Maplewoodian by Joe Strupp

Election Day Is Over. Now What?


Election Day 2017 has passed with some significant changes to both the school board and Maplewood Township Committee (TC), but perhaps not as big as some might have expected.

But where do both governing bodies go from here? Will we see a new mayor or a new school board president in 2018?

If the voting results are any indication, perhaps not.

Sign Up for E-News

Both Mayor Vic DeLuca and Board President Elizabeth Baker took the most votes in their elections, with DeLuca continuing a trend that has had him garnering more votes each election since his return in 2008.

DeLuca, like the rest of the TC, faces re-election every three years. Under our form of government, however the mayor is chosen annually by the TC members.

The nine-year mayor, who took 3,136 votes when he ran for re-election in 2011, received 5,055 in 2014 and a whopping 6,384 on Tuesday. 

When DeLuca returned to politics in 2008 after a three-year absence, he received 8,328 votes. But that was the historic Barack Obama election year that saw a larger than usual turnout.

His votes this year remain impressive given it is an off-year election, although the governor’s race likely brought out more voters. DeLuca also topped his running mate, Democrat Dean Dafis, by exactly 400 votes.

Dafis also made history as the first openly gay candidate and now first to serve on the TC. He will take his seat on New Year’s Day, replacing India Larrier, who chose not to run.

One candidate who was likely not happy with the outcome was Republican Mike Summersgill, who received only 1,466 votes – a sharp drop from the 2,133 votes he took last year against Frank McGehee. And there were nearly 3,000 fewer votes cast last year, meaning his percentage went from nearly 20% to just over 10%.

Once the new TC is seated, who will they choose as mayor? 

DeLuca has been given the nod annually since 2009 and would likely win it if we had a directly-elected mayor. But there are whispers at Town Hall that the mayor may not have the three votes needed to keep the top spot for another year. 

He did not respond to an inquiry about whether he wants the mayoralship again or not.

One wonders if the system should be changed to allow a directly-elected mayor like many other towns, including South Orange.

While Maplewood’s mayor does not have the power of some towns and cities, it is a potent position. Aside from running the TC meetings, the mayor also has a seat on the Planning Board and other committees and appoints members to several boards. 

Either way, whoever is mayor – and on the TC – will have a lot to handle in 2018. Along with finding a new police chief and making sure the abuse that occurred in the past does not repeat itself, Maplewood faces the always present property tax hikes, especially after last year’s reassessment boosted the town’s take even more for many.

And just last week, popular Township Administrator Joseph Manning announced his pending retirement.

At the school board, meanwhile, Baker beat out eight opponents to take the top vote count with 5,696 votes, 20 percent of those cast. In second place was challenger Anthony Mazzocchi, who came back after a failed bid last year, to grab 5,408 votes, or more than 19 percent. 

Baker’s running mate, former board member Robin (no relation) Baker, took third with 4,911 votes.

While incumbent Maureen Jones, who ran with Elizabeth Baker three years ago, chose not to run, another incumbent, Donna Smith, is now leaving, coming in a somewhat distant fourth with 3,431 votes.

It is hard to say that Smith’s loss was due to an anti-incumbent wave since Elizabeth Baker did so well.

Also showing a respectable fifth place was Shannon Cuttle, who made history as the first non-binary (identifying as neither a man or a woman) candidate to run in the school board election. The veteran teacher and education consultant took in more than 3,000 votes, or some 11 percent.

The biggest loser in the race might be Walter Fields, president of the SOMA Black Parents Workshop, who managed the campaigns of recent Columbia High School graduates Avery Julien and Felisha George. 

George and Julien received high marks from many in the community for their willingness to run and give some recent student voice to the board. 

But when Fields distributed a harshly negative campaign flier that attacked incumbents Baker and Smith, and included several misleading or incomplete claims about them, many likely took it out on the candidates.

The flier also may have violated federal non-profit rules that bar groups like the SOMA Black Parents -- which has applied to be a 501 (c) 3 organization and works through an existing one -- from engaging in pro- or anti-candidate efforts.

With her second straight top vote win, Baker is certainly in line to serve as president for a third straight year. She has received both criticism and praise for her meeting management style, which sets a strict policy for public comment timing, discussions and decorum. 

But will she want the job again? A full-time attorney and mother of two, Baker -- along with the other members -- has had to endure plenty of late meetings that go past midnight. There are also plenty of other meetings and phone conferences on issues ranging from school safety to equity.

“In terms of the presidency, I think it would be premature to answer that question as we need to go through the board formation process,” Baker said via email when asked about her plans. “I can assure you, though, that I am very committed to driving the work forward.”

And 2018 will prove to be even more involved as the board searches for a new superintendent, a hunt that could take another two years, Baker has said.

The board also has a growing enrollment and space shortage problem, as well as continued battles over equity, racial issues and cost increases. The teachers’ union, meanwhile, still has no new contract after the last one ended in June.

So no matter who’s in charge, they won’t be bored.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News



AtlantiCast Episode 17

On this week’s AtlantiCast, it’s National Men’s Health Month, so check out important health tips for you or the men in your life, learn about groundbreaking research into breast cancer treatment that could mean an end to chemotherapy for some patients, meet a local sports hero who’s living his baseball dreams thanks to Goryeb Children’s Hospital and much ...

South Orange Police Blotter - iPhone Reported Stolen from Basketball Courts

June 21, 2018

South Orange Police Blotter as of June 21

Burglary - The owner of a business on Vose Avenue reported that sometime between 12:45 p.m., Sunday, June 17,  and 10 a.m., Monday, June 18, actor(s) unknown forcibly gained access to the business through the front door, rummaged through cabinets and desks and removed some personal items (including Bose brand speakers ...

South Orange Police Blotter: Robbery Reported on South Orange Avenue

South Orange Police Blotter as of June 16

Robbery - An Alpha, NJ resident reported that he was robbed on Sunday, June 3, at approximately 12:30 a.m. while he was walking on South Orange Avenue near Scotland Road. The victim stated that he was approached by three unknown actors who punched him and knocked him to the ground. The actors then stole his cell phone and wallet ...

South Orange's Allyson Murphy Mobilizes Mothers in Newark to Protest Trump Family Separation Policy

June 23, 2018

NEWARK, NJ - A group of New Jersey mothers took time to come to Newark with the kind of loved ones recently taken from other mothers: their children.

"It's unconscionable that our government is stealing children from their parents and locking them up in cages," said Christina Liu, a Montclair mom holding her baby daughter, commenting on President Donald Trump's recent ...

SOMA Celebrates Pride with Painted Lampposts in South Orange and Crosswalks in Maplewood

SOUTH ORANGE AND MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Earlier this month, Maplewood celebrated Pride by painting rainbow crosswalks outside of Town Hall at the intersection of Oakview Avenue and Valley Street, which were unveiled with a celebration and ribbon cutting on Thursday, June 6.

Inspired by the Maplewood crosswalks, on Thursday evening, June 21, South Orange recognized Pride month by having community ...

Upcoming Events

Tue, June 26, 6:30 PM

Millburn Free Public Library, Millburn

Memoir Writing Class at Millburn Library

Arts & Entertainment


Fri, June 29, 7:00 PM

Par 440 Restaurant & Lounge, Short Hills

The Extra Rich In Class Dinner Show with E.R.I.C.

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink


Tue, July 3, 4:30 PM

Maplewood Memorial Park, Maplewood

First Time Ever July 3rd Circus Performances and ...

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink Other

Men’s Shul Softball League Unites in Livingston to Support Parkland Community

June 23, 2018

LIVINGSTON, NJ — The Men’s Shul Softball League, consisting of teams from temples throughout Livingston, West Orange, Short Hills and other neighboring communities in Essex and Morris counties, gathered in Livingston prior to regular play on Sunday morning in support of Make Our Schools Safe, an organization started by the parents of a Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School ...

Lecia Bianca Jewels Creates a Bridge to Make Bloomfield Center the Next Style Destination

BLOOMFIELD, NJ - The Bloomfield Center renaissance continues as Lecia Bianca Jewels becomes a style destination on main thoroughfare in this Essex County Community. Lecia Clay, owner of the boutique, describes her jewelry as 'bridge jewelry,' - pieces that are in a space between costume jewelry and fine jewelry, while having value. 

'Lecia Bianca' is the ...

Newark Cop Convicted of Reckless Manslaughter for 2016 Fatal Shooting of Piscataway Man

June 22, 2018

UNION COUNTY, NJ – A Newark police officer was convicted of reckless manslaughter in the death of a man outside Paddy’s Place in Union in May 2016, acting Union County Prosecutor Michael A. Monahan announced Wednesday.

The officer, Joseph Macchia, 37, was convicted of fatally shooting 37-year-old Michael Gaffney of Piscataway following an argument and fight at Paddy’s ...

Westfield to Hold 3-Day ‘AddamsFest’ Celebrating Charles Addams and His Creations This Fall

WESTFIELD, NJ — It’s creepy. It’s kooky. And it’s taking over Westfield from Oct. 26 to Oct. 28. AddamsFest, a town-wide celebration honoring Westfield native Charles Addams and his most famous creations, The Addams Family, will be a destination event this fall with family-friendly activities, lectures, exhibits and film screenings, the town announced ...

South Orange Summer 2018 Student Leadership Institute

June 23, 2018

Program Overview and Application Form: (Deadline to Apply: Wednesday, June 27)

The Township of South Orange Village is pleased to offer students the opportunity to learn and practice leadership skills in the areas of local government and civic engagement where they will interact with a variety of elected officials, municipal departments, and community leaders.

The Student Leadership ...

Welcome To South Orange, Drive 25!

With very few exceptions, the speed limit throughout the Village is 25 miles per hour.

Along with barbeques, trips down the shore, and local ice cream runs, July and August mark the summer driving season. If you are driving in, or through South Orange, that means driving at 25 miles per hour. “Welcome to South Orange, now drive 25” says Lt. Michael Corrigan, the head of the SOPD ...

Weekly Specials at Ashley Marketplace - June 22 to June 28

Shop Ashley Marketplace & Cafe for your everyday needs!

This week's specials are:          

Chobani Yogurt 32oz $6.99
Friendly’s Ice Cream 48floz $3.99
Turkey Hero $5.99 ea (Deli)
Brad’s Blues Tortilla Chips  $2.99
Housemade Premade Lemonade 16oz $4.99 (Bakery)
Red Wax Gouda $5.99lb ...