WESTFIELD — In a decisive night for Westfield Democrats, Mayor Shelley Brindle defeated Republican mayoral candidate JoAnn Neylan, leading the way for a sweep across Westfield’s four wards. All the incumbent council Democrats rode a blue wave of support from Westfield voters, winning reelection against their Republican challengers in Tuesday’s General Election.
Mayor Brindle, the head of the town’s nine-member governing body, eight of them Democrats, won a second four-year term. She garnered 6,696 votes to former Councilwoman Neylan’s 5,460 votes, according to the Union County clerk’s website as of the morning of November 3.
After the polls closed, and the results came in, Democrats gathered at the James Ward Mansion on East Broad Street, where Mayor Brindle was surrounded by Council members Linda Habgood, Michael Dardia, David Contract and Dawn Mackey to celebrate their election-night success.
“We had a vision, we now have the mandate to make it happen,” stated Mayor Brindle, speaking in front of supporters, campaign volunteers and her colleagues on the council. “I think our biggest fear is that one of us wouldn’t win,” she said.
Westfield, a ward style of municipal government, saw incumbent Councilwoman Habgood of Ward 1 receive 1,803 votes, defeating Republican challenger Amanda Como (1,414). In Ward 2, Councilman Dardia (1,551) beat Republican challenger Denise Garrett (1,384). Ward 3 saw Councilman Contract (1,688) defeat Shawn Mullen (1,202), the Republican challenger. And in Ward 4, Councilwoman Mackey (1,686) defeated GOP challenger James Restivo (1,337).
Councilwoman Mackey spoke to The Westfield Leader amidst a jubilant atmosphere at the James Ward Mansion.
“I feel honored that the people of Westfield put their faith in me for another four years,” said Councilwoman Mackey. “I’m thrilled to be doing this with my team, and I look forward to community building and working together for a better Westfield.”
Only a short drive away, at the Italian American Club on Central Avenue, Republicans gathered after the election. With polling results being screened in real time, a strong sense of disappointment overcame the gathering when the mail-in ballots tipped the race decisively in their opponents’ favor. Nevertheless, mayoral candidate Neylan addressed her supporters, in light of what looked like impending defeat, offering a sense of optimism and pride in the Republican effort to challenge the Democrats’ vision for the future of Westfield.
“I know this isn’t the speech I was hoping to give,” remarked Ms. Neylan. “I can’t tell you how inspiring it is to do this. We’re building ourselves back up. We’ve come a long way in a couple of years.”
The Republican council challengers expressed appreciation to their families, supporters and fellow candidates Tuesday evening.
“This was a really tight race, and I think we knew that was going to happen,” said Ms. Garrett.
“We’ve got a great message and we’re going to continue to bring that message forward,” said Mr. Mullen.
In the wake of the election results, and voters endorsing the vision outlined by Democrats during the campaign leading up to the General Election, Westfield’s governing body has a distinct set of challenges ahead of itself come 2022.
In both the mayoral and council candidate debates held in October, multiple key issues were dominant. Among them were the health of the downtown and its future development and character; the role of PILOTs in Westfield’s redevelopment strategies; crime; floodwater management and climate change — not to mention the town’s fiscal management and infrastructure needs — all of which came to the forefront as Election Day neared. These issues will confront the governing body when Mayor Brindle and her re-elected colleagues begin their new terms in 2022.
The Westfield Town Council, not including the mayor, who is a voting member of the governing body, consists of eight officials — two elected members from each of the town’s four wards.