Following the victory by Westfield Democrats in last years Mayoral and Town Council races, two representatives of the Democratic and Republican Parties for the 1997 council began to hold meetings regarding Mayoral and council appointments. After weeks of meetings, including marathon sessions in January, both sides finally agreed to the list of names.
One of the biggest sticking points had been that of selecting the Municipal Court Judge. While Republicans wanted to stick with long-time Judge Edward Hobbie, their Democratic counterparts endorsed the appointment of Marion S. Mogielnicki, a former council contender in the Republican-dominated Second Ward. When all was said and done, Ms. Mogielnicki found herself on the bench while Republican Pam McClure wound up taking the seat on the Planning Board previously intended for Anthony M. Laporta, a former councilman and Democratic Mayoral contender. Ms. McClure, a Republican, ran unsuccessfully in the 1991 Republican primary in the Third Ward against Kenneth L. MacRitchie.
Thus, given the magnitude of these negotiations, it was somewhat surprising to learn last week of Ms. Mogielnickis decision to resign. Given the political climate this year of the appointments and the Republicans decision to join forces to stop the lifting of restrictions on restaurant liquor licenses as it applies to patron bars, we hope that the process to select a new judge will be based on the best person available with little regard paid to the candidates political party.
It is important that those council members on the search committee put forward the names who, regardless of party affiliation, they feel can gain full council support. We also would urge that this process be kept completely separate from other issues currently before the council, i.e., the exterior property maintenance code ordinance. Although we cant believe this would occur, we would hate to see some type of trade off between the two issues.
In addition to taking the time to find a knowledgeable top rank attorney with extensive court experience, the committee should make sure that the nominee they end up putting forward is fully aware of the time constraints required for the position. Court in Westfield meets twice a week for eight sessions a month.
Although we regret Ms. Mogielnickis decision not to continue in her role, we wish her well in her future endeavors. She made history as the first woman to serve on the Westfield bench.
We look forward to seeing how the appointment process will proceed this time around.