NEWTON, NJ—The Newton Town Council swore in a new mayor, deputy mayor and three council members, including two first term members at the annual re-organization meeting, Sunday, July 1.
Despite the heat and humidity, the municipal building was standing room only with family, friends and residents on hand to watch new members take their oaths.
Municipal Clerk Lorraine Read led the meeting. It began with an invocation by Deacon Thomas Zayac of St. Joseph’s Church, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Incumbent Sandra Diglio was sworn-in first. She had attorney Sanford Hollander swear her in, while Read held the bible.
First term councilmen, Jason Schlaffer and Matthew Dickson were next. Schlaffer had attorney Thomas H. Prol administer his oath. Dickson had Read swear him in while his two sons held the bible.
Leadership roles were then decided.
Diglio nominated Helen LeFois as Mayor. It was moved by Dickson and seconded by Daniel Flynn. A unanimous yes resounded from the council. LeFois was sworn in to the position surrounded by her husband and three children.
Schlaffer nominated Flynn to be Deputy Mayor. It was moved by Diglio and seconded by LeFois. Another unanimous round of yes. Flynn was sworn in as Deputy Mayor surrounded by his wife and friends.
Town Manager, Thomas S Russo Jr., thanked Wayne Levante, former Mayor and Kevin Elvidge, former Deputy Mayor and councilman for over 20 years, for their service and for “helping turn Newton into a great community.”
Flynn and LeFois each thanked those in attendance including Freeholder Carl Lazzaro, members of the Newton Fire Department, Police Chief Michael Richards and members of the Newton Police Department, Little Mister Newton, Noah Osborne, Little Miss Newton, Ishtar Jaoudy, and Miss Newton, Hannah Squires and family and friends of the council members.
Diglio, Dickson and Schlaffer said a few words of thanks to their families for the support they have given them, to their fellow council members, and to all the residents and voters. Dickson and Schlaffer noted that they were both very excited to get started on a new Newton.
Flynn began by congratulating the new members, Diglio on her re-election and LeFois on her election to Mayor. He went on to thank the police department, the staff of the town and the department of public works workers. He then said the following:
“Newton has made great strides towards restoring itself as a regional center of commerce over the past several years and that effort is ongoing. As a council it is important that we foster and promote this economic development while constantly thinking of new ways to improve efficiency and reduce redundancy. We are in the process of creating a new Master Plan for the Town of Newton and I look forward to the newly organized council’s direction on this. Our center business district has seen revitalization over the past 3 years and our goal is to keep that momentum moving forward. Our redevelopment plans are seeing increased interest from developers, and we are right now in the process of seeing a large expansion project for Thor Labs right in our downtown. Most importantly the roll of the council is to be the body of reason and understanding to our residents’ needs. We will continue to act professionally and courteously to our residents and business owners’ needs. The council intends on restoring the good working relationship it had with the Board of Education and supporting their efforts to bring home the correct state funding that this district deserves under state law.”
LeFois went next, again thanking the police department, first aid squad, fire department, her family and all those that the council works with throughout the many projects it does.
“As I was preparing my comments for today, I was thinking about all of the work ahead of us this year, and four thoughts kept coming to mind. I’ll call them the four C’s; customer service, communication, collaboration, and community. As a municipal government entity, we are in the business of customer service. The work conducted here, the decisions made by this team, and the day to day results of our staff all revolve around the customer service we provide to our residents, our tax payers, our businesses and out community partners. The people of the Town of Newton want to know that their children attend good schools, that their streets are safe, that emergency services will respond when needed, that their water supply can be counted on, and that they will received good and fair services in exchange for the taxes they pay. The next C is communication. Gone are the days of undisciplined and negative rhetoric and discourse. This council is a council of positivity that will have a can-do attitude and be driven to achieve goals. We want to be proactive about sharing and promoting achievements and accomplishments in town, and that is why I am so pleased to announce that by the next council meeting, the technology should be in place to record all of our council meetings. The recording will then be available for viewing on our website the next day. In addition, we will begin to have department presentations on a rotating basis at each of our council meetings. This will facilitate interactive conversation between the council and the department heads and it will enable department heads to share updates and success directly with the council. The next C is collaboration. Collaboration between willing parties working together towards a common goal is the only way to make true progress and attain our goals. Internally, we will work with staff to review their recommendations of the shared services departmental review that’s currently underway. The town council and board of education will continue to work together in a positive and supportive manner on behalf of the students and families in our schools. Collaborative work in planning, zoning, community development, and construction will, once again, be a priority for this council. Over the next year, we will see new businesses open on Spring Street and revisions made to our Master Plan such as:
- Continued clean up and redevelopment of the Armory
- Reinvestment in the former Bula’s property
- Progress on the G&H redevelopment plan
- Completion on the improvements to Retro Fitness
- Work to begin on the ThorLabs expansion
- Complete reconstruction of Fire House #2
- Working more collaboratively with the Newton Theatre
- The new apartments in the Newton Town Centre are almost all occupied
- Comprehensive and inclusive conversations will begin very soon regarding the McGuire’s redevelopment area
The final C is community. When I think about all that Newton has to offer, I’m proud of the community we have and want others to feel the same. We’re working hard to make Newton a town where you can not only live, but work and play too, where residents feel a sense of community, and where visitors want to return to time and time again.
As I mentioned before, we have a lot of work to day- but we’re ready. As I look around this room, I know we have the right team in place to continue to accomplish great things and I’m so proud to be on this journey with each of you. Matt and Jason, welcome to the municipal family. My advice to you is to make decisions from a position of being informed and always ask yourselves ‘what is the best decision for the Town of Newton?’ Most people are supportive, some will always be nay-sayers, but at the end of the day, as a team, we always make decisions that are thoughtful, informed, and with the best intentions, trying to mitigate unintended consequences. Dan and Sandy, I look forward to continuing to work with you. You both have proven, time and time again, your commitment to the Town of Newton. You both have knowledge and skills that bring value and a unique perspective to the dais. I am so appreciative of your support and camaraderie. Tom, I am so excited to work with you and your team in the capacity as Mayor again. I truly appreciate all of the hard work everyone on the municipal staff puts forth on a daily basis and I know you all share in the vision and the passion of the Town of Newton. Thank you in advance for your support and continued hard work. We have a lot of work to do, but I am confident that we will get it all done.”
After Flynn and LeFois gave their thanks, the meeting continued with the approval of the consent agenda, which included appointments and designations of certain council members fulfilling roles on other boards, as well as the designation of Tapinto Newton as the official Electronic News Source of the Town of Newton.
A Benediction was given by Deacon Zayac before the meeting was adjourned. A reception followed for the new council at the Newton Town Centre in their new community center, all in attendance were welcomed.