CHATHAM, NJ -- At the first meeting in which the public was allowed to attend since the pandemic began, Chatham Township Mayor Tracy Ness announced Thursday night that she was resigning her position and will be moving out of town next month.

The resignation is effective noon Friday, June 11. Ness and her family will be moving to Basking Ridge.

The Democrats will present three candidates to replace Ness for the remainder of the year at its June 24 meeting.

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Ness reminisces about her years of service at the conclusion of the meeting

On April 5, Ness announced she was not running for a new three-year term on the committee and endorsed former committee member Kathy Abbott as her replacement.

Ness, who covered Chatham Township Committee meetings for the Independent Press before she got into politics, wrote her own resignation press release, which can be read below:

“Thanks to everyone who has inspired me, supported me, worked side by side, shared our frustrations and laughter and made Chatham Township better.” she said. “We moved here as newlyweds 26 years ago, raised our family, worked and volunteered in our community and we have many wonderful memories. I will miss serving our community and all the terrific people, past and present.” 

Ness took office in 2019 defeating Republican incumbent Kevin Sullivan and becoming the only Democrat on the five-person committee. She became Deputy Mayor in 2020 welcoming two more Democrats Stacey Ewald and Celeste Fondaco to the committee and was appointed Mayor in 2021. 

“It has been a very exciting time to be on the committee as we have stopped being stagnant and are moving forward with a view to what our residents want Chatham Township to be in the future,” she said. “We started a goals and objective process in 2019 identifying both the ‘need to fix’ and the ‘where we need to go.’ We have fixed a lot of our internal systems, completed building and road repairs and, this year, the township will embark on creating a new master plan, a recreational plan and focus on what the township can be.” 

According to Ness, one of the biggest goals accomplished was obtaining more than $1 million in grants from a variety of programs for HVAC systems, trails, sidewalks, shared services, electronic vehicle charging stations as well as funding from FEMA for a new phone system, computers and servers. “And we were able to renegotiate the previous administration’s Affordable Housing settlement to provide both group homes and a veteran’s set aide taking that building off River Road and putting it closer to services at the 522 Southern Boulevard site,” she said. 

What Happens Next?

As with previous resignations and set by statute, the seat will be filled with a person from the same party that vacated the seat. In this case, three Democratic candidates, chosen by the Township Democratic Committee, will be presented to the Township Committee at the next meeting on June 24th. The candidate receiving the most votes will be appointed to fill the vacated seat that evening. If there is no consensus then the choice will remand back to the Democratic Committee and that person will be appointed at the following meeting in July.

The last resignation happened in 2017 with John Maurer leaving, also due to a move, and former Mayor Tayfun Selen was chosen by the Township Republican Committee to fill the vacated seat. Once the seat is filled, Committee members will also vote to appoint a new Mayor and Deputy Mayor.