GARWOOD — During her last regular council meeting on December 22, outgoing Mayor Sara Todisco reflected on her 12 years as an elected official in Garwood. Mayor Todisco, a fourth-generation resident of Garwood, began her first term as a councilwoman in 2011 at only 22 years old. She was re-elected to the council in 2014 and 2017, and she was the highest vote-getter on both ballots. In 2019, Mayor Todisco was sworn in as the youngest mayor in Garwood history.
Mayor Todisco explained that during her “exit interview” with the Garwood Historical Committee last Sunday, member Bruce Paterson asked her how she was able to get involved in politics at such a young age. “He pointed out, ‘most 22-year-olds are not running for their town councils,’” Mayor Todisco relayed.
Her answer was “two-fold,” she said.
“One was my love of this town and what it meant to me, as instilled in me by my family, especially my grandfather who was very proud to be from Garwood and also to have a business here, like his father before him,” Mayor Todisco stated.
The other part of her answer had to do with how she was brought up “by a strong, independent woman who raised me as a single mom from the ages of five to 10 … she made me believe in myself and be a strong woman just like her,” Mayor Todisco said.
Jeremy Carper, Mayor Todisco’s husband, said during public comment that her stepping down is “bittersweet,” but the decision was “really about starting a family.” Indeed, the couple announced that they are expecting a baby girl in April.
“I really thought I could do this for decades, and maybe a small part of me believes that is still true to this day. But some things, I’ve learned, are not about how long you can keep doing what you’ve been doing. But instead, they are about being in the right place at the right time. I got involved 12 years ago for the same reason I’m leaving,” Mayor Todisco stated. “It’s for the love of family.”
Borough Administrator Kyle Harris presented a resolution on behalf of New Jersey Senator Jon Bramnick that saluted Mayor Todisco for her “outstanding efforts” as mayor.
“Throughout her first term, she spearheaded a number of praise-worthy initiatives that have greatly enhanced the quality of life for her constituents, including a launch of the official municipal social media pages and first Citizens’ Advisory Panel, the Community Spirit awards, [and] quarterly Breakfast with the Mayor [events],” the resolution reads.
Elected officials, residents, friends and family echoed these sentiments throughout the evening, including Council President and Mayor-elect Jen Blumenstock. “Her love of Garwood was apparent the minute I met her,” Ms. Blumenstock said. “As councilwoman and mayor, she got roads paved, she kept our budgets low, she did redevelopment negotiations, but I think what she did best, especially as mayor, was bring people together. She truly listened to all sides, and went out of her way to make sure everyone felt heard.”
In other business, Police Officers Edward Mironski and Ian Rivera have resigned from their positions effective January 1 and 3, respectively. To fill their place, the council voted to appoint two new officers, Brian Contreras and Jada Shucai.
Mr. Contreras began his law enforcement career in September 2020 as a police officer with the city of Irvington, where his father also served for 25 years. Mr. Contreras has been employed as a campus security officer at Fairleigh Dickinson University since February 2022.
Ms. Shucai, who will be the borough’s first female police officer, has been a dispatcher in Garwood since June of this year. Prior to serving Garwood, Ms. Shucai began as a dispatcher with the Carteret Police Department in April 2021.
Ms. Schucai is not yet a certified police officer and will be the first officer to attend the John H. Stamler Police Academy with a Garwood Police Department patch since 1990.
Also that evening, the council passed an ordinance to enforce the borough’s current prohibition of short-term rentals of 28 days or less. The ordinance also specifies that renting out pools is prohibited. The planning board intends on presenting an ordinance outlining regulations for the operation of short-term rentals, but it recommended that the council adopt this ordinance until further action is taken.