WEST ORANGE, NJ -- Surrounded by family, friends and supporters, Councilwoman Michelle Casalino became the first of the three incumbents expected to run for Town Council to launch her re-election campaign on May 5 at The Essex House.
The remaining Councilpeople up for re-election this year are Jerry Guarino, who is expected to launch his campaign in late Spring, and Joe Krakoviak, who was on vacation and not in attendance.
The evening saw a gathering of a number of prominent town officials, past and present, including the rest of the current Town Council, Board of Education President Laura Lab, who emceed the evening, along with numerous current and former BOE officials, members of the town administration, commissions, committees and volunteers.
Mayor Rob Parisi was on hand to introduce Casalino but not before taking a moment to call out former mayor and current Assemblyman John McKeon, who was on hand to lend his support.
After joking that McKeon looked happier being a "former mayor," Parisi got serious in thanking McKeon for his service to the community, saying, "You've been a wonderful advocate for the schools, for all of us.....I don't know of anyone in this town who's ever been elected that you haven't been behind."
Parisi got to his main task of introducing Casalino by talking about the circumstances which lead her from the Board of Education to becoming a member of the Town Council after Councilwoman Patty Spango's resignation.
"I know regardless of how tough things might get, that there are people I can count on, that we can talk through problems, work through issues and that there is nothing too difficult that we can't figure out a way to deal with," said Parisi of the relationship between his administration and the Town Council.
"A lot of people applied for that seat," said Parisi of Spango's vacancy, "but when looking at the candidates, it was clear there was no one in the town that I had more faith who would do the right thing for our community than Michelle."
"I knew that once the Council agreed, I knew once again I was fortunate to be a mayor that could count on the people on the municipal council to travel through the difficult task of public service together," he concluded.
Casalino said she was touched by the outpouring of support and the number of people in the room, especially her old BOE colleagues who helped her transition to the council. She also thanked her Council colleagues for their support.
Casalino said during her short tenure, she was especially happy to meet so many people in many roles that are doing good in West Orange. "I was blessed to come on to the Council when there's so many great things happening in the Township," she said.
"I feel that this year, the town is going to new, exciting places," she added.
She also mentioned in thanking her family that after ten years on the BOE, they took the news of her Council position in stride. "They must want me out of the house," she joked. "And my husband has become a wonderful cook."
At the end of her speech, Casalino brought up John "Beaver" O'Connor, last year's PAL Hall of Fame inductee and mentor to Casalino and Parisi, who gave his advice to the audience.
"The only way we're going to get Michelle in it is to really go to work for her," he said. "You get good people if you get people out to vote."