Borough of Buena—Now in his second term, Borough of Buena Mayor David Zappariello (R) has been both interested and involved in politics from a young age.
“My father, Gennaro—Jerry—was a Buena Borough councilman for close to 16 years so I grew up around politics, and his influence for public service rubbed off on me very early,” Zappariello told The Gazette.
Zappariello, a 1983 graduate of St. Augustine Preparatory School in Richland, N.J., said that his interest in governance began while he was a student.
“I ran for class president numerous times in grade school and class representative at St. Augustine Prep. I was also heavily involved in student government in college, ultimately being elected as president my senior year,” Zappariello said.
Zappariello went on to attend Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla., where he graduated in 1987 with a bachelor of arts degree in English and written communications. He lives in the Borough of Buena with his wife, Stephanie—whom he married in 1990—and together they have two children: Alanna, 26, and Gennaro, 20.
Zappariello’s involvement with borough government started when he was 23 years old.
“I filled an unexpired term as a councilman for one year. I ran for election the following year and can remember losing by 76 votes. But, still wanting to be involved, I served on the Buena Borough Housing Authority, recreation commission, planning and zoning board—now the land use board—and the municipal utilities authority,” Zappariello said.
In 2006, Zappariello said, he was asked by then-mayor Joseph Baruffi to run on his slate for a seat on borough council.
“In 2007, I was elected and served until 2015. When Mayor Baruffi decided not to run for reelection, I threw my hat in the ring and was elected mayor in January 2016,” Zappariello said.
During the course of the past five years, Zappariello said, both he and the borough have experienced a number of successes, but there is one in particular of which he is “extremely proud.”
“Since being elected, my council and I have eliminated an annual municipal tax rate increase since 2016. In 2015, the annual municipal tax rate increase was 5 cents per $100, 2016, 4.6 cents, 2017, 2.8 cents,” Zappariello said.
From 2018 through 2020, Zappariello said, there was a zero-cent increase in the municipal tax rate.
“We are working on the 2021 budget with the hope we can continue to save Buena Borough residents their hard earned money so they can spend it on their families rather than escalating taxes,” Zappariello said.
Zappariello noted that the Borough of Buena also enjoys its shared-services agreement with Franklin Twp., which started under his administration.
“In January of 2018, the governing body made the difficult decision to dissolve our police force and sign a five-year agreement with Franklin Twp. for police protection. That decision was met with much criticism and was the most difficult year in my political life. When I signed that agreement, I knew in a few years’ time we would be saving about $500,000; and, for a small town like Buena Borough, that is critical for financial sustainability,” Zappariello said.
Zappariello also spoke highly of the borough’s emergency medical services.
“I’m happy and proud our taxpayers find it important to have an emergency medical service that runs 24/7. While one of the larger line items in our budget, knowing our residents will have an ambulance at their door within five minutes, many times within two or three, helps me sleep well at night,” Zappariello said.
In the future, Zappariello hopes to see more economic growth within the borough.
“I would like to see more businesses locate within the town, not only to help sustain the current tax rate but to provide goods and services so that residents spend their money more locally. We’re working on attracting more services for seniors—since our population is getting older—and I’d like to see our residents age in place rather than leave the borough,” Zappariello said.
One type of business in particular that Zappariello would like to see is a community bank.
“I’ve called on many financial institutions and am still looking for one to call Buena Borough home. I believe there is a great market and huge potential if someone is willing to take the chance,” Zappariello said.
During his tenure as mayor—and previously, on council and serving on borough boards and committees—Zappariello has come to appreciate the dedication that local government and politics require.
“I give a lot of credit for anyone who wants to get involved with politics and serve their community. It’s true, you need very thick skin, but this work is extremely satisfying—and no matter what anyone says, it is work,” Zappariello said.
Besides his work in government, Zappariello serves on the Board of Directors for the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce and is a member of the Board of Trustees for the Atlantic County Economic Alliance. He also works full-time as the chief of staff at the South Jersey Transportation Authority, which brings him into Hammonton frequently.
“I have always had a great relationship with Hammonton, and call many of the elected officials—both locally and on a county level—friends. And, with the last name of Zappariello, you can imagine how many times I visit Bagliani’s and Bruni’s Pizza,” Zappariello said.