CALDWELL, NJ — After welcoming two new members to the Caldwell Borough Council last week, Mayor John Kelley reflected on some highlights from 2019 and addressed some goals for 2020 within the borough.
During his first year as mayor, Kelley noted that some of the borough’s major accomplishments included expanding a partnership with Caldwell University, establishing a goal to provide self-sustaining utilities and implementing a new billing protocol for sewer usage.
The mayor also praised Acting Borough Business Administrator Thomas Banker and Borough Attorney Vincent J. Nuzzi, Esq., noting that their impressive careers in their respective fields and make them both a “tremendous asset” to the borough, and recognized Deputy Borough Clerk Lisa O’Neill for being “the glue that keeps all of us together” and “the ‘go-to person’ for all borough employees.”
Additionally, the mayor acknowledged court administrator Leanne O'Hern, who he said "does a phenomenal job for the Borough of Caldwell and demonstrates incredible patience."
"Her job is not easy, and yet she maintains a very professional attitude," he said. "We thank her for the 15-plus years of service to the residents of Caldwell."
Looking ahead, Kelley spoke about redevelopment plans and the proposal of a new parking structure on Smull Avenue, adding that the governing body intends to hold a town hall meeting to garner input from stakeholders. Other future goals he mentioned also include relocating borough hall and decreasing policing costs as the borough continues to discuss the possibility of merging police departments with the Township of West Caldwell.
Councilwoman Christine Schmidt, who was sworn in as this year’s council president, joined the mayor in acknowledging some of the “key people who work for the borough.”
“Regardless of the changes of the governing body, they show up every day for Caldwell, bringing professionalism, consistency and experience to the work of municipal government,” said Schmidt.
In addition to the employees mentioned in Kelley’s comments, Schmidt also recognized the following employees:
- Deputy Clerk Lisa O’Neill;
- Department of Public Works Director Mario Bifalco;
- Police Chief James Bongiorno and Sergeant Pellegrino;
- Human Services Director and Grover Cleveland Senior Services Director Maria Burak;
- Caldwell Community Center Director Rosemarie Sutherlin and Assistant Director Shannon Corinne;
- Fire Chief Andrew Pollara;
- Office of Emergency Management and Fire Safety Officer Mark Giuliano;
- Construction and Zoning Official Paul Milani;
- Acting Library Director Annette Sellars; and
- Tax Collector Brad Taylor, who steps in to replace the recently retired Idamae Renne.
As the council members took turns welcoming their new colleagues, outgoing member Henderson Cole stated that he is “very optimistic for the borough” and believes there are “very capable and conscientious people in place.” Outgoing member Francis Rodgers added that there is “enormous talent” on the governing body and expressed confidence that the new administration “will work well together.”
To the two new council members, Rodgers offered the following advice: “Walk into chambers and leave your ego at the door.”
Councilman Jonathan Lace expressed his eagerness to work with the two new council members by remembering how thrilled he was to hear that DePalma-Iozzi and Gates had decided to run for office.
“You both maintained your pledge to run a campaign that was focused on policy, even when you were offered opportunities to lower the bar,” said Lace. “You both exemplify what it means for every citizen to fulfill what President Grover Cleveland called the obligations of ‘good citizenship.’ On the dais today, we have seven individuals who are both colleagues and dear friends—a truly grassroots group of people who have debated with and supported each other, both in private and in public. It is an historic day.”
He also expressed confidence in the two new members’ commitment to ensuring that all decisions are made “with a responsive ear to public input and with the long-term best interests of Caldwell in mind.”
“We all hold as sacred the democratic process of informed, public debate in policymaking because we all know that the procedure we follow is just as important as the votes which we cast,” said Lace, reminding residents that the contact information, availability and office hours of all council members are posted on the borough’s new website, which is now “ADA compliant, easier to navigate and mobile-friendly.”
“I want to invite everyone to please reach out and take advantage of these opportunities,” he said. “As always, we encourage public input at our other 20 scheduled meetings for the rest of this year and via the borough’s official channels.”
During the reorganization meeting, the governing body made its annual appointments to various committees and assigned specific liaisons for the year.
Mayoral appointments included the Advisory Council on Senior Services, arborist, transportation committee and tree removal committee; and board and commission appointments included the Planning Board, Rent Review Board, Zoning Board and Board of Health, in addition to professional appointments.
The complete list of appointments and consent agenda authorizations and designations is available on the borough’s new website.
The next borough council meeting, originally scheduled for Jan. 7, will now be held on Tuesday, Jan. 14.