Morristown councilman steps down, paving way for appointment of Michael Elms

During nearly four years on the Morristown council, Kevin Gsell was a man of few words.

And that’s how he ended his term on Monday:

“I am officially resigning as a councilman in Morristown,” Kevin said in an email to town Clerk Matt Stechauner.

The move–announced when Kevin bowed out of the Democratic primary in April because of pending plans to buy a home in Morris Township–appears to pave the way for realtor Michael Elms to get some council experience prior to the November general election as an interim appointment.

GOING, GOING... Morristown At-Large Councilman Kevin Gsell, pictured here at a 2011 road race, is stepping down to move to Morris Township. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

GOING, GOING... Morristown At-Large Councilman Kevin Gsell, pictured here at a 2011 road race, stepped down on Monday. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Michael and two incumbents defeated Democratic challengers for three at-large council seats in the primary. The challengers tried to block Michael’s candidacy, contending that Kevin Gsell quit the race too late for anyone new to file for the June primary. But a state Superior Court judge sided with Michael.

The council slate faces no formal opposition from Republicans in the fall.

“He’s already on the ballot and he already won the primary for that seat. That would be the logical choice,” Mary Dougherty, chairwoman of the town Democratic committee, said of Michael Elms.

She is researching whether the situation is sufficiently unique to preclude the committee from having to forward three names to the council.

That standard procedure was used to appoint Toshiba Foster after Councilman Anthony Cattano Jr. passed away last year, explained town Attorney Vij Pawar.

Morristown’s Democratic committee has 15 days to convene and recommend three people to the council.  The council then has 30 days to select one of those three to complete the final months of Kevin Gsell’s term.

Vij agreed that Michael Elms seemed like the obvious pick, “since it’s a Democratic seat and a Democrat has to be appointed, and a Democrat was in the primary and is on the ballet for the general  election. It would make sense. But it’s the governing body’s decision.”

Michael Elms.

GETTING HEAD-START ON COUNCIL TERM? Michael Elms appears to be the front-runner for an interim council appointment. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The council’s only regular meeting this month is scheduled for July 16, though members are penciled in for a redevelopment meeting on July 18.  They meet again on Aug. 13, with another redevelopment meeting set for two days later.

Kevin Gsell’s tenure was interesting, starting with his own legal fight to get onto the ballot. He entered the 2009 race thinking his rented  carriage house in Morris Township actually was in Morristown, because town officials let him vote in prior elections, he said at the time.

A judge ruled that Kevin should not be penalized for the town’s errors, and let him campaign in Morristown. Later, Kevin moved to a South Street apartment.

At times the councilman has had to perform a delicate balancing act, sometimes recusing himself from controversial discussions involving downtown bars. That’s because his sister is married to Billy Walsh, who has pitched plans for new bars; and their brother, David Gsell, has in interest with the Walshes in Sona Thirteen.

However, Kevin voted earlier this year for the expansion of Tashmoo, a DeHart Street bar represented by Dave Walsh.

While Mayor Tim Dougherty referred questions about replacing Kevin Gsell to Mary Dougherty (who also is his wife), he wished Kevin well.

“I’m glad he finally closed on the house, and we wish him and his wife and family continued success,” the Mayor said. “And my door is always open.”



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