RARITAN, NJ - Spirits were high Thursday at borough hall as a new generation took over the leadership of Raritan.
Zachary Bray, 29, was sworn in as Raritan’s new mayor and Nicolas Carra, 23, was sworn into his second term on council Jan. 2 during the borough’s annual reorganization meeting.
Returning councilman Paul Giraldi took the oath of office for his new term earlier in the day because he wasn’t feeling well and wasn’t sure he would be able to attend the evening meeting.
Giraldi is a veteran and former police officer. He is a fifth generation Raritan resident and this will be his fourth three-year council term.
Bray became Raritan’s mayor after serving four years on the council. His family has lived in the borough for over a century.
“My grandmother, father and mother were very involved in town affairs, such as the board of health, recreation and the St. Ann Festa but I am the first to hold elected office,” he said.
The new mayor graduated from Bridgewater-Raritan High School and he now teaches AP macroeconomics there. He attended Quinnipiac University in Connecticut where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history and a master's in education.
His family’s roots in the borough moved Bray to public service. “The reason I ran for mayor is the same reason I ran for council three years ago,” he said. “Raritan has given me and my family so much and this is my way of giving back.”
After thanking the voters for their faith in him and assuring everyone that he will always act in the best interests of Raritan, Bray said, “it’s time to think differently and move more proactively than we have in the previous decade.”
Now that he’s at the helm, Bray said he is determined to make a difference in Raritan’s future.
“I grew up with stories about all of the wonderful places of business Raritan had to offer, and I have watched our business district slowly deteriorate over the years,” he said. “My main goal as mayor is to restore Somerset Street and the surrounding areas to a desirable location for viable businesses to open and operate successfully.”
The biggest obstacle for current and potential downtown businesses, according to the new mayor, is the availability of downtown parking spaces, a situation he is determined to remedy.
He also said he will be strictly enforcing maintenance ordinances and holding vacant property owners responsible for their buildings.
In his state of the borough address, Bray outlined all of his priorities for his term of office, and, in addition to revitalizing Somerset Street, he is focused on resurrecting the Raritan Mall by first bringing in a grocery store.
Finally Bray mentioned establishing accountability.
“We have excellent employees,” he said, “but we need to clearly communicate with them.”
In particular, he mentioned the need for employee reviews.
“We need to tighten things up and clearly outline goals and expectations,” he said.
Since Bray was in the middle of council term when he was elected mayor, the council will vote on his replacement at the Jan. 14 meeting.
Carra was sworn in twice at the reorganization meeting, first for a second term on the council and again as the new council president.
Carra, a fifth generation Raritan resident, is beginning his second three-year term on the council. He is the grandson of former Mayor Anthony Hudak and son of former councilwoman Denise Carra.
Also, at the reorganization meeting, annual appointments and council liaison assignments were approved.
Judge Katherine Esposito Howes read the oaths of office and Rev. Thomas Odorizzi, of St. Ann Catholic Church, gave the invocation.
Many elected officials attended the meeting including Somerset County freeholders Brian Levine and Brian Gallagher; Hudak; former council members Edward Zimmerman and Carra; and Manville Mayor Richard Onderko.