Mayor Fanucci leading Vineland
VINELAND—On January 5, Anthony Fanucci (R) began his second four-year term as mayor of Vineland.
Fanucci, a 1990 graduate of St. Augustine Preparatory School, attended both the former Cumberland County College and St. Peter’s University. A lifelong resident of the city, Fanucci lives in Vineland—where he owns and operates both A.R. Fanucci Insurance and A.R. Fanucci Real Estate—with his wife, Stacy, and their three children: Vincenzo, 14, Giavanna, 7 and Adrianna, 5.
Fanucci told The Gazette that his interest in local government started during his teenage years.
“I volunteered a number of times to work campaigns for friends of the family. Back then, you used to hang door knockers and hand out pamphlets before social media. I worked on several campaigns and had gotten involved in an early age, and had a curiosity for how government works,” Fanucci said.
That interest stayed with Fanucci as he grew and became more invested in his city and the surrounding area.
“The more I was seeing things, growing up as a young man—especially working—and earning a living, I noticed that, in order to effectuate change, you have to be somewhere where your voice can be heard. In many cases, the people are not heard ... People would come to me, friends and so forth—and business associates as I grew—with different things because I knew somebody, or I knew somebody who knew somebody, and I said that, at some point, I’d like to try to give back a little more, never knowing where it was going to lead me,” Fanucci said.
In 2006, Fanucci took the opportunity to run for a seat on the Vineland Board of Education and was elected to a three-year term.
“I began to learn the ropes: how rules of order function in government, how things work in general; unfortunately, government is not like the real world at all. I learned very quickly about certain matters. I was very interested in the budgets. I was very interested in the services provided in the district. I’m a very proactive thinker when it comes to how we need to budget, how we need to face financial consequence,” he said.
That mindset proved beneficial during Fanucci’s first year with the board of education, when funding for Abbott districts—of which Vineland was one at the time—faced a round of cuts, creating a budget shortfall for the district.
“That was an eye-opener. I got thrown into the frying pan pretty quickly. It was OK; it was a learning experience. We learned, we balanced our budgets and we moved forward. We made sure we didn’t hurt services, didn’t hurt students and fairly compensated staff; we had a healthy balance. There were a lot of challenges in that first three years and some projects I had started. I decided I wanted to seek one more term to finish what I had started, and I was reelected and served for three more years,” Fanucci said.
During that time, Fanucci said, Vineland began experiencing fiscal challenges. A friend of his was seeking election as mayor and asked if Fanucci would run for a seat on city council.
“I thought about it, and said I would be interested in that; I could use my business acumen and expertise to assist in the city in some way, shape or form. It’s a city I was born and raised in and love, so I did it very passionately,” Fanucci said.
In 2012, Fanucci was elected to city council, subsequently becoming council president for four years.
“It was a very interesting time. We were embattled with the mayor who was elected at the time on a number of issues. I had a very broad view of what I thought the city should start to shape up like and look like. We were very focused on getting the financial house in order, and that was important. Priorities at that time from the head of the administration were different than council’s priorities, and we butted heads a lot,” he said.
That, Fanucci said, is what prompted him to seek the mayoral seat.
“I felt that you needed an administrator here with a good vision. There’s an old saying: people don’t plan to fail; they fail because they don’t plan. I live by that quite often. We needed to put some real plans together in what we wanted to do to help the city; the reputation was being tarnished, and it’s not what I wanted to see for my hometown. I put a vision together, created marketing plans and different ideas—everything, really, we saw in the past four years, where we flourished, and we’re very proud of the work we did,” Fanucci said.
One of the successes during his first term of which Fanucci is proud is the rebranding of the city of Vineland.
“We had a period in time that we had poor leadership in certain areas, and it was really important for us to come out and be very strong vocal leaders, knowing how to be a diplomat as needed and heavy-handed as needed. We remarketed the city, we rebranded with a new logo, we resurfaced one of our taglines from many years ago to put it back in,” he said.
The tagline, Fanucci said, is, “It’s always growing season.”
“We brought that back—and I wanted to bring that back especially—because I felt that it really personifies Vineland. It doesn’t just mean necessarily that it’s produce, which we’re known for, but it’s growing season here. The idea is that we’re always going to be growing, and we’re always going to be open for business,” Fanucci said.
Fanucci also noted that attention has been payed to the city’s infrastructure needs, which he said “are long overdue here.”
“We have many roadways in disrepair, many issues with drainage and many utility service upgrades that needed to be made between water and sewer, and of course upgrades in the electric utility—and we’ve done that. We’ve really taken the bull by the horns and have created a plan for the infrastructure needs of the city, and not just a plan for year-to-year but a long-range plan,” he said.
Fanucci said that Vineland utilizes zero-based budgeting in their budgeting process, which he describes as a “very businesslike approach to that to try to bring some common sense into government—if that’s possible.”
“We’ve been very good at keeping our fiscal house in order, especially weathering the effects of the pandemic. If we had not made the difficult decisions we made in the first three years of my administration, we probably would have suffered greatly during this past year,” Fanucci said.
Fanucci noted that businesses have been faring fairly well in Vineland, expressing pride in the growth of the city’s industrial park as well as other areas.
“We’ve picked up businesses, and have many inquiries here from people wanting to come. We’re very proud of how our urban enterprise zone operates here. We’re very proud of what our utilities are able to do, offering water and electric at significantly lower rates than around us. Our residents and business owners have a lot to take advantage of in Vineland,” he said.
One project currently in the design phase that Fanucci found particularly noteworthy is a park for special-needs individuals of all ages.
“We’re going to be creating a sensory area; we’re going to be adding some components to it, so that anybody who has any kind of special need or disability will have the ability to utilize this park for not just exercise but time to relax, decompression, enjoying nature, and we’re going to try to get some fitness things in there as well to promote healthier living,” Fanucci said.
Fanucci said that these projects, and more—and the benefits they bring to the people of Vineland—are precisely why he wanted to become involved with local government.
“I don’t really like being political. I like being an elected official, and like doing the job—and doing it well, to the best of my ability—but I have passion for my town. I love Vineland. I love southern New Jersey, and, frankly, I love the state of New Jersey. I feel we are one of the greatest states in the union, if not the greatest. I believe that. I think we’ve got a long way to go to fix things at the state level—a lot of challenges to overcome—but I believe that New Jersey is a diamond, and I love our region and our area very much,” he said.
Fanucci also expressed an affinity for Hammonton, noting a number of similarities between the two municipalities—not the least of which is that both were designed either in whole or in part by developer Charles Landis.
“You guys have a lot of farmland, like we do. You have a little bit of a city, like we do. You have a great downtown, and you’ve got a lot of great people there,” he said.
Fanucci said that he frequently finds his way to Hammonton for “a variety of reasons.”
“A lot of times? Cannoli. I go over to Mannino’s quite often, probably more often than I should ... I remember going to Rollway Skating Rink years ago, and we still go to Bagliani’s now. We visit Annata often—the Brunozzis are friends of the family,” he said.
Friends and family, Fanucci said, are what have helped forged and maintain the relationship between Hammonton and Vineland.
“There are so many families that cross over, relatives and friends ... There’s a little Vineland and a little Hammonton in everybody,” Fanucci said.