticket even after he lost the primary.
“They got to know me and then Judy asked me if I would take her seat when she became the mayor,” he says. “The party agreed, the council agreed and I got named to that unexpired term.”
Scuralli is passionate about Wayne.
The 55-year-old lives with his wife Annette and 15-year-old son, Joseph Scuralli III one house away from where he was raised. It made perfect sense to want to give back to the community he has always called home.
“I really care about the town, I care about my neighbors,” the councilman says. “I think of my neighbors as family too and know several generations of many families because I grew up with them.”
Council people are not really in charge of anything when it comes to that form of government.
“We just pass the budget and make the laws; but the administration of the town is really underneath the mayor,” he says.
Whether you have a zoning problem in your neighborhood, garbage in your yard or people parking on a street overnight — the councilman always encourages folks to reach out to him.
“Constituent services are the most important thing and I try to address those issues no matter how small they are and get them resolved,” Scuralli says, adding that often people are reluctant to call Town Hall and bother anyone.
Aline Madalian has known the councilman for years through the Boy Scouts since her sons and Joseph Scuralli III are all in the troop together.
She says the councilman is always accessible to his constituents and keeps his word.
“Text message, phone calls, emails; he will always get back to you and respond to all your concerns,” Madalian says.
Scuralli says in most cases he acts as a lobbyist for the people.
“If someone calls me up about a pothole in front of their house — then I get in touch with the business administrator and he will talk to the appropriate people in public works to investigate,” he says.
For the next four years Scuralli also served on the Board of Adjustment.
His family had a plastic processing machinery business, Wayne Machine & Die Co. and the councilman served as their operations manager starting in 1985. After college, he joined the business full-time as the company’s president in 1999. The product line was sold in 2009.
According to Scuralli, his deep roots in business have definitely helped him in politics.
“My business experience and all my degrees are in business (including a doctorate in international business and MBA in industrial management),” the councilman says, adding that he always had a great interest in the field.
That includes nurturing his passion as an adjunct professor of business at William Paterson University from 1996 to 2002.
He left there after six years in the midst of a life whirlwind — managing the family company, getting married and running for office.
“I won the primary in June, got married in August, found out my wife was pregnant in September, had the general election in November and then my son was born in June the following year,” Scuralli says.”
He parlayed his experience in academia into various positions at Berkeley College from 2007 on. As Dean, Online since 2016 he is the chief academic officer providing leadership to engage students so they can achieve success in their respective fields of study while taking online courses.
The councilman’s immediate family and extended family goes back a long way in Wayne, with his father’s cousin arriving in the 20s.
“My grandparents moved here from Clifton with my parents in 1949,” Scuralli says. “My father lived here until he died. My mother’s still here at 91 and so is one of my sisters.”
The councilman is also a founding member of the Wayne Radio Amateur Emergency Team (WRAET), an amateur radio club focused on providing communications in emergencies to Wayne Township OEM and other amateur radio activities.
“We sponsor Field Day every June for the last two years at St. Joseph’s Hospital to test and demonstrate ‘off grid’ communications,” Scuralli says. “Membership is open to everyone interested in amateur radio. I hold the highest level ‘Amateur Extra’ class license.”
And he is an active Boy Scout Troop 108 volunteer for Our Lady of the Valley RC Church in Wayne, and currently the Chartered Organization representative. He has also served in the past as Troop Committee Chair and Treasurer.
Madalian calls the councilman someone who without a doubt is there when you need him.
“He got a lot of things done when we asked him to do it, answers our questions,” she says, especially when she requested the councilman address the Greenrale Avenue Bridge situation.
Back in 2015 the bridge was supposed to be closed forever and the township was planning to tear it down.
It had served as a walking alternative to Lafayette Elementary and Anthony Wayne Middle schools and for many folks to the more serene neighborhood of Andover Drive versus the high traffic areas of Greenrale and Laauwe Avenues.
“We were thinking that was a really good idea to reopen it,” Madalian says. “When we approached him about the whole thing and he said, ‘ok, let me talk to the mayor’ — he really got on top of it and the bridge was (repaired) and reopened.
“He’s easy to approach, a very good man and a very solid person.”
According to Scuralli, he doesn’t look at government as a different type of institution.
“I think it should still be run like a business. I carried over a lot and still do today from business to government,” he says.
The councilman likes to see government helping people.
“New Jerseyans are paying property taxes — at an exorbitant rate. They deserve the services that they pay for,” Scuralli says, adding that he is proud to be an advocate for the town he loves.
When it comes to the appeal of Wayne, the councilman says it has to be the people.
“I was very fortunate to grow up in a nice neighborhood with great people,” Scuralli says. “It really is a beautiful town and there’s a lot of longevity here, no matter how you look at it. Wayne has a lot of people who stay in Wayne.”
And the councilman often hears from people who moved a couple of towns over.
“But I have to come back to Wayne for everything,” they tell him.
“It’s really true,” he says. “Everything you could possibly think of is right here. It’s got excellent schools — both public and private, there’s so many houses of worship, (plus) the number of active congregations here and all the different faiths.”
Scuralli says that right below constituent services is zoning and Wayne does a fantastic job maintaining all the different neighborhoods and their unique characteristics.
“Just the amount of people that live in Wayne and commute to New York City, think of how many towns they pass going everyday to work,” the councilman says.
“It would be very easy for them to live in a town that’s a lot closer to New York but they come here, they stay here and it’s worth that three hours a day they’re on the bus. That’s really how I feel about Wayne.”
Kolkka actually met Scuralli randomly one day when he was walking down the street in town and they became fast friends.
“Wayne is actually a pretty big town so it was funny that we knew a lot of the same people,” says the procureman. “I got to know him pretty quick just being in some of the same circles.”
According to Kolkka, he doesn’t look at Scuralli like a politician, but rather a do-gooder.
“He’s there to help people out because not everybody has a voice that can be heard, and he’s able to be that voice,” he says.