Photos and Video: Township Council Reorganizes With Help From Sen. Booker, Rep. Holt

Councilman Brian Regan voted Deputy Mayor.

It’s not uncommon to have special guess show up at municipal reorganization meetings. But it is a bit unusual to have a sitting U.S. Senator and Congressman appear at the sessions.

That was the case Jan. 1 when newly minted U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ, and Rep. Rush Holt, D-17, showed up at the Township Council reorganization meeting. Both spoke during the session, and Booker swore in the five returning council members – Roz Sherman, James Vassanella, Phil Kramer, Carl R. A.Wright and Theodore Chase – and the new Deputy Mayor, Councilman Brian Regan.

State Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, D-17, and Somerset County Freeholder Peter Palmer also attended, as did Rocky Hill Mayor Ed Zimmerman.

In addition to the swearing in of the winners of the November election, the session also featured appointments to various boards and commissions, appointments of council members to their respective committees and naming of certain professionals such as municipal attorney and township prosecutor.

Franklin Township Council Reorganization Meeting Jan. 1, 2014

The annual Franklin Township Council reorganization meeting had some special guests this year, notably U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ, and U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, D-NJ.

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All of the newly sworn council members thanked their constituents for voting for them, and some talked about what they wanted to accomplish in 2014.

Chase, D-Ward 1, said the two projects he will focus on this year are a water conservation ordinance and a stream protection ordinance. Chase said he hoped the former ordinance, which would regulate such things as lawn watering, could be introduced some time this month.

Sherman, D-At Large, said the last four years had been “absolutely fantastic,” and that she is “very happy to be back here again.”

Kramer, D-Ward 3 – who took his oath on a Bible and a copy of the U.S. Constitution – thanked his wife for her support during his campaigns and the time he has served on the council.

“Unless you have been involved in something like this, you have no idea of the time sacrifice involved in running for office and being in office,” he said. “She has all of the sacrifices and none of the rewards. So if you’re happy that I’m on council, and like what I have done, you need to thank her.”

Wright, D-Ward 4, a major proponent of creating recreational space in the township, thanked those who “put wind in the sails for township parks. Middlebush Park is a beautiful thing for our kids to play in, and Catalpa Park” is next, he said.

Preliminary plans for a new township park on the Catalpa farm property were presented Oct. 15 to the Open Space Advisory Committee. The property is bordered by South Middlebush and Old Vliet roads.

Wright said projects he would be focusing on this year include “transformation of Hamilton Street” and bringing more affordable housing into the township.

Vassanella, D-Ward 5, said the council has “accomplished a lot, but we have more to do.”

“We all want the best quality of life we can get,” he said. “If we work (together), we can achieve great goals.”

In his speech after becoming the newest Deputy Mayor, Regan, D-At Large, said he would serve in the position “with honor and to the best of my ability.”

The “new normal,” Regan said, is “how to provide reasonable services at a reasonable cost. The economy is improving, but we know there are a number of residents who are living on a day-to-day basis.”

The council, he said, “will work to make Franklin Township a safe and affordable place to call home.”

Booker reminded the council that he began his political career as a ward councilman on Newark’s City Council, and that what they do has far-raging implications.

“All of the issues that you are deciding here are the front lines of our democracy,” he said.

Booker said that “I am who I am” because the leaders of his hometown “created a special place for me to grow up.”

“What you all do today, no matter what the public perception, is sacred,” Booker said. “You’re not doing it for the money, you’re not doing it for the insults from people who don’t understand you … what’s beautiful about you all is the love you bring to what you do.”

Holt said that the reorganization meeting is “an opportunity to celebrate the good government of this town and to celebrate the idea of the people’s government in this country.”

The purpose of what they do, Holt told the council, “is to extend and preserve the rights and opportunities of this great country for all the people.”

Palmer told the council that the township – the largest municipality in Somerset County – is important to the Freeholders and that they will do what they can for the township.

Chivukula said that while 2014 “offers many challenges, it also provides us with many opportunities.”

“I’m looking forward to a great 2014,” he said. “I wish you all the best. It’s a great honor and privilege to serve the residents of Franklin Township.”

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