WESTFIELD, NJ — Three members of the Town Council with a combined 32 years of service deliberated over their last council session this week.
Republicans JoAnn Neylan, Frank Arena and Doug Stokes accepted recognition for their service as family and friends watched Tuesday at Town Hall. Neylan and Arena did not run for reelection. Stokes lost his November bid for office.
“I don’t care if you are a Democrat or a Republican or a proud Independent, if you are not grateful for the service of these three wonderful people, you don’t have a heart,” said Town Attorney Tom Jardim, a former Westfield mayor who addressed the council in his capacity as a resident Tuesday.
“It’s not just coming to these council meetings, it’s going to every committee meeting, acting as a liaison to the various boards in town and getting all the emails, texts and phone calls over that many years that exemplifies the service.”
Neylan, who completes 16 years of service on the council this month, has found herself to be a fiscal conservative, often casting the lone dissenting vote on matters such as the town budget. At her last council meeting Tuesday, Neylan was one of the two council members, along with Stokes, to vote against the town’s participation in a Union County deer hunt.
“It’s never, ever been a sacrifice,” Neylan said. “It’s only been a privilege. That’s all I can say. I can’t thank everyone sufficiently that I’ve been working with over the years.”
Mayor Shelley Brindle, a Democrat, presented plaques to the departing council members and had only kind words for her Republican counterparts.
“You are not afraid to really advocate for what you believe in, strongly,” Brindle told Arena, who this month completes 12 years of service on the council. “And I do appreciate your authenticity in that.”
In his parting words, Arena said Westfield is a model of what other municipalities seek to become.
“That vision for all these towns and communities is Westfield,” he said. “We have a very special thing here, very special people and as long as we continue to put the town first and politics aside, this is going to continue to be one of the great towns in the land.”
Stokes, who completes four years of service on the council, and in the last election abided by his pledge to keep his political lawn signs in his attic, said he has enjoyed his time on the council.
“I’ve always held true to what I believe in,” Stokes said. “This is a great town. I’ve enjoyed giving my time and service to the town, and I will continue to be involved. … Now, I’m off to study, enjoy some things, maybe enjoy some fire pits in my backyard.”
Mark LoGrippo will be the lone Republican on the Town Council next year.
Democratic councilmen-elect Jim Boyes, Scott Katz and Mark Parmelee are slated to take the oath of office at the town’s annual organizational meeting set for Tuesday, Jan. 7, at 6:30 p.m.
Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at email@example.com; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh