The process to fill the Morristown council seat held by the late Anthony Cattano Jr. is a swift one, according to state law.
Members of the Democratic municipal committee appear to have until Sept. 19 — 15 days after the councilman died on Sept. 4–to forward names of three Democrats to the council.
“The Committee is committed to choosing experienced, dedicated candidates who represent the diversity in our community,” said Mary Dougherty, Morristown’s Democratic chairperson and the town’s First Lady.
The council has until Oct. 4– one month from the councilman’s passing–to choose one of those nominees to serve the remaining year of Tony Cattano’s term.
A majority vote of the remaining council members–that’s four votes out of six–is needed. If council members are deadlocked, Mayor Tim Dougherty casts the tie-breaking vote.
If the municipal committee fails to submit names within the appointed time, the council can appoint a Democrat of its choosing. If the council drops the ball, the committee makes the appointment.
These procedures are spelled out in N.J.S. A. 40A:16.
Two council meetings are scheduled for this month: A regular meeting on Sept. 18, which was pushed back from this week out of respect for Tony Cattano, and a similarly rescheduled council redevelopment meeting on Sept. 20. The council’s Oct 9 meeting appears to be beyond the 30-day window for appointing an interim councilman.
In the past, nominees for vacancies on town boards have been presented for council consideration in alphabetical order.
The vacancy is one of three at-large council seats, serving all of Morristown.
Whoever is chosen will have the task of following a figure who was so popular that he felt little need to campaign. Here is how Tony Cattano, who died of cancer at 63, was eulogized on Saturday by Mayor Tim Dougherty:
Thank you to the Cattano family for the opportunity to say a few words about Tony.
As a Mayor you need to be able to work with many people who may have different agendas and personalities. Elected officials can be impacted in a variety of ways and can be influenced in their decision making. Tony Cattano was not one of those people.
I have known Tony for over 20 years. We first met while coaching Little League. Later, we served on the Town Council together and most recently we ran as a team in the last election. And I can honestly say that he was truly dedicated to the Town of Morristown and to the community. He was sincere. He cared deeply about his hometown. You don’t coach youths in baseball and basketball for 30 years without being a caring person who wanted to help others. Tony gave his time and he didn’t ask for anything in return. Ever.
When he needed to make a decision as a Councilman it was a decision from the heart. He voted how he believed. He voted in ways that would have the greatest positive impact on the people of Morristown. Whether it was improving parks for children to play in, or approving a redevelopment that would shape Morristown’s future, Tony always did the right thing. Many times I would speak with him and he would explain why he made the decision he did. It was usually because someone would be affected in some way. He was compassionate and caring. Tony was a champion for children, for residents and for businesses and he was loved throughout the community.
Public service is a Cattano family tradition and he proudly dedicated his life to serving Morristown. Over the past year we have missed him at Council meetings but he and I spoke routinely. We will continue to miss him on the Council and I personally will miss talking with him. He was a truly a good person, and my friend. He touched so many lives. We lost him too soon but his impact on the Town of Morristown and its community will live on forever. –Mayor Tim Dougherty