The man who worked for decades to paint Morris Township’s governing body blue plans to challenge its last red representative this fall.
Former Mayor Jeff Grayzel, a Democrat, announced Friday he will take on former Mayor Peter Mancuso, who has served seven terms on the Township Committee and is the only member from the days when it consisted solely of Republicans.
“I very much respect my opponent Peter Mancuso and the many contributions he has made to our community over the past 44 years since he was first elected in 1978. I am looking forward to a positive race that is focused on the issues and what is best for our residents,” said Grayzel, 58.
Mancuso, 84, said he looks forward to “a very interesting and exciting race” where voters will decide “whom they think will represent them best.”
The only Township Democrat elected for three terms (and non-consecutively) and the first to serve as mayor, Grayzel stepped down last year to mount an unsuccessful bid for state Senator. Democrats maintained their 4-1 Committee majority in last November’s election.
In a statement, Grayzel cited open government, smart development and shared municipal services as campaign themes.
As accomplishments, he pointed to YouTube postings of meeting videos, special public meetings for big projects, and “top-tier commercial tenants” such as Restoration Hardware, CIT Group and the Red Bulls soccer team. (The soccer headquarters is being challenged by an affordable housing advocacy group).
Grayzel said he helped improve a Hanover Avenue strip mall, inherited from a GOP administration, into something that “can become a destination for our residents because of the pedestrian plazas, fountains, and the pocket park it will now include.” He also cited extended sidewalks and improvements to the municipal sewer system.
“I have been honored to serve on our governing body and I look forward to continuing my public service as I work to secure the votes of the residents of our wonderful town,” said Grayzel, who presently serves on the Township zoning board.
Mancuso expressed similar sentiments.
“Civility and decency has and always will be my focus, in this and any other election that I’m involved in. I’m proud of my 20-plus years of service to Morris Township,” said Mancuso, who has been mayor so many times — six, so far–that his peers bestowed him with the title of Mayor Emeritus. (The Committee selects the mayor.)
A retired governor of the New York Stock Exchange, Mancuso emphasized his fiscal conservatism and pointed to his work helping craft “responsible” municipal budgets during the pandemic, and throughout his 21 years as Township finance chairman.
Mancuso also reiterated his commitment to bipartisanship.
“In the previous two years as the lone Republican vote on the Committee, we have through compromise, negotiation and respecting others’ point of view reached consensus on our actions. My focus has always been to legislate what is BEST for Morris Township and Morris Township alone,” he said in a statement.
Both men are veterans of tough campaigns.
Mancuso held onto his seat by 8 votes in a 2019 election that included recounts and landed in court.
Grayzel’s political résumé includes three recounts and a court-ordered special election in 2007.
He holds engineering degrees from Columbia and Cornell universities and is president of a private medical device company. He moved to the Township in 1997. A father of two boys, Grayzel has coached Little League baseball and Morris United soccer. In addition to a stint on the planning board, he has served on boards of the Morristown Jewish Center and the Museum of Imagination and Innovation.
A Township resident for 54 years, Mancuso raised four sons there and has two grandchildren in the Morris School District.
Mancuso has chaired numerous civic boards and committees, including those of the County College of Morris, the Morris Museum, First Night Morris, Great Conversations, the Market Street Mission (fundraising) and the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts (fundraising).
He also chaired the Township’s 250th anniversary celebration and the New Jersey Republican finance committee, and he’s been a trustee of Saint Elizabeth University, the Mayo Performing Arts Center, the Madison YMCA and the former Morristown Memorial Hospital (now Morristown Medical Center), among other organizations.