MONTVILLE, NJ – The Montville Township Committee held its reorganization meeting on Jan. 1. The committee elected member Richard Conklin as mayor and re-elected Frank Cooney as deputy mayor.
Under Montville Township code, residents do not directly elect the mayor or deputy mayor. The township committee privately caucuses in December to choose these positions and then a member makes a motion to choose them as a formality at the reorganization meeting in January.
Conklin said although he wanted to keep his speech short, a complete book would not be enough to express his thoughts and feelings.
Conklin said he grew up in Towaco and served as a volunteer firefighter and on various commissions and boards. He said he always served, but never had any political ambitions and never considered himself a politician.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine sitting in the center seat or being mayor of Montville Township,” he said.
He thanked the residents and his colleagues on the committee for “entrusting me to this position."
“It’s really an honor and a privilege,” he said.
He promised to listen to residents and preserve the quality of life in the township.
Newly elected committee member Matthew Kayne, formerly president of the school board, and June Witty were sworn in at the meeting by Sheriff James Gannon, each surrounded by their families.
Kayne thanked Gannon for the honor of being sworn in by him, thanked those who helped him to be elected, and thanked the volunteers and township employees who make Montville Township great. He said he looked forward to working with the other committee members to do an excellent job representing the citizens of all three areas of the township.
Witty thanked the dedicated volunteers and outgoing committee members Jim Sandham and Deb Nielson for their work in improving Montville Township. She said she thought the township committee has the friendly and professional relationship that is needed to make tough decisions going forward.
Outgoing Mayor Jim Sandham and Committee Member Deb Nielson said goodbye to their colleagues, friends and families, but this time not from the dais.
Nielson thanked Sandham and spotlighted his accomplishments regarding the negotiations with JCP&L and the placement of power lines, and questioning sewer rates the township pays to Parsippany (read about it here). She said she was excited about the continuance of Montville Day, she acknowledged her township committee colleagues and their excellent working relationship and congratulated Witty and Kayne.
“It is with pride that I reflect over the many township committee accomplishments achieved over the last 12 years,” she said. “It is with mixed emotions that I once again become a private citizen and community volunteer.”
Sandham thanked the citizens of the township “for the privilege to be a leader in your town.” He also thanked Nielson for her hard work, countless hours spent and sacrifices she made. He thanked his colleagues on the township committee as well and also congratulated incoming members Kayne and Witty.
“To the administration, staff, DPW and police: you have a tough job – the township committee expects perfection!” Sandham joked. “I appreciate your dedication."
“To the ‘challengers’: to those that came to meetings, you play an important role in our democracy and we heard you,” Sandham said. “When individuals were less than courteous and made personal attacks, you did your cause a disservice.”
He also thanked his supporters and his family, as did all the speakers.
Reverend Mark Olenowski of St. Pius X Church offered the opening prayer. The Montville Township Police Explorers Post 805 presented the colors and led the Pledge of Allegiance. Montville Township High School sophomore Jeffrey Gallup sang the National Anthem and “God Bless America.” Rabbi Mark Finkel of the Pine Brook Jewish Center led the closing benediction.
Committee Member Richard Cook was ill and could not attend the meeting. Conklin made a “State of Montville Township” address which will be covered in a separate article.