Not too long ago, the notion of even one Democrat serving on the Morris Township Committee seemed like a moonshot.
The Eagle is about to land for the blue party.
When the Bible is trotted out for the swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 2, 2019, Democrats will hold four of five seats, for their first majority ever. And the titles of mayor and deputy mayor for the first time also will belong to Democrats, who both spent years working to achieve this feat.
“We’re looking for a smooth transition that will be seamless to residents and employees,” said Jeff Grayzel, who on Monday announced that Committee members have agreed to name him as mayor, and Committeewoman Cathy Wilson as deputy mayor.
Grayzel said the Committee plans to retain long-serving township Attorney John M. Mills III, contrary to a published report, as well as township Administrator Tim Quinn, the former police chief.
“We’re not making radical changes,” said Grayzel, a veteran of nine campaigns and three recounts who will be serving his third non-consecutive term on the Committee.
His focus will be delivering on an election promise to make local government more open and responsive to residents, he said at Monday’s menorah lighting on the Morristown Green.
The incoming mayor added he looks forward to working closely with present Mayor Peter Mancuso, who will remain on the Committee as its lone Republican.
“I look to Peter as being a full member of the team, with a full range of appointments, like every other Committee person,” said Grayzel. “His experience and institutional knowledge is invaluable to me.”
Mancuso said voters demanded change, and he is encouraged by his preliminary meetings with the Democratic majority.
“We’ve forged a very good relationship, all five of us, and I think 2019 will be a wonderful year for the Township,” Mancuso said at the menorah lighting.
“The five of us all want one thing: To make Morris Township a better place.”
Asked if has any advice for his successor, Mancuso said serving as mayor is an “inquisitive process.”
“He’ll do fine,” he said of Grayzel.
Grayzel and running mate Mark Gyorfy, who at age 26 was making his first bid for office, scored decisive victories in last month’s Committee race, with 6,495 and 6,351 votes, respectively, including provisional ballots.
They bested Deputy Mayor Bruce Sisler (5,015 votes), chief of staff for state Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco (R-25th Dist.) who sought his fourth Committee term; and Sisler’s GOP running mate, Joe Calvanelli Jr.
It was Grayzel’s second victory over Calvanelli, who he beat in a special election in 2007 after a Superior Court judge declared the November 2006 race a draw. The win made Grayzel the Committee’s first Democrat since 1973.
He is the only Democrat ever elected twice to the Committee, and now, for three terms. His first campaign was in 2003.
Grayzel earned degrees from Cornell and Columbia universities and is president of a company that develops medical devices. A Township resident since 1997, the father of two boys has coached Little League baseball and Morris United soccer. He also has served on the Township planning board, and as a trustee of the Morristown Jewish Center.
Wilson, the Township’s former Democratic chairperson and founder of Friends of Televised Access in Morris Township, won election last year–her fourth try--along with fellow Democrat John Arvanites, former mayor of Roseland.
Once solidly red, Morris Township now has about the same number of registered Democrats and Republicans.
The words “Mayor Grayzel” no longer provoke chuckles of disbelief. One man has been wanting to say them for a very long time.
“It’s something I thought about from the first day I took office,” Grayzel said.