MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The Township Committee held their reorganization meeting by Zoom on New Year’s Day following a private in-person swearing in at the Maplewood Municipal Building for Committee Member Vic DeLuca and Deputy Mayor Dean Dafis, who were reelected in November.
“Thank you all for your support for the broad, strong and fulsome support for your faith and trust in me,” said Dafis, who is beginning his second term. “What you can expect from me in the next three years is what you've grown accustomed to already: dedication, hard work ethic, integrity, empathy, loyalty, accessibility, enthusiasm and creativity. I will remain your advocate.
“I am at heart a community advocate. This is, after all, about you, about us together and not about me,” he added.
You probably know that I love this job and I'm honored to have earned your vote and your trust,” said DeLuca. “My commitment to Maplewood and to improving the lives of regular folks is as strong as ever. I want to congratulate my running mate Dean Dafis, who truly embraces the concept of public service, is a smart, tireless and fun colleague, and we are lucky to have him on the township committee.”
They each stated priorities for their next term. Dafis said he feels the community is family to him, and that “I will continue to focus on greater equality, better government, best customer service, and policy and practice that not only meets needs but which propels us into the future and does so with cultural competency.”
DeLuca said he is excited to work on upcoming projects such as the Maplewood library expansion. “The state's $8.4 million grant — along with one plus million raised by the Library Foundation and $10 million allocated by the township — will allow us to build a library for the 21st century. This will be a busy year and I look forward to breaking ground in the fall.”
He also said he looks forward “to continuing our work to calm traffic and improve pedestrian safety,” and to improving the Irvington Avenue commercial district, “a place, by the way, which now has the only supermarkets still in Maplewood.”
The Township Committee voted to extend Frank McGehee and Dafis a second term each as chair and vice chair, respectively, commonly known as mayor and deputy mayor.
McGehee gave a state of the township address in which he said it was an honor to be mayor “during this most challenging and most unprecedented time.
“And while our Township’s COVID crisis response has included working in close collaboration with our Essex County leadership, the Governor’s office, our Sister community, South Orange, our Assembly representatives, and our Congressional and Senatorial leadership not to mention you our community - there is no playbook to prepare for the phone calls when absolutely no one is watching, like the calls that I’ve made to the family members who have lost loved ones as a result of this awful virus.”
He thanked township employees for stepping up during the pandemic, and also encouraged residents to receive the vaccine as it becomes widely available.
McGehee mentioned 2021 goals for the community such as the “quest to receive gold certification in the state of New Jersey by Sustainable Jersey,” the phasing in of a township food packaging ordinance aimed at plastics reductions, and working with “our sister municipality of South Orange to explore creating new efficiencies in our recycling operations including the bid process.”
He also touched on how local businesses have been effected by the pandemic. “Although we suffered some losses of key businesses in our community including The Kings supermarket and our local movie theater, we've also celebrated some major successes with the opening of a multitude of businesses throughout our Township including, an orthodontist practice, the number one sophisticated and stylish Islamic apparel store in Northern New Jersey - AL Shams Abayas , Two Bike stores - The Urban Cyclery Shop and of course the late Danny Ives’ Maplewood Bike Shed - may he rest in peace. We also welcomed the home styling store ReMerch, A body art business - Raven's Quill Tattoo and our alternative treatment center managed by TerrAscendNJ will open in Q1 on 1865 Springfield Ave. A Community Education forum is planned and the center will provide employment opportunities for our residents.”
He noted future development in the town, a high U.S. Census response rate, and a future reimagining of the Police Auxiliary.
In closing, he noted, “while the unprecedented challenges that we face are not over by a long shot, Maplewood is well positioned for a strong 2021 and beyond. It is a safe community to live, work, play and grow. We are a community that is thriving. We are a community with strong leadership backed by a strong infrastructure. We are forward thinking. We are a community with world-class intellectual capital, culture and other resources needed to enhance the quality of life and opportunities for our residents. We are a community built on service for all. Our community — Black, white, LatinX, Asain, LGBTQ, people with disabilities from Generation Alpha to Baby Boomers and beyond, we can equally call Maplewood home regardless of whether we’ve lived here for 3 months, 3 years or over 3 decades.”
A resolution was also passed naming “TAPinto SOMA and Village Green as electronic news sources to which notices and other matters are to be provided under the Open Public Meeting Act.”
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