Although born and raised in Little Falls, current President of the Wayne Town Council Franco Mazzei went to high school in Wayne at Neumann Prep, graduating in 1989. College was at Villanova University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, before immediately going into the Villanova University School of Law.
“I didn’t take any time off between,” said Mazzei. “I had an idea of what I wanted to do quite early on, having interned with a litigation firm as an undergrad student. It was an experience that not many students get, and it really shaped my career goal of wanting to become a litigator.”
After earning his law degree, Mazzei worked in Philadelphia for a time before coming back to New Jersey where he met his future wife and ultimately partnered with his father-in-law in the firm Weiner & Mazzei, where he’s worked ever since.
Mazzei and his wife Michele chose Wayne because of the high-quality school district. “It was our hope to start a family and the quality of the schools here was a defining point in our research in looking at Wayne as our ultimate destination for our first home…and maybe it’s our last home, too,” he said with a smile.
The couple’s hopes turned to reality: They have three sons: Luke, Michael and Jon who all attend the Wayne schools.
How did he get involved in politics?
“One of the first people I met, through coincidence, or maybe it was fate, was Councilman Jerry Porter who was such a positive and powerful influence on me,” said Mazzei. “It was he who encouraged me to potentially be appointed to the Library Board.”
It was on the Board of Trustees for the Wayne Public Library where Mazzei’s public service began, and because of the programming overlap between the Library Board and the Wayne Board of Education, Mazzei’s hard work and diligence was recognized.
“I soon had the interest to potentially vie for a position on the Board of Education,” said Mazzei. He had been appointed to the Library Board in 2007 and successfully ran for a seat on the Board of Education in 2009 and following his first year on that Board was elected Vice President. “Which was such an honor,” said Mazzei.
In 2011, when long-time Wayne Town Councilman, Jerry Porter decided not to run for another term as Town Councilman, Mazzei ran for his vacant seat and was elected in 2011, then re-elected in 2015. “I felt confident that I could uphold the standard of commitment to the community that Jerry [Porter] would expect of me.”
Mazzei has also served as President of the Passaic County Bar Association, and President of the Packanack Lake Community Association Board of Governors, of which he is currently Chairman of the Board of Directors as well as his current role as the President of the Robert L. Clifford Inn of Court for Passaic County.
All of these positions are voluntary. “That’s what Wayne is all about, that’s what makes Wayne special,” said Mazzei. “Volunteering with the people of Wayne is worth it because they’re such special people. It has made me a better person. It’s fulfilled me.”
What is the job of a Wayne Town Councilperson?
“The role of a councilperson is to grow every day, to learn every day. I get calls every day and we have to listen and communicate. I think that’s part of the job. That’s important to me.
“It’s also very important to work with the administration and the employees of the Township to make sure the processes are working. When we have a resident who has a question or an issue, we help them find the answers. They may like the answers, they may not like the answers, they’re just asking for the opportunity to voice their concern, for someone to listen and for that concern to be brought to the next level, whether it’s the mayor, the administrator, etc. So, it’s all about being a part of the process.”
“We have other roles by way of the meetings. I have strong opinions about the meetings themselves. I’m there to conduct the business of the council. That’s my job.”
Why should people vote for you?
“I have an analytical approach. I’m very expressive as far as questioning. That started on the Library Board, they joked that I was never quiet.:
“What I want to do is facilitate. I think people understand that I have the ability to facilitate a conversation to get to a resolution. That’s a skillset in and of itself.”
“Also, I’m able to work with the different people on the Council. Regardless of whether we agree or disagree we have to work together in a professional manner and do what’s best for the town and the people.”
What is the biggest issue facing Wayne?
“It’s development and there’s different facets to that. There’s the commercial side and there are issues of COAH and court-imposed obligations for housing that are currently being worked out in the courts.”
What are some other issues facing Wayne?
“We want to make sure we maintain our services to our residents. We want to make sure we are stabilizing our taxes like we have been doing. This is the business of the council and I feel we’ve been doing an excellent job.”
“The mayor deserves a lot of the credit for keeping taxes stabilized. The administration, with the council’s support keeps the township as streamlined as possible. They’ve eliminated over forty-eight positions and we work to keep operating expenses low without sacrificing services.”
He wouldn’t take credit for this personally. “I’d like to say I’m part of the process. We are all part of the process. Our role is to work with the administration, and we may not always agree with the mayor on everything, but to bring our perspectives. To always look after the interests of our residents, and to convey those interests when we’re doing the town’s business.”
“My level of commitment to the community and the Township and my commitment to volunteer in the community stands in and of itself. I love this town and the opportunities it has given me to meet new people. I will continue to work for the residents of the Third Ward and for all the residents of the Township of Wayne. And, I hope to continue that work in the new year.”