For Mayor Colleen Mahr, Councilman Russell Huegel and Councilman Kevin Boris, New Year’s Day offered a bright and boisterous beginning to 2012. The Democrats swept local elections this year, with Mayor Mahr taking 70 percent of the vote.
Members of the community, local officials, fire fighters and cherished family lined the walls and squeezed into every available seat with some even packed in the entrance way, hoping to catch a glimpse of Fanwood’s newly minted and renewed members of government.
Councilmen Russell Huegel, who will now also service as the Borough Council’s Vice President, was accompanied by his daughter Joss, who sat patiently on her father’s knee, a curious expression upon her face as she observed the proceedings.
“This morning certainly had a family feel to it,” Huegel humored. “I’m excited to get to work and continue our strong commitment to extending shared services in 2012.”
Mayor Mahr was also touched by the large turnout.
“I am very humbled and honored to see that even on New Year’s Day, people are packed out the door. I can only see good things happening for Fanwood in 2012. This is a vibrant community that can expect many positive changes to come in the New Year,” Mahr said.
The Special Meeting of the Mayor and Council began with an invocation delivered by Venerable Klint Kaevalin of the Dhammakaya Meditation Center. Former New Jersey Democratic Governor Brendan Byrne was on hand to deliver the Oath of Office to Mayor Mahr, her prospective Councilmen and new Public Defender, Michael Doran.
Governor Byrne, 87, has made the trip to Fanwood to deliver the Oath of Office before. He received a warm welcome, stating with a smile “I hope that I can come back and do this again in another four years.”
New Councilman Kevin Boris noted that “it was great that Governor Byrne could come today.”
Boris also thanked the residents of Fanwood for electing him to a “mixed council that always works together for the best interest of this community.”
Fanwood resident and Union County Freeholder Al Mirabella also addressed the Council and crowd.
“This is such a great town. In the almost ten years that I have lived here, Fanwood has surpassed all of my expectations. This is a wonderful community, but that is no secret to anyone in this room; you live here, you know what a great place this is to raise a family,” Mirabella said.
“The fact that you [Mayor Mahr] have been elected three times is a testament to the work you have done on behalf of the residents here in Fanwood… I want to compliment this council for the work that they have done. It is not easy for republicans and democrats to get along. As lead by your Mayor, you work together so well for the good of the people,” Mirabella added.
Mirabella also thanked Councilwoman Wheeler for her years of service to the Borough of Fanwood, as well as commending her for her work as part of the administration at Runnells Hospital. Vice Chairperson of the Fanwood Democratic Committee, Jack Molenaar also presented the newly elected officials with a bottle of wine; a token of the Committee’s congratulations.
The members of the Fanwood Rescue Squad and the Volunteer Fire Department also swore an oath to serve and protect the residents of Fanwood. Mayor Mahr expressed her gratitude for their service.
“When we see a loved one in distress and we panic, we know that we need to do one thing: pick up the phone and dial 911, and these men and women are there in a blink of an eye. We can never forget them, we can never underestimate them and we must always thank them when we see them,” Mahr said.
After the reorganization concluded and the final resolution had been passed, Mayor Colleen Mahr delivered her address.
“The outpouring of generosity and support I see here today has taken my breath away. I love being the Mayor of Fanwood. I believe that God has made put me here at this time in my life to do this job, and I will work as hard as I have for the last 8 years going forward into this term,” Mahr said.
The Mayor went on to acknowledge the hard times that “have affected every kitchen table in this town” noting that the Council had to make some “bold decisions” including purchasing property downtown to help revitalize Fanwood.
In fact, the Mayor stated that because of their efforts to rebuild downtown Fanwood, the borough has been chosen as one of 12 towns to serve as examples in the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs’ new Guide to Rebuilding New Jersey Communities.
“I know that hard times are here, but we will persevere. I predict that in 2012, we will see economic growth,” Mayor Mahr stated.
Mahr went on to support her prediction, noting that in a few short years, 9 million dollars in rateables have come into the town , joined by ten million in private investments. She also commended the Business Professional Association, which she stated is enjoying historic amounts of new memberships.
With an expressed determination to keep the upcoming budget within the 2 percent cap, Mahr also noted that 2012 will bring new improvements to Fanwood’s parks, marked by refurbished basketball courts, ball fields, and a new walkway in Forest Road Park.
Mahr also reaffirmed her commitment to expanding shared services, with a nod to those outside of town that may have strong opinions regarding consolidation and as to how Fanwood should be governed.
“We will continue to be the focus of people’s attentions, but I believe we are on the right path and no one outside of town will tell us what to do. I am committed to seeing the shared services of our police department put through. We will have a community meeting to announce our findings by the end of first quarter. We can have shared services without compromising quality of life,” the Mayor stated.
Mahr expressed her admiration for the Mayors and Councilmen and women before her, such as Jack Molenaar who served the community long after they had stepped down from government. She noted that she hopes that through the revitalization of downtown, that she and her fellow governors can “leave a fingerprint on Fanwood” and make a lasting positive impact, while urging residents to shop local in order to help support the community.
“It is our passion and commitment to this town that binds us all together. I never believed that I would be a mother of three healthy boys, ages five, seven and nine. I have made so many friends and family that have stepped up together to make this a better community. Thank you for giving me another four years,” she said.