MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The mood for the annual New Year’s Day Maplewood Township reorganization meeting was set by the entertainment. Singing brought in and let out the day, in which new Mayor Frank McGehee was sworn in. The choirs which performed preceding the formal meeting were Two Columbia High School singing groups, Noteworthy and Unaccompanied Minors. 

McGehee asked the standing room crowd, “Who are we?” He answered by touting the values Maplewood stands for. Maplewoodians are welcoming, he said, stand up for others, and lead the way toward sustainability. He mentioned many residents as examples of who we are in Maplewood. Maplewood business is thriving, he said, because of “business owners like Julie and Thomas Pauly of the Able Baker. The Paulys have selflessly dedicated and contributed baked goods, money and an infinite amount of time to charitable events and causes.” He also mentioned “Fred Shandler not only owns the thriving Arturo’s in Maplewood Village but the equally amazing Bread Stand on Boyden Ave. Fred’s Bread Stand has answered the call of investing in an area in our Maplewood community which has largely been ignored, but has great potential.”

McGehee said for the commuters in town he will “continue to push NJ Transit to provide the customer experience that our residents and surrounding communities deserve!” He thanked the police and fire departments, and stated the importance of building a “21st century library” and concentrating on redevelopment along Irvington Ave.

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He closed by stating, “We are a Township that is resilient with a shared vision and purpose heading into 2020, whether it’s enhancing our infrastructure, reducing our carbon footprint, streamlining our operations to be more efficient or investing in our business districts all while ensuring that Maplewood is a safe community to live, work and play. And we’re just getting started!”

Troop 5 of Boy Scouts of America made the presentation of colors after the meeting was called to order. Sheena Collum, South Orange Village President, led the salute to the flag. Father James Worth, pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church, gave the invocation.

Every year the reorganization meeting is dedicated to all of those who have demonstrated excellent public service, said Township Committee Member Dean Dafis, who was elected deputy mayor later in the meeting. The meeting for 2020 was dedicated to the youth of Maplewood, as agents of change and emerging leaders.

Dafis said that “this year we honor and appreciate the impressive young activists from Columbia High School Students for Justice Club and the Environmental Club.” Dafis noted the efforts of young global climate activist Greta Thunberg started taking action locally with a climate strike at her school before she took her message around the world. Students at CHS, he said, “are no different” and are to be admired for “transforming inaction into action.”

The closing song was performed by Yah Squad, led by Pastor Pasha Pernell of Bloomfield’s Bet HaSHEM church. The benediction was given by Maplewood resident Rev. Durwin F. Johnson of the First Baptist Church of Vauxhall and chairperson of the Maplewood Juvenile Conference Committee. In his remarks, Johnson described Maplewood as “a township rich in colors and cultures, an economy where no one is expendable, a beloved community where…our deepest hope is to be of service to a hurting world.”

Read more: A conversation with the new mayor

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