Returning councilwoman Kathy Mitchell and first-time councilman Tom Kranz were officially sworn into their seats yesterday at the borough's annual reorganization meeting.
For Mitchell, this will be her sixth term on council, making her the longest-serving councilwoman in the borough's history. The two Democrats beat Republican challenger Jean Michelle Moore in the November election.
After he was sworn in, Kranz acknowledged exiting councilman and former Fanwood Police Chief Tony Parenti.
"I'm sitting in his chair right now and he actually did leave his shoes under the desk," joked Kranz. "They're big – I don't know if I can fill them, but today's a good start."
Kranz also acknowledged and thanked the members of the Fanwood Volunteer Fire Department and Volunteer Rescue Squad, calling them "the greatest group of volunteers I could be associated with."
Mitchell spoke about how significant it was to her to be on council again, and especially to be a woman on council.
"It’s something I’m very proud of but also very humbled that voters put trust in me once again, and I don’t take that trust lightly," said Mitchell.
Mitchell continued by putting forth some of the issues to be tackled in 2014, including the proposed police merger with Scotch Plains.
"This is a tough one," said Mitchell. "We know that the police are the biggest line item in the budget and that’s as it should be – they are the ones who protect us," she said. "However, we all should know sitting here in a few years this will be unsustainable because of rising pension and healthcare costs. So what do we do? Do we try and merge with another police department? Do we not and say everything is okay here in Fanwood and then pass the cost on to you? It's a big challenge, big question, big conundrum."
Mitchell also spoke about the need to lower property taxes and the library's budget running at a deficit in a time when much modernization is needed.
Pat Plante, from the Fanwood Democratic Committee, spoke to the merits of both Mitchell and Kranz. She noted Mitchell's long career as a nurse and her other "career" as a long-time volunteer in Fanwood.
On Kranz, Plante noted that he has already helped establish a comprehensive communication plan for the borough and brings many new skills to the council.
"I have also heard people say if they call the rescue squad and Tom gets out of the ambulance, they go, 'Oh good, Tom's here," she said. "Now we are lucky enough to look at the council and say, 'Oh good, Tom's here.'"
She added that the committee has made a donation to the rescue squad in both Kranz and Mitchell's names.
Freeholder and Fanwood resident Al Mirabella also attended and spoke about the two new councilmembers, noting that Kranz had taught his wife and children first aid and CPR.
"My wife speaks so highly of you, the work you do and your dedication," Mirabella said.
Also in attendance at yesterday's meeting was Assemblywoman and former Fanwood Mayor Linda Stender, who spoke kindly about both Kranz and Mitchell.
"Kathy likes to say things like 'I'm not really a politician,'" Stender said. "Then I say, 'But Kathy you are a politician. You are the best kind of politician. Politics is the art of getting things done and when you have public trust and the public confidence because of the work that you do, you exemplify what we all aspire to be when we step up and run for office."