Chances are if you follow Trenton politics you have heard of Mike Ranallo, the co-founder of the popular Trenton Facebook group, Trenton Orbit. Boasting over 4,000 members on Facebook, the group touches on topics ranging from city council meetings to quality of life issues, such as trash collection and pothole complaints. Over the years, Ranallo has also become known as a government watchdog and an outspoken critic of Mayor Reed Gusciora, who frequently live streams city council meetings and researches city codes to inform the civic-engaged community. Come November, if Ranallo has his way he will add council at-large to the long list of career accomplishments.
“I finally said to myself, 'I could do better.' I look at the way the council is working together and the dysfunction and the chaos…I know I could do better. The city is not moving forward. The council is fighting with the mayor, the mayor is fighting with the council. We need a council that is cohesive and not combative,” said the West Ward resident, who purchased his dream home in the Hilltonia section 18 years ago. After getting the blessing from his wife to run for office, Ranallo filed paperwork with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission to show his intent to run for an at-large seat.
Growing up between West Windsor and Princeton, Ranallo was raised by his mother and grandmother, and was excellent at math and science as a student in the West Windsor School District. He holds a B.S. degree in Political Science from Rider College and an A.S. in Criminal Justice from Mercer Community College. He cites working for a hi-tech start-up company in the mid-90s that was sold in 2000 for $630,000,000 as a career highlight. "Me being involved as an employee in a start up that sold for a tremendous amount of money shows I can work collectively with others regardless of personality to build something with perceived value, much like Trenton needs."
An avid soccer player, Ranallo, is on the Executive Board of Trenton Animals Rock and often does community work, such as clothes drives with his Trenton Orbit members. If elected to office, Ranallo would find the time to serve the public by cutting back on soccer and stepping back from running Trenton Orbit. One of the ways Ranallo believes he stands out from other candidates is that he is self-funding his campaign. "I am not a fan of [identity politics]. I understand voter representation and demographic variation, but saying 'I am from Trenton, vote for me' does not cut it for me. Tony Mack was from Trenton, enough said there."
It was three months ago, when Ranallo decided that he wanted to throw his hat into the ring for the $25,000 a year part-time council position. Trenton natives Crystal Feliciano and Kadja Manuel have already announced plans to run for council at-large seats. Recently, councilman at-large, Jerell Blakely, put in his resignation to vacate his seat at the end of January to pursue other opportunities out of state.
“I follow council meetings. I live broadcast them and I just looked at the situation in the city and I finally said to myself that I could do better. I look at the way that the council is working together and the dysfunction and the chaos, I know I can do better,” said the 54-year-old, who currently works full-time in quality management for a hi-tech company based in Germany. Current city council members have made headlines over back-and-forth disparaging remarks with Mayor Reed Gusciora that has left many Trentonians disappointed in the city’s leadership.
“When you see the lack of progress you just say ‘Why bother?’ For some people it’s just easier to move out and leave. Some people just give up.” Instead of giving up hope on realizing the dream version of Trenton he wants to see, Ranallo figures the next logical step to impact the city would be as a councilman. This wouldn’t be Ranallo’s first time campaigning; in 2018 he stumped for Paul Perez in his bid for mayor of Trenton. Since Mayor Gusciora’s victory, Ranallo has remained a staunch critic of the mayor.
“I don’t want to walk around asking people for money in a city that’s kind of economically depressed. I don’t see the point in asking my neighbor to fund election signs that are going to be put in the garbage. If I’m successful and this incoming council is successful, then Trenton is going to become a better place to live.”