WAYNE, NJ – At the January 1 Wayne Township Reorganization Meeting, Fran Ritter will be sworn in by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and take over the Ward Five Town Council seat as the only Democrat in an otherwise Republican government.
The last Democrat to hold a seat on the Wayne Township Council was Chris McIntyre, who was also the Fifth Ward Council Representative.
“I’m extremely excited to serve this community on an even grander scale than I do now in Brittany Chase,” said Ritter whose political career was launched when she took over the reins of the embattled Brittany Chase Condominium Association in early 2019.
Her reputation as a leader was forged when she led a successful political coup against the past Brittany Chase board members, and then began to uncover alleged fraudulent dealings that are now a pending court case with the Passaic County Court.
Because of this, Ritter was recognized by the Wayne Democratic Organization and the Wayne Democratic Club as a rising star and was asked to run for the Fifth Ward seat. “I realized that I would be doing the same thing that I do for Brittany Chase: helping people. It would only be on a larger scale and I wanted to do it."
Ritter ran and won the primary, then won the general election against the Republican incumbent, Aileen Rivera.
“It’s an incredible privilege to be able to serve this great community, and such an honor to be sworn in by the Governor with my family and friends in attendance. The only thing that’s missing are my parents,” said Ritter with a smile that quickly turned emotional. “I lost them both in the last two years and I know they would’ve been extremely proud.”
How did Governor Phil Murphy come to swear Ritter in?
Ritter has been in a relationship for the last seven years with former Candidate for New Jersey Governor, Bill Brennan who ran for the office but lost to Phil Murphy in the 2017 primary. Along the campaign trail, Ritter and Brennan met Murphy and his wife Tammy on several occasions.
“They are very good people and after I was elected, Bill, who has kept in touch with the Governor and has shared many progressive ideas with him reached out and asked him to attend and swear me in,” said Ritter. “When Governor Murphy learned that I had won and will be the first Democrat in a while to be seated here on the Wayne Town Council, he was very supportive and wanted to come and was happy to swear me in.”
Ritter’s experience with Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill
Ritter became active in US Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill’s successful 2018 campaign, canvassing for her election. In 2019, Sherrill then attended a fundraiser for the Wayne For All political action committee that helped to get Ritter elected.
“She has an office here in Wayne,” said Ritter of Sherrill. “And, she’s been very supportive of Wayne Democrats, so I’m very happy to hear that she will be here supporting me during my swearing in.”
A Democrat in a Republican Government
Ritter was asked her thoughts on being the only Democrat in an otherwise Republican Government. “Having a government that represents the diversity of the township is a good thing,” Ritter replied. “And, if you put the people first, then we have no differences and nothing material will divide us.”
“We will have differences of opinions, but that’s healthy, its needed and its required,” said Ritter. “Listening and trying to understand different opinions is what makes thoughtful leadership. I have every confidence that this governmental body will be able to partner and work together by putting the people of Wayne first.”
When asked if there are Democrat or Republican issues for Wayne, Ritter answered with: “No, I don’t see that. I only see the issues as local issues; they are not about party. There are various political philosophies, but local issues, like flooding for example, is not a political issue, so we should be able to partner very well on working for what’s best for the town, as long as we can put the parties aside.”
“Having said that,” continued Ritter, “there are some folks, it could be constituents or council members that might feel that there are issues that have political solutions, but I am not one of them.”
Ritter sees the incumbent council members as an effective group as a whole. “I respect all of them because they are actually out there trying to do good for the Township,” she said. “No matter what their philosophies may be or their methods for how they do things, I give them a lot of respect for doing the job and putting themselves out there to do good by others. I am very proud to now be working with a governmental body that are obviously here for the people.”
Mayor Chris Vergano received praise from Ritter as well: “I’m excited to be working with Mayor Vergano, who also means very well for the Town. I see him at almost every event in Wayne,” said Ritter. “He’s pretty much everywhere and I respect that he is so visible as a Mayor and he seems to care about the Township and I’m happy to serve on this council with his Administration.”
Vergano spoke well of Ritter, saying: "I reached out to Fran Ritter shortly after the election, and we spent two hours discussing how our form of government works on a daily basis. We had a great conversation and I look forward to working with her as she represents the Fifth Ward."
Wayne's Mayor echoed Ritter's sentiments on party: "Although she will be in the minority party," said Vergano, "the needs of residents under my administration always come first. There is no such thing as a Republican or Democratic pothole that needs to be filled."
Ritter’s Goals as Councilwoman
“My goal is to do the best job I can, and the best thing I can do right now is to listen and learn,” she said. “Like any new job, it takes some time to get acclimated. So, I plan to do a lot of listening and learning from my fellow council members, especially in the first few months in office. I will also be constantly listening and learning from my constituents so that I can be an effective representative and the best advocate that I can possibly be.”
Helping to facilitate increased access and dialog between the residents of Wayne and the Township Government is another one of Ritter’s early goals. “In my experience with Brittany Chase, the residents there did not get the opportunity to be heard by the old board of trustees,” she said. “When I and my fellow new board members took over and allowed the resident’s voices to be heard, we then saw increased attendance at meetings and increased interactions, which was healthy for the association as a whole.”
Current President of the Wayne Town Council, Franco Mazzei had this to say about Ritter: “I want to congratulate Councilwoman-elect Fran Ritter on the occasion of her swearing in as the next Councilperson representing the Wayne residents of the Fifth Ward. I look forward to joining Governor Phil Murphy, Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, and the residents of the Fifth Ward in applauding Ms. Ritter as she accepts her Oath of Office.”
Ritter’s thoughts on taking over for outgoing Councilwoman Aileen Rivera
“As a Fifth Ward resident, I’m grateful to Councilwoman Rivera for her service to the Town and I want to thank her in advance for her continued service,” said Ritter. “She’s done a great job on the council and I know she will continue to service this community on any project she is passionate about. So, I’m looking forward to working with her in the future.
Ritter’s Final Thoughts: “This job has sometimes been described as ‘Thankless,’ but what I experienced as the President of the Board of Trustees at Brittany Chase showed me otherwise When someone comes to you with an issue and you are able to help come up with a solution for that issue, that’s the payday. The payday is really helping people, and I know how tremendous I will feel when I’m able to help on an even grander scale.”