Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty began his second term on New Year’s Day with predictions for another municipal budget with no tax increase, and completion of a new zoning master plan that will promote growth while preserving neighborhoods, minimizing traffic and adding to a “model of success” that he said is envied statewide.
“I feel the hard work we’ve done over the last four years has kept us on a good path. It’s very positive,” said the Mayor, who was re-elected by a landslide in a three-way race in November.
First Ward Councilwoman Rebecca Feldman, an Independent, was named council president in a unanimous vote by her colleagues and Third Ward Councilman Stefan Armington was the unanimous choice for vice president.
And the Mayor’s slate of council candidates– incumbent Democrats Michelle Dupree Harris, the former council president and senior member of the governing body; Toshiba Foster; and Michael Elms–also were sworn in Wednesday during the hour-long special session at the Thomas Jefferson School.
Borrowing the Mayor’s campaign slogan, Rebecca pledged to continue a tradition of “open and transparent government,” with a council she described as “accessible, organized and professional.”
Foremost among challenges facing council members in 2014, the council president said, is translating the pending master plan into a zoning ordinance.
“It has broad and long-range implications for the future of the town…we need to go above and beyond to make sure that all voices are heard,” said the industrial designer, who served on the planning board before winning council elections in 2007 and 2011.
Last year, Rebecca co-founded a mother’s group to press for gun law reforms in the wake of the Newtown, CT., school massacre. She also ran unsuccessfully for state Assembly as an Independent in 2013.
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HIGHLIGHTS AND PREDICTIONS
The master plan process, dubbed “Morristown Moving Forward,” gathered public suggestions at meetings and online and was among accomplishments cited by the Mayor in a 16-minute speech (see video) sprinkled with greetings to town officials and Dougherty family members, who traveled from as far as Washington DC for the occasion.
Many of them, including his mother, gathered afterwards at the Hyatt Morristown for a reception hosted by the Mayor and First Lady Mary Dougherty.
Well wishers also included Morris Township Deputy Mayor Bruce Sisler and Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco (R-25th Dist.) and his wife Amy, who attended four New Year’s municipal reorganizations in the legislative district.
Other first-term highlights and second-term goals cited by Mayor Dougherty:
- More than 200 new businesses have located in Morristown over the last two-and-a-half years; the new year should see the Cake Boss, a posh restaurant at the Vail Mansion, a CVS pharmacy and a Whole Foods supermarket coming to town. Other businesses opening franchises here will include Cioffi’s Salad House (Millburn), Takeover Apparel (Montclair), 580 South (Livingston) and Godfather pizza and seafood (East Hanover).
- A fourth municipal budget which, despite commercial tax appeal battles, will “provide a high level of service to our citizens without increasing their tax burden.”
- An unspecified “shared service opportunity” should improve local services while saving taxpayers $100,000 a year. His opponents in last fall’s election called for more regionalized services.
The Mayor also pointed to construction of the 268-apartment Latitude complex, the first phase of a long-discussed redevelopment of the Speedwell Avenue section of town.
“Progress in this important neighborhood stalled for years and I heard your frustration,” the Mayor said.
“I heard when you said you wanted the town to deal with the abandoned buildings along the avenue. I heard when you said that you wanted the town to stop parking garbage trucks in your backyard. Anyone driving by the site today can see that this administration put the excuses aside and has brought the project to fruition. Less talk, more action.”
The Mayor, who is 54 and works at the Prudential Center in Newark, said his first term helped him grasp the process of government–and taught him about patience.
“It does take time to get things accomplished. You always have to be open to hear the other side of a situation,” he said. He also expressed a deeper appreciation for sacrifices made by spouses of elected officials–he thanked his wife, Mary– and added that the mayoralty has offered a fascinating window into Morristown’s diverse community.
“I’ve met so many people from all walks of life, from someone who is homeless to someone who is blessed with all good fortune,” the Mayor said.
In other business on Wednesday, the council approved re-appointments of town Business Adminstrator Michael Rogers and town Attorney Vij Pawar. Helen Dodick and Meredith Marcus were re-appointed to the planning board; Stefan Armington was re-appointed as council liaison to that board.
Elisa Price was appointed a trustee of the Morristown & Township Library. Anthony Lucia was reappointed to the Morristown Parking Authority; Michael Elms was renamed the council liaison. Councilwoman Alison Deeb was named liaison to the Morristown Partnership.
Also sworn in were five volunteer firefighters: Capt. Jesus Castano, First Lt. John Rickershauser, Second Lt. Thomas Gaylord, First Assistant Chief Douglas Rieghard and Second Assistant Chief Paul Miller.
Photos by Bill Lescohier. Please click icon below for captions.