Democrats Take Complete Control Of Township Government At Annual Reorganization

2016 Township Council Reorg - 13

With his family looking on, Mayor Phillip Kramer, second from left, takes the oath of office from U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, left at the Jan. 1 reorganization meeting.

Township government officially became an all-Democratic institution Jan. 1 when the team that swept the November election was sworn in to their seats.

Taking their oaths were Mayor Phillip Kramer, Councilwomen Kimberly Francois and Shanel Robinson and Councilman Rajiv Prasad, all of whom are At-Large members.

Kramer was a Councilman representing Ward 3. Township Democrats will present three candidates to fill his seat for the year at the Jan. 12 council meeting, after which the council will have two weeks to decide on a replacement.

Kramer is only the second person – and first Democrat – to be directly elected to the mayor’s seat. Somerset County Freeholder Brian Levine, a Republican, won the first two direct elections before resigning his seat last year to join the freeholders.

In his acceptance speech, Kramer enumerated some of the goals of his first four-year term:

“The force which draws many communities together often is its schools,” Kramer said. “The Mayor and Council have no direct control of its schools but I believe if Franklin is to advance we can only do so if our school district advances and Council must look for opportunities to enable its progress.”

“Further goals: ccontinued repaving roads at an accelerated rate, a greater reach of our recreation department, energy aggregation, health initiatives, consolidation where it is needed and expansion where it is useful,” he said. “Cleaning up dilapidated properties and working to evaporate the abandoned building inventory about town.”

Kramer said he would also “step aside” to assist council members with their goals.

“We have a good community but we must reach for greatness,” Kramer said.

Francois, who is starting her fourth term on the council, said it “has been an honor and a privilege to serve the great township of Franklin.”

Her “major objective” for the next four years is to get a youth center built in a Lewis Street building, she said.

“Thank you for believing in me, for supporting me for the past 12 years and for allowing me to serve for the next four years,” she said.

Speaking on what has become a touchy subject in the township, Prasad said that more parks have to built along Route 27 so that township children there don’t have to go to other towns to play.

Prasad also said that “we have to get rid of the ignorance of each other and promote mutual love and respect for each other.”

Robinson, elected to her first full term on the council, said that she was “proud when I served in the military, proud when I became a mother, proud when I became a grandmother,” and she was proud, she said, when she was appointed last year to fill the unexpired term of former Councilman Brian Regan.

“But to be elected … it’s a humbling experience,” she said.

Robinson said the council must think about what kind of legacy its members will leave.

The council elected Councilman Ted Chase (D-Ward 1) as Deputy Mayor. Chase said he would work to “make Franklin an even better place to live.”

Kramer and the council members were sworn in by U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, who made his second trip to the township since going to Washington.

Local government jobs, Booker said, “are the hardest jobs in government.”

Local officials are “willing to sacrifice to hold forth the ideals that we hold most sacred,” he said.

After he swore them in, noting the different faith traditions held by Kramer, Francois, Robinson and Prasad, Booker said, “This is the greatest country in the world. I have had the privilege of swearing in someone holding the Torah, the Bible, and now the Bhagavad Gita. I love America.”

Other dignitaries who attended the reorganization meeting were U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12), Sate Assemblyman Joe Danielsen (D-17), Somerset County Freeholder Brian Levine and Leroy Wilfred Kabs-Kanu, the Minister Plenipotentiary at the Permanent Mission of Sierra Leone to the United Nations.

Watson-Coleman wished the mayor and council good luck, and then told the audience that “each of you should be congratulated for having pulled the lever and been a part of this democracy.”

Danielsen, who resigned as municipal Democratic Party chairman on Jan. 1, said he “considers myself retiring at the top.” Pointing to the mayor and council, he said, “I define the top as you people up there.”

“I know Franklin Township is in good hands,” he said. “I know you people will do the people’s work every day.”

Levine thanked the council “for what you do for all of us.”

“I know your hearts are in it,” he said.

Kabs-Kanu said that his country has adopted democracy, and that “we are happy to be a part of this experience.”

Kabs-Kanu said Kramer distinguished himself during the last Ebola breakout – which dramatically affected Sierra Leone and other West African nations – by leading the informational effort in the township.

“We want to thank him for that,” he said.

The council also made annual appointments to fill the positions of township attorney, municipal court judge prosecutors and public defender.

2016 Township Council Reorganization



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