WAYNE, NJ – On New Year’s Eve, as the clock struck midnight and revelers worldwide celebrated the coming of a new year and a new decade, the terms of six Wayne Council Members expired, leaving only a skeleton crew of three at-large council members on the town’s legislative body.

It wasn’t until each of the newly elected/re-elected council members were officially sworn-in to office, that the legislature of Wayne was once again complete. This occurred on New Year’s Day during Wayne Township’s 174th annual reorganization meeting.

As the council chambers began to fill up before the meeting began, a sense of excitement grew. It was a special day for the six ward council members who each came with friends and family to support them and witness their accomplishments.

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The re-elected Council Members are:

  • Rich Jasterzbski of Ward One
  • Al Sadowski of Ward Two
  • Franco Mazzei of Ward Three
  • Joe Scuralli of Ward Four
  • Jon Ettman of Ward Six

However, it was incoming Ward Five Councilwoman Fran Ritter’s swearing-in that attracted several state and county Democratic officials to the event. 

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy performed Ritter’s swearing-in ceremony with U.S. Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill in attendance to support the incoming councilwoman.

When Murphy was asked why he came to Wayne to officially swear in Ritter, he replied: “Wayne is a special town in the state and in the county and Fran Ritter is a very dear friend. I’m very honored to be here to support her.”

The other notable dignitaries present included:

  • New Jersey Secretary of State, and Wayne Resident, Tahesha Way
  • New Jersey 40th District Assemblyman, Kevin Rooney
  • Director of the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders, and Wayne resident, John Bartlett
  • Freeholder Deputy Director, Sandy Lazarra
  • Freeholder, Bruce James
  • Freeholder, Pat Lepore
  • Freeholder, Terry Duffy
  • Passaic County Clerk, Danielle Ireland-Imhoff
  • Prospect Park Mayor, Mohamed Khairullah
  • Chairman of the Democratic State Party, and former Wayne Resident, John Currie

“We are here to show support for Fran Ritter as the first Democratic Councilwoman on the Council in years,” said Lazarra.

“She’s a quality candidate and it’s nice to see a Democrat win,” said Freeholder Bruce James of Ritter. “But, we’re here to support everybody. [Wayne] is a well-run town and Fran will be a plus for the town.”

Every seat in the chamber was filled to capacity as the event began. Wayne Clerk Paul Margiotta, who orchestrated the event to near perfection, asked everyone to rise as Boy Scout Troop 108 paraded the American Flag to the front of the packed chamber. The Passaic County Police/Fire Pipes & Drums, (led by Wayne Police Captain Keith McDermott on the bagpipes) followed closely behind the Boy Scouts playing patriotic music.

Father Michael Lambardi of Our Lady of Consolation gave the invocation, which was followed by the Pledge of the Allegiance led by Troop 108. Wayne Valley High School’s Allison Girardi sang a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem to start the event.

Wayne Mayor Chris Vergano welcomed everyone to the chamber, highlighting the special guests in attendance.  Then Governor Murphy was introduced and came to the podium to speak.

“Good morning Wayne,” he said. “I’m honored to be here, and I’m honored to be here specifically to swear in Fran Ritter, who’s a dear friend.” This was met with huge applause, showing the number of Democrat supporters in the crowd.

“Today is a day to salute civic service; to salute public service. To salute those that stand up to represent constituents and residents all over the state,” said Murphy. The New Jersey Governor spoke of the many swearing-in ceremonies he would be attending over the next few days but told Ritter that she was the first. “I’m beginning the year in Wayne and I’m honored to be here in this great town.”

Murphy then swore in Ritter with a huge smile on his face.  The moment was later described by Councilman Al Sadowski as “the most enthusiastic swearing-in” that he had ever witnessed.

The six newly elected Ward Council Members were sworn in and each gave a short speech thanking their supporters, friends and family.

Councilman Joe Scuralli of Ward Four was elected as President of the Council and presented former Council President Franco Mazzei with a commemorative gavel to honor him for his time as President.

Several town appointments were approved or confirmed by the new Wayne Town Council to fill expired terms on several town boards.

Mayor Vergano then gave the State of the Township address which began with a list of new businesses that have just launched or are being built and ready to launch in Wayne soon. He then spoke of initiatives against drugs and speeding before finishing with: “I look forward to 2020 as a year of growth for our community.”

Several resolutions were passed. You can find a list of them here.

Ritter sent her first ripple through the formerly all-Republican pond during the public portion of the meeting. After two residents came to the podium to speak, a motion was made to close the public portion, but Ritter stopped the motion with one of her own.

Ritter’s self-made mandate is to encourage more public dialog during these meetings. See Story. To that end, Ritter made a motion to ‘table’ the public portion, not end it.  Tabling means that the portion of the meeting was paused and could be started again later. Ritter wanted to give residents the opportunity to respond to the council member’s comments that followed.  Councilwoman At-Large Jill Sasso seconded the motion, it went to a vote and narrowly passed 5-4.

Wayne Hills High School’s Christina Silvestri sang God Bless America with most of the then thinned-out crowd singing along. Rabbi Meeka Simerly of Temple Beth Tikvah gave the benediction before newly minted Council President Joe Scuralli officially gaveled the meeting to a close.