SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — Trustees Steven Schnall and Walter Clarke have each announced they will not be seeking reelection in the May 11 municipal election. Both are in the final year of their second terms on the Board of Trustees.

Clarke issued the following statement: 

When I took the oath of office for the first time in 2013, I did so in a 19th century building that served as Village Hall and then sat in a squeaky, oversized leather swivel chair to get to work as a trustee. Now I speak to my colleagues on the Board of Trustees virtually from my dining room. In our Village and in our country a great deal has changed in the past eight years. Some good, some bad, but I feel honored by the opportunity to shape what I could as a Village Trustee and grateful for the experience. 

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Throughout my time in office I have been concerned with issues of sustainability, infrastructure, and maintaining and advancing the unique, diverse culture of our village. I’ve championed various local environmental efforts for plastic and waste reduction, greener energy, worked with the Community Coalition on Race, helped transition the water system, improved forestry management, established new committees, and worked with law enforcement on pedestrian safety, to name a few. These efforts have been enriching and mind-expanding but none have been done alone nor would they have been possible without a wide variety of colleagues, confidants, volunteers, advisors, co-conspirators, worker bees, visionaries, agitators, professionals, and motivated individuals (like-minded and not). In short, a Village. 

The list of people who have been instrumental to me is too long, and I am too likely to miss someone, so I won’t name names but will instead say that South Orange is home to many talented and exceptional people and I have been fortunate to work with many of them to make our community better. I will leave public office believing that things in South Orange are a little better for my efforts and knowing that there are talented leaders who can continue to improve our community and are ready to do so.    

Schnall also sent a statement:

After almost eight years in office as Trustee for South Orange Village, I find that it is time to move on to another endeavor and make way for someone else to leave their mark and add to this incredible Village. When I was elected in 2013 for my first of two terms, I didn’t fully grasp the countless aspects of what makes this such a great place to live, work and play.  I learned a tremendous amount and was proud to work with my colleagues to contribute to our Village in many ways: We created new development projects and added to the resources that make a more vibrant downtown. We recruited more and better businesses and restaurants and continue to seek ways to help them succeed, even in the midst of this terrible pandemic. And spending much dedicated time with our Recreation and Cultural Affairs Committee has allowed me to greatly improve these offerings to our residents.  

Other highlights included working with our dedicated and passionate volunteers on projects ranging from Village beautification to preserving historic properties to my personal favorite — experiencing and actively participating in the arts; not just the traditional visual arts, but also many diverse forms of music and exposure to new ways of seeing and thinking — which became the impetus for founding SouthNEXT (originally as a collaboration with Seton Hall University titled “South by South Orange”). I have been happiest when helping to create programs and then watch them performed at SOPAC or other local venues.

Most of all, I found what I had always been seeking: Community. This special three square miles serves as a backdrop for its residents to dream and reach and discover a better, more complete way of living amongst people of just about every background. I leave my position extremely satisfied with my involvement with municipal government and hope that I will leave a legacy of having made positive, lasting change. Even after my term expires in May, I sincerely hope that I will be able to continue the many beautiful relationships and continue to provide service to the place I have called home these last 21 years.

Trustee Karen Hartshorn Hilton is also in the last year of her term. She is considering another term and told TAPinto SOMA she is still deciding about whether to run again.

Residents interested in running for a seat must fill out a candidate packet by March 8. Candidates must be registered voters and have lived in South Orange for at least one year.



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TAPinto SOMA is a free online newspaper serving the Townships of Maplewood and South Orange Village with no paywall. TAPinto SOMA is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.