SOMERVILLE, NJ – The borough’s Democratic Committee has submitted the names of three candidates to fill the vacancy on the Borough Council created by the resignation of Steve Peter, who assumed his new responsibilities as Somerset County Clerk on New Year’s Day.
The three nominees are Roberta Karpinecz, RanD Pitts and Gina Stravic.
A Special Meeting has been scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday Jan. 8th at Council Chambers, 24 South Bridge St. for the purpose of filling the vacancy, according to Borough Clerk Kevin Sluka. The meeting is open to the public.
Granville Brady, newly-elected council president. will preside over the meeting. No other business will be conducted at the meeting, according to Sluka.
In addition to Brady, Council members Dennis Sullivan, Jane Kobuta, Thompson Mitchell and Fred Wied V will vote on Peter’s replacement.
Brady said it is he expects the person selected will be sworn to the office that evening.
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.
Pitts is a board member of the Downtown Somerville Alliance, longtime retailer and owner of the Evolve clothing store on West Main Street Somerville.
Stravic is executive director of the Raritan Valley YMCA and chair of the borough Environmental Commission.
When a vacancy on the council does occur, state law requires the names of, three nominees must be submitted to the Borough Clerk by that political party's committee; the clerk then presents the names to the Borough Council for members’ consideration.
Sluka was given the names of the three Democratic nominees on New Year’s Day at 2 p.m. following the borough’s annual reorganization meeting. State law permits a 30-day period for the council to make its selection.
Once sworn to office, the newest member of the Borough Council will be involved in deliberations and a final vote on the borough’s new mayor.
Mayor Brian Gallagher has resigned effective Jan. 5 to be sworn to office as a Somerset County Freeholder during the board’s reorganization meeting on that date.
The mayoral vacancy requires a similar process – the borough Republican Committee is expected to submit a list of three candidates to Sluka on that date, which will then be forwarded to the Borough Council for its deliberations and final selection.
Brady said the all-Democratic Council will interview the three nominees in public at the next council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 16; the regularly scheduled Monday, Jan. 15 meeting is being postponed because of the Martin Luther King national holiday.
"We don't get many opportunities to do that," Brady said. "People will have an opportunity to see what the process is," he added.
The appointed mayor will serve until the November, 2018 election is certified. Once it is certified, the elected mayor will be sworn in to fill Gallagher’s unexpired term until Dec. 31, 2019.
Mentioned as Republican candidates for interim 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.