Teaneck—Local councilmember Yitz Stern introduced Governor Chris Christie to locals on a recent campaign visit to Teaneck. Stern is campaigning locally on Christie’s behalf and also works on two state groups concerning Holocaust education and Israel; he was appointed to both committees by the governor.
“I try to follow the Christie model,” Stern said about his method of leadership. “He tells it like it is and doesn’t sugar coat anything.”
In addition to his work under Christie, Stern works with his six fellow council members to write policy and pass local ordinances. Stern is also responsible for the fiscal side of the Bergen Fire and Police academy in Mahwah. In addition, he teaches at Fairleigh Dickinson University and serves on the board of directors of Cross River Bank, the only bank in the state under Shomer Shabbat auspices with special dispensation to close on all Jewish holidays.
Some people struggle to make a resume one page long, Yitz Stern’s is a full three.
The address capping off Stern’s resume is in Teaneck where he has lived for 33 years and worked on the town council for 15 years. “I’m a big guy so I can split myself into a lot of different places,” Stern said.
Many of Stern’s opportunities to “tell it like it is Christie style” occur in the classroom. He has taught four or five business and economic courses a year at FDU since 2006. The experience has been rewarding for him because of the inherent intelligence of college-age students.
Business and economics have been woven into Stern’s life for years. He worked in market and consumer research for 20 years before taking his business acumen from the private to the public sector. “I’ve always thought that, as much as possible, government should be run like a business,” Stern said.
A main business component in helping to run Teaneck comes down to taxes. The section of Route 4 that runs through Teaneck, the “Route 4 Green Belt,” is the only undeveloped part of the highway. As a result of that and other decisions, the majority of taxes in Teaneck come from single family homes. “I would be thrilled if we were able to find other commercial, retail developments to help ease the tax burden on homeowners,” Stern said.
To Stern, all of the seven council members have the best interests of the town in mind and to enhance community life they need to deal with a “constant tug of war” between residents and tax burdens so that he town can be developed responsibly.
“As a councilmember, I am often contacted by residents who need help navigating the red tape that typically presents itself in and by government,” Stern said about his most important responsibility. “From an overall perspective and not zeroing in on a particular issue, I think that my overall life experience in both the public and private sectors has made a difference in my ability to guide others through the ‘system’ as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
Much of the know-how Stern has comes from his education and many certifications. Stern has a bachelor’s degree in economics from City College and is a state certified Public Manager. He’s also in the middle of certification to become a certified finance officer and is part of the Bergen Leads program, which aims to make people more familiar with the county government.
“It’s not necessarily for the certification,” Stern said. “It’s to help me further understand how government works.”
In addition to government work in both the county and town, Stern coached little league baseball for all his kids. Another field of involvement for Stern was weddings. During his time as deputy mayor from 2000-2002, Stern officiated a number of weddings.
“I think that the variety of sectors I’m involved in makes it all more interesting,” Stern said.
Stern has a varied and heavy workload, but what it comes down to for him is that “Government is a service industry and the customers are our residents.”
By Aliza Chasan