BERNARDS TWP., NJ _ Bernards Township Mayor Carol Bianchi, a member of the Bernards Township Committee since August 2013, announced this week she will not seek election to a third term in this year's campaign.

"I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve the residents for 6-plus years, especially as [township] mayor in 2016 and this year [2019]," Bianchi said in a statement issued on Friday.

[Updated] Bianchi's decision means that there will be another new face on the Bernards Township Committee starting next year. Two new members, Joe Esposito and Joan Bannan Harris -- the first Democrat to serve on the Township Committee in 20 years -- were sworn in at the January reorganization meeting. This year's deputy mayor, James Baldassare, Jr., just took office at the beginning of 2018.

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Bianchi, a Republican, was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Township Committee, and won election that November. Her first full term began in 2014, and she ran for re-election in 2016, during her first term as township mayor. 

Bianchi began her second full term in January 2017, with that term due to expire at the end of this year. She was selected for another one-year term as mayor by her fellow Township Committee members at the January 2019 reorganization meeting.

[Updated] Bianchi's announcement came just shortly before the local Republican and Democratic organizations decide which candidate to endorse for the one seat up up for election this November.  The re-energized Bernards Township Democratic Committee has issued a call-out for candidates, and expects to screen candidates in March.

Since two longtime GOP Township Committee members, Carolyn Gaziano and John Malay, declined to seek election to additional terms in 2018, the Bernards Township Republican Municipal Committee has also been seeking candidates to endorse. This year's screening for the local Republican committee’s endorsement will be held at the Liberty Corner Firehouse beginning at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 18, according to information from the BTRMC. 

This Monday, Janice Fields, a 27-year resident of the township and Somerset County Republican State Committeewoman for five years, announced she will seek the local Republican committee's endorsement as a candidate for the Township Committee seat that Bianchi will be vacating. Among other roles, Fields also is Chair of the Somerset County Commission on the Status of Women.

'Proud of governing body's record'

In her statement regarding her decision, Bianchi said, "I'm proud of the governing body's record on financial responsibility, safety, and open space. Bernards Township continues to be an extraordinary place to live and raise a family." She added, "During my tenure, I worked to continue and build on these accomplishments by creating opportunities for civic engagement, opening new channels for public input, and increasing communication." 

Bianchi also officially thanked the township staff, professionals, volunteers, and colleagues for "all your contributions and support," she said, adding, "And thank you to the residents for all you do to make this community outstanding."

"The people of Bernards Township have always been welcoming and generous," Bianchi said." By serving on the Township Committee and boards, I hope I have given back something for all that my family has received," she said.

"I love this community and I look forward to the days ahead," Bianchi said.

Bianchi and her husband Rich have been residents of Bernards Township since 2001. They have four children, with one each attending Ridge High School, William Annin Middle School, University of Miami, and Tufts University.

According to her bio on the Bernards Township website, Bianchi's community service includes: serving on the Planning Board as chairperson, and on the zoning board of adjustment, as well as the Environmental Commission.

Bianchi was an active organizer and co-leader of the citizens group "Citizens for a Clean and Safe Millington Quarry," that brought to light the concerns about contaminated soil at the large quarrying operation off Stonehouse Road.

Bianchi had also volunteered as president and public relations coordinator for William Annin Middle School Athletic Organization and as parent liaison to the District Curriculum Committee. She is a St. James Parish Volunteer and Republican Campaign Volunteer.

In 2016, Bianchi received the Somerset County Governing Officials Outstanding elected government official of the year award, and the Outstanding Woman of the Year in government from the Somerset County Commission on the Status of Women.

Last year, she received the Millicent Fenwick award and recognition at the NJ League of Municipalities Women in Municipal Government for outstanding government service. 

Bianchi has served as the co-chairperson of the Somerset County Employers Legislative Committee since 2015, on the legislative affairs committee for the Somerset County Business Partnership, and also on the Board of Governors for the New Jersey Federation of Republican Women. She is a member of the NJ League of Municipalities Legislative Committee. 

Professionally, she has been a practicing attorney who also had served as a legal publisher and clerked for a New Jersey Chancery Equity judge.