Morris Township gets a new mayor, and a pair of rivals who take the high road

GETTING PERSONAL: Morris Township Committeeman Peter Mancuso (red tie) and challenger William Budd Ravitz, with their wives, Lee Schwartzberg and Lois Mancuso, at Peter's swearing-in, Jan. 7, 2020. His narrow margin of victory faces a court challenge. Photo by Marion Filler
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By Marion Filler

Collegiality ruled on Tuesday in Morris Township’s municipal building, where a standing-room-only crowd welcomed a new mayor and a committeeman whose election remains in the hands of a judge.

Cathy Wilson was sworn in as mayor, a title that is rotated among Township committee members.

Cathy Wilson, left, is sworn in as Morris Township mayor, Jan. 7, 2020. Photo by Marion Filler

And Peter Mancuso took the oath for his seventh term on the governing body. Whether the committee’s lone Republican can settle into his seat may depend on a Jan. 21, 2020, hearing in Morristown.

A Superior Court judge will consider counting 42 unsealed provisional ballots rejected by the Morris County Board of Elections in November.

After two recounts, Democratic challenger William “Bud” Ravitz trails by 15 votes.

The situation didn’t seem to bother either candidate on Tuesday.

State Sen. Anthony M. Bucco (R-25th Dist.) swears in Committeeman Peter Mancuso, Jan. 7, 2020. Video by Marion Filler for MorristownGreen.com:

Privately and in public, they continued to express the mutual respect they showed on the campaign trail. Mancuso, 82, explained that until proven otherwise, it is legal for him to assume office. He didn’t think it was unusual for Ravitz, 58, to be present.

“Why should it? He’s here because he’s a friend and he’s a nice guy,” said Mancuso, a retired governor of the New York Stock Exchange. Ravitz is a manager for AT&T.

State Sen. Anthony M. Bucco (R-25th Dist.) administered the oath to Mancuso.

‘WINDS OF CHANGE’

An elated Wilson noted that her selection as mayor coincided with the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote. “Count me in to do my part to keep the trajectory moving,” said the retired educator, who was deputy mayor in 2019.

Committeeman Jeff Grayzel, last year’s mayor, swapped roles with Wilson.

Mayor Cathy Wilson shares her thoughts, Jan. 7, 2020. Video by Marion Filler for MorristownGreen.com:

Wilson described the Township as a “beacon of excellence,” citing strong management and flat taxes, traditions she vowed to continue.

She highlighted environmental achievements, particularly a plastic bag ban scheduled to take effect in July.

An advocate of transparency in government, Wilson pointed to her efforts to facilitate the flow of information. She was pivotal in launching broadcasts of committee meetings on the Township website, Facebook page, and Optimum’s public access channel on Monday nights.

“In 2017, the winds of change swept our country and blew into Morris Township. Widespread apathy turned to widespread engagement,” said Wilson, who was sworn in by Morris Township Committeewoman Amalia Duarte.

The challenge now, Wilson said, “is to insure that our approach to governance is as user-friendly and inviting to citizens as possible.”

Mendham Township Committeewoman Amalia Duarte swears in Morris Township Mayor Cathy Wilson, Jan. 7, 2020. Video by Marion Filler for MorristownGreen.com:

Committee members shared congratulations from the dais. When it was Mancuso’s turn, he congratulated Ravitz as well.

“I’d like to applaud Bud Ravitz, my rival for this seat, for running a decent campaign without any anger, name calling and focusing on the issues. Thank you, my friend.”

From the back of the room, Ravitz answered, “You’re most welcome.”

William ‘Bud’ Ravitz (center), who is challenging Peter Mancuso’s election in court, found a seat at packed Morris Township reorganization meeting, Jan. 7, 2020. The political rivals harbor no animosity. ‘Peter is a good man. I want to adopt him as my dad,” Ravitz said. Photo by Marion Filler

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