SOMERVILLE, NJ - RanD Pitts, longtime Main Street merchant and member of the Downtown Somerville Alliance, was selected to fill an unexpired term on the Borough Council at a special meeting Monday night.
The five Democratic members of the Borough Council voted unanimously to appoint Pitts, a Democrat, who won out over two other Democratic candidates, Roberta Karpinecz and Gina Stravic.
He was sworn to the office immediately after the vote by his predecessor, Steve Peter.
Peter vacated the seat now filled by Pitts when he resigned his position as president of the Borough Council New Year’s Eve to be sworn in as Somerset County Clerk. Pitts will fill Peter’s unexpired term until the end of the year.
Pitts, a Spring Street resident, confirmed that he will run for a full three-year term on the Borough Council in November’s election; he will also formally submit his letter of resignation as a member of the DSA board to Borough Clerk Kevin Sluka on Tuesday. Pitts is expected to be appointed Borough Council liason to the DSA.
Karpinecz is a former member of the Borough Council, having served for nine years; she was council president in 1996. She ran unsuccessfully in 2009 for a seat in the New Jersey Assembly representing the 16th District. She had been a member of the Somerville Library Board of Trustees until her term expired New Year’s Day.
Stravic is executive director of the Raritan Valley YMCA and chair of the borough Environmental Commission.
None of the three candidates were afforded the opportunity to speak before the vote, which was questioned by Rich Reitman, the borough’s Republican Committee chairman.
Pitts will serve on the council until the end of the year.
Pitts, along with Granville Brady, Borough Council president and the other Democratic members of the Borough Council - Dennis Sullivan Thompson Mitchell, Jane Kobuta and Fred Wied V - will meet again Tuesday, Jan. 16th, to interview three Republican candidates to fill out the unexpired term of former Mayor Brian Gallagher, who resigned his office after 14 years to be sworn as a Somerset County Freeholder Jan. 5.
The interviews will be conducted in a public forum.
“It would have been nice if the public had an opportunity to learn who the three prospective candidates were,” Reitman said. “Why was a decision made behind closed doors,” he added. “It’s not fair to the public.
“When they said the mayoral appointment is going to be done publicly, I was quite pleased because that’s what I was advocating.”
Brady said he expects the council will select one of three candidates that evening, but is unsure whether the appointed mayor will be sworn to office.
The three Republican candidates for the position of appointed mayor are former Councilman Jason Kraska, who lost his bid for reelection in November to Wied; Hank Werner, a police officer in Bernards Township and chairman of the Jacks’ Kids charity, and Ellen Brain, a member of the borough’s Zoning Board of Adjustment.
With Pitt’s appointment, there are six Democratic council members, with an appointed Republican mayor to be sworn to office within the next 10 days.
Both parties will field a candidate for election as mayor this upcoming Election Day.
Once the election is certified, the elected mayor will be sworn in to fill Gallagher’s unexpired term until Dec. 31, 2019.
A four-year term as mayor will be contested in the November, 2019 election.