LIVINGSTON, NJ — Hundreds of Livingston Township residents, employees and volunteers supported their elected officials on News Years Day by attending the 2020 reorganization meeting, where Rufino “Rudy” Fernandez and Shawn Klein were officially sworn in as mayor and deputy mayor, respectively, for the next year.
As his wife, Patty, held the Bible, Fernandez’s daughter, Samantha, delivered the Oath of Office.
“Rudy, you are a thoughtful and good person; and as I tend to point out, your long service on this council has given you crucial institutional memory,” said Klein as he seconded outgoing mayor Al Anthony’s nomination of Fernandez for mayor. “Collectively, we have leaned on your gathered knowledge time and time again. You have been around for long enough to know you to have the long view...You are a good and loyal friend, and I am excited to work closely with you this coming year.”
As per tradition, Fernandez provided gifts to the former mayor, including a clock that read, “Whatever time, I’m always late,” a bobble head doll with Anthony’s face and a Livingston golf shirt emblazoned with “Mayor Al.” As a former mayor, Anthony also received a ceremonial gavel for his service in 2019.
Continuing another Livingston tradition, Fernandez also presented flowers to former First Lady Lori Anthony as a thank you her for allowing her husband to focus so much of his time to government activities over the last year.
In turn, Anthony also presented flowers to Fernandez’s wife to thank her in advance for letting her husband spend endless hours working on township matters and gave her a bouquet of flowers.
On his last day as mayor, Anthony recapped some of the township’s many recent accomplishments—a list of which can be found by CLICKING HERE—and also thanked the former mayors who have “had the foresight” to put the township in a position to be able to accomplish them.
Klein’s sons, Jack and Leo, also had the honor of swearing in their father and read the oath in unison.
Both he and Fernandez looked to the future in their comments, with Klein speaking about goals such as making Livingston a more walkable and bike-able township. He noted that the township recently took a step in the right direction by going out to bid on the Wardell Road Pedestrian Bridge.
He also declared that the council “will be vigilant against racism and anti-Semitism” in the coming year.
“It is terrible how important it is to have to emphasize this in the current atmosphere: this council will make sure to be vigilant against racism and anti-Semitism,” he said. “We have a capable police force who we will fully fund, and we will be forward thinking, and we will do whatever is possible to keep our residents safe.”
Fernandez spoke about hosting public forums to discuss certain issues such as how Livingston would handle the potential legalization of marijuana.
He also took the opportunity to explain that Livingston’s method of having the council rotate mayors has been successful for many years and clarified that the mayor’s vote on all matters throughout his or her term is weighed the same as the other council members.
“Since under this form of government, the mayor has the same vote as any other council member, it allows the entire council to focus on long-term goals and therefore projects that almost always overlap a number of ‘mayoral years,’” he said. “Therefore, council discussions always focus on the long-term benefits to the town—those that will be here long after we are gone and forgotten.”
Councilman Michael Vieira, who was officially sworn in as an elected council member in November after serving as an appointed member for several months, thanked his wife and children for their support and sacrifices that enable him to dedicate time to Livingston.
He also mentioned the myriad of resident volunteers and public safety officials who “make us look good.”
“I’m not sure if there is any other town that can boast about the volume of volunteerism on town committees as well as on outside organizations such as the Livingston Kiwanis, Rotary, UNICO, Lions, AARP, BID, Sanskriti and other community organizations and groups,” said Vieira. “Together, we are Livingston.”
Vieira and his fellow council members all recognized Township Manager Barry Lewis, Township Clerk Glenn Turtletaub, Township Attorney Sharon Wiener, the Livingston Police and Fire Departments, department heads, employees and volunteers.
As the council members took turns reflecting on some of the standout moments of 2019, some of the following events and achievements were among the common ones mentioned:
- First annual Religions of the World ceremony (CLICK HERE for full story.)
“This event just proved how Livingston is a community made up of different nationalities, religions and cultures all living together peacefully and learning from one another,” said Vieira. “We are one Livingston, and we will not let hate reside here.”
- Livingston Vision 20/20 Mini-Surveys
“The committee chair, Alan Karpas, along with all of the committee members, past and current, have done tremendous work during this time, and their achievements need to be acknowledged,” said Fernandez, who urged residents to take the committee’s monthly mini-survey by CLICKING HERE.
- Recognition of various volunteer committees such as Livingston Neighbors Helping Neighbors, Livingston Advisory Committee for Disabilities, Livingston Committee for Diversity and Inclusion, Livingston Municipal Alliance Committee and more
“[Resident volunteers] are the spirit, backbone and core of our town,” said Meinhardt.
- Adoption of an Energy Aggregation Program that has provided 100 percent renewable energy to a majority of residents with considerable savings to taxpayers (CLICK HERE for the full story.)
- Purchase of more than 20 acres of open space between two properties (CLICK HERE for the full story.)
- Acquisition of land for new DPW headquarters (CLICK HERE for the full story.)
- Completion of first phase of Riker Hill Art Park improvements (CLICK HERE for the full story.)
- Adoption of the second-lowest tax rate in Essex County. (CLICK HERE for full story.)
Lewis echoed some of those same achievements and also expressed gratitude to the following community members for their hard work and support of the township over the last year:
- Assemblywoman Mila Jasey;
- Saint Barnabas Medical Center (SBMC) Vice President of Community Health Margie Heller and other SBMC officials;
- Deputy Township Manager Russ Jones;
- Township Clerk Glenn Turtletaub and his staff;
- Police Chief Gary Marshuetz and Captains John Drumm and Tom Smith;
- Fire Chief Christopher Mullin and Assistant Chief Kevin Francione;
- Members of the Department of Public Works (DPW);
- Members of his own office staff;
- Senior, Youth & Leisure Service (SLYS);
- Livingston Health Department;
- Livingston First Aid Squad President Pat Ippolito;
- All five council members; and
- All resident volunteers.
New to the meeting this year was a presentation from a local business owner.
In a special ceremony, Livingston’s resident photographer Jan Press unveiled a professional portrait of current council members Anthony, Fernandez, Klein, Ed Meinhardt and Michael Vieira to commemorate all that the current administration has accomplished as a team. The framed portrait is pictured above and will be hung at Livingston Town Hall.
Directing the audience’s attention to the official meeting agenda, which listed all of the local committees and the members of those committees, the township council unanimously approved all of this year’s committee appointments as well as the liaisons to those committees.
In a room decorated by flowers donated by Norman Florist, a reception sponsored by Calabria Restaurant and Justina Falafal immediately followed the meeting.