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Ed Potosnak First Openly LGBTQ Township Councilman, Crystal Pruitt Becomes Deputy Mayor

Township Councilman Ed Potosnak, right, is sworn in by state Sen. Vin Gopal during the Council’s January 4 reorganization meeting.

Newly minted Township Councilman Ed Potosnak made history January 4 when he took his Oath of Office, becoming the first openly LGBTQ person to hold the office.

Council members also chose Crystal Pruitt (D-At Large) to serve as this year’s Deputy Mayor.

The Deputy Mayor position rotates among Council members on a yearly basis.

Also sworn in during the annual reorganization meeting were Council members Shepa Uddin (D-Ward 2), Charles Onyejiaka (D-Ward 3), Carl R.A. Wright (D-Ward 4), and James Vassanella (D-Ward 5), all of whom successfully defended their Council seats in November.

Potosnak (D-Ward 1), who came to the Council after serving more than six years on the Board of Education, said he looked “forward to bringing experience, passion for environment, commitment to equity and equality to everything we do here.”

Potosnak said he was “really proud” of the “historic achievement” of being the first openly LGBTQ person to serve on the Township Council.

“Franklin is a great and diverse community,” he said. “We have the support of each other and that support is critical to provide for one another.”

Potosnak said that “all too often, bias is rearing its ugly head. We must as a Council and a community continue to be diligent and accountable.”

“I intend to fight for things that are worthwhile,” he said, listing protecting the environment, reducing traffic, preserving open spaces as some of those things.

“Ensuring that the public is supported during the Covid crisis is critical,” he said.

Potosnak also said that the township needs to “attract high quality businesses” into empty buildings and storefronts.

Pruitt thanked her fellow Council members for “allowing me the honor of serving as deputy mayor this year.”

Asking what it means to “serve” in 2022, Pruitt noted that over the past two years “we witnessed trauma and miseries on a scale that I don’t think any of us could have imagined.”

“What could I possibly say to articulate the weight and responsibility of this role,” she said. “There are no words, just actions. I will act with integrity, with perseverance and with a continuing commitment to social justice in dismantling institutional racism and sexism and all the other isms that hold people back.”

Pruitt has been a Council member since January 2019, when she was selected to fill the one-year unexpired term of Shanel Robinson, who had been elected to the Somerset County Commissioners.

Vassanella committed himself to fighting to “minimize any new development.”

“More is not always better,” he said. “We need to be less about building new warehouses, apartments or strip malls.”

Vassanella said he also hopes to “present some ambitious initiatives that celebrates our town’s history.”

As the other Council members did, Wright thanked his constituents for “returning me to this beautiful office.”

“We’ve gone through some trying times in the last two-and-a-half years, and like most of you, I’ve had my ups and I’ve had my downs,” Wright said.

“I just want to say to my residents, keep your heads down, stay warm, wear your masks, take care of your families and your loved ones and during the next four years I will try to serve you as the best I can,” he said.

Onyejiaka congratulated Potosnak and the other Council members who were sworn in at the meeting.

“We have made real progress,” he said. “As I have promised to my Ward, I will maintain the security and will maintain the good governance and I will maintain communications.”

Uddin said she was “thankful to my constituents for believing in me, partnering with me and collaborating” to better Franklin. “I will continue to focus on Franklin issues. We are a team.”

“It’s time to roll up my sleeves again and get to work,” she said. “But work by collaborating with my residents. I will continue to seek ways to provide more with less.”

“I request that my Ward 2 residents continue to be patient with me as I navigate through the process and continue to learn,” Uddin said.

To those who worked for her re-election, Uddin said, “Your hard work, your advice, your motivation, did not go unnoticed.”

There were also some visiting dignitaries at the meeting.

State Senator-elect Andrew Zwicker (D-16) was on hand to swear in Pruitt to her position as Deputy Mayor. Pruitt was Zwicker’s Chief of Staff when she was a state Assemblyman.

Zwicker said he was happy to swear in Pruitt, adding that he was, “very much looking forward to seeing what Franklin Township is doing looking forward in 2022, when it comes to the environment, human services and so much more.”

Robinson, who has served as Director of the County Commissioners, said she “will continue to and forever be grateful working with every one of you and we move Franklin forward, move Somerset County forward and move the state forward.”

State Senator Vin Gopal (D-11) attended the virtual meeting to swear in the five Ward Council members.

“It’s incredible to see such a diverse council, and thank you for what you do each and every day,” Gopal said.

Board of Education member Bill Grippo praised Potosnak’s work on the school board.

“Ed really served brilliantly on the Board of Education, and I know he will bring that energy to the Council,” Grippo said.

“I want to thank the Council for all it does, especially with the school system,” Grippo said. “These are very trying times.”

Franklin Democratic Party chairman Ron Jordan praised the diversity of the Council.

“What a beautiful mosaic I see on this platform as I see the diversity that we represent,” he said, adding that he looked forward to working with the Council to move township forward.

The new Council conducted its housekeeping business, appointing various positions such as township attorney and engineer, and also made appointments to a number of township boards and commissions.

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