Governor Murphy Swears In Elected Officials
WESTFIELD — Governor Phil Murphy paid a special visit to Westfield on Tuesday to administer the oath of office to Mayor Shelley Brindle and Council members David Contract, Dawn Mackey, Mike Dardia and Linda Habgood. The five Democrats won reelection to the town’s governing body in November.
“I’m incredibly honored to be here,” said Gov. Murphy, who referred to Westfield as “a quintessential New Jersey town…This is a town that exemplifies the goodness of public service on both sides of the aisle.”
Tuesday night’s proceedings were held outside on the front lawn of Town Hall out of an abundance of caution sparked by rising Covid-19 numbers. Approximately 100 local residents, town employees, family members and volunteers turned out in spite of the cold to witness the event. A limited number of local residents were invited to attend the town’s official reorganization meeting, which was held indoors at the conclusion of the inauguration ceremony. Those not able to attend the in-person event were invited to participate via Facebook Live.
Also in attendance were several other local, county and state representatives, including Senate President-Elect Nick Scutari and Congressman Tom Malinowski, both of who commended the efforts of the Westfield mayor and council.
“You do a great job for the right reasons in representing the Town of Westfield,” said Senator Scutari, speaking to the governing body. “The town of Westfield is in your hearts and in your minds every day of the week, and that’s what makes these jobs so hard. They’re hard, but we love what we do. To the mayor, to the town council, you do a great job, and I’m really happy to be able to support you in all of your endeavors.”
Mayor Brindle delivered Westfield’s 2022 State of the Town address, noting that the community has made major strides forward in spite of the challenges presented by the past several years.
“First and foremost, I’m happy to report that the state of our town remains strong, and that we have almost fully recovered from the fiscal challenges and uncertainty brought on by the pandemic,” said the mayor, who listed new businesses, local investment and a healthy real-estate market as major signs of growth throughout the community. “It’s important to appreciate these silver linings while we continue to weather this seemingly never-ending pandemic.”
In addition to community restoration and pandemic-response efforts, Mayor Brindle cited road improvements, the state accreditation of the Westfield Police Department, cleanup and recovery from Hurricane Ida, the introduction of the Edison Fields project and the new town website as notable accomplishments in 2021.
“[We have also] continued to emphasize voluntary historic designation, with two additional historic properties designated at property owners’ request — bringing the total to seven in this administration, the most in town history,” Mayor Brindle continued, noting that the community also has made positive strides in areas including environmental stewardship, redevelopment and downtown revitalization.
“There is a much more exhaustive list of accomplishments that can be found on the town website, but I prefer to spend my time this evening focusing on our future, where we remain committed to working together to focus on progress, not partisanship,” Mayor Brindle said.
On deck for next year, the mayor continued, are six key focus areas that speak to the council’s continued dedication to the community: to continue to promote strong fiscal responsibility and management by investing in the town’s infrastructure; to protect the health and safety of local residents by adding a new officer to the Westfield Police Department and ensuring that the department has access to the right equipment; to work towards becoming a premier sustainable town by supporting the efforts of the Green Team and implementing new storm-water management techniques; upgrading and investing in parks and open-space areas, including the Edison fields and Tamaques Park; diversifying the town’s housing stock to attract younger residents and belay affordability concerns for local seniors; and advancing downtown-revitalization efforts in a beneficial and transparent manner.
“We have an ambitious agenda, and it will take all of us working together to bring these goals to fruition as we strive to build an even brighter future,” Mayor Brindle said. “To achieve this, we must not fear change or progress, but rather embrace it, while we continue to prioritize maintaining our “small town” character which attracted so many of us here in the first place. To ensure Westfield remains healthy and vibrant, we need to evolve, adapt and grow so that all are welcome and feel at home here.”
Councilman Mark Parmelee was appointed to the position of acting mayor and Councilwoman Mackey was appointed to fill the role of alternate acting mayor.
Tuesday night’s meeting also saw various mayoral appointments to the Westfield Planning Board, Board of Adjustment, Special Improvement District Board, the Board of Health, the Recreation Commission, the Historic Preservation Commission, the Tree Preservation Commission, the Westfield Memorial Library Board, the Westfield Housing Commission, the Public Arts Commission, the Human Relations Advisory Commission, the Access and Inclusivity Council, the Mental Health Council and the Bicycle Board, among others.
A small group of anti-mask protestors attempted to interrupt the front-lawn proceedings with chants of “unmask our kids” and “my child, my choice.” The protestors, while loud, remained civil and were largely ignored by the gathered crowd.
In closing, Mayor Brindle said she looks forward to the day that the town can hold its annual reorganization without mention of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In spite of its lingering challenges, I am proud to affirm that the state of our town is exceptionally strong, and we are well-poised to capitalize on a post-pandemic future,” she said. “I will ask once again that you continue to hold us accountable for delivering on our commitments to you, and approach this year with gratitude for our families, community, service and health.”