Mayor Bruno, Councilmen Delia and Pirone Take Office in Berkeley Heights; Amey Upchurch Appointed Township Administrator

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - For the first time since Berkeley Heights changed its form of government in 2007 the township now has an all-Republican Township Council.

At Saturday’s re-organization meeting of the governing body last year’s Republican council president, Joseph Bruno, was sworn in as mayor.

Also taking their oaths of office were Republican Councilmen Edward Delia and Thomas Pirone.

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Joining in and participating in the festivities were dignitaries from the state and federal governments.

Mayor Bruno was sworn in by State Senator Thomas Kean, Jr., while Councilman Pirone was sworn in by 7thCongressional District Representative Leonard Lance.

In addition, Senator Kean was joined by Assembly members Jon Bramnick and Nancy Munoz in presenting a commendation for his service as acting mayor to Robert Woodruff. Woodruff stepped in to serve the remainder of the term of Mayor David A. Cohen last spring when Cohen was appointed by Governor Chris Christie as director of personnel for the state.

In his remarks following the swearing-in ceremony, Lance promised the continued cooperation of federal officials with the township in these difficult fiscal times.

The council also approved the appointment of Amey Upchurch as the township’s new business administrator.

Bruno noted the new administrator comes to the township from the New Jersey Division of Local Government Services and that she formerly served as mayor of Bedminster Township and administrator in Essex Fells.

Also approved was the appointment of Ana Minkoff as acting township clerk.

Bruno noted Minkoff will be taking courses toward her certification as a township clerk.

Minkoff, who has been with the township since 2007, has served as clerk to the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment. She replaces Township Clerk Patricia Rapach, who left her post due to illness, according to Bruno.

The council also voted to name Kevin Hall as its president for 2011. Last year’s Council Vice President Elaine K. Perna also was nominated for president this year, but she declined the nomination according to the mayor. Perna was not present at the organization session.

Voted in as Council Vice President for 2011 was Craig Pastore.

Thomas Scrivo was reappointed township attorney, while Michael Mitzner was named municipal prosecutor, August Santore was appointed public defender and Hall was named council representative to the Planning Board.

The Council also approved a temporary 2011 municipal budget appropriating $1,549,475 for salaries and wages and $3,068,850 for other expenses. The temporary budget will cover township expenses until a permanent 2011 municipal budget is adopted.

In another action, the governing body introduced an ordinance creating the position of acting township clerk. That ordinance is scheduled for public hearing and final adoption on Tuesday, January 11.

Asked about the challenges facing the township during the coming year, Bruno said the top priority will be the budget and the constraints put on the township by the poor economy and the state-imposed 2% cap on municipal spending.

To meet these challenges, he added, Berkeley Heights will have to put a greater emphasis on sharing services with other communities and other levels of government and the township’s government will have to carefully evaluate every position in the municipal building to make sure it serves Berkeley Heights in a method most beneficial to taxpayers.

He also noted a possible appeal by Lucent Technologies of the assessment of its property in Berkeley Heights will present a challenge to the township.

The mayor added while the all-Republican council may make it somewhat easier to work in harmony, he knew there would be disagreements but welcomed them as long as all members of the governing body proceed with respect and work together for the good of the township.

He also welcomed resident input at council sessions and pledged to treat all residents with respect.

Many of these comments were seconded by Stephen Yellin, a Democratic Township Council candidate this past November, who called on the council members to have the “R” after each of their names, in addition to Republican, stand for “respect, responsibility and results.”

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