WEST ORANGE, NJ — Though there was only a 7.5-point spread between all six candidates for the West Orange Township Council, the incumbents were able to pull ahead and be re-elected. Incumbents Jerry Guarino, Joe Krakoviak and Michelle Casalino beat out challengers Susan Scarpa, Akil Khalfani and Monica Perkowski.
Results remain unofficial until verified by the Essex County clerk, Christopher J. Durkin.
According to the unofficial results, with 97.3 percent of the votes tallied, Guarino took the lead with 7,305 votes, or 20.73 percent; Krakoviak came in second with 6,562 votes, or 18.62 percent; and Casalino took the final open seat with 6,496 votes, or 18.44 percent. Losing the election, Scarpa received 5,370 votes, or 15.24 percent; Khalfani received 4,783 votes, or 13.57 percent; and Perkowski received 4,661 votes, or 13.23 percent.
The county clerk recorded 27,070 undervotes, which shows the number of votes left over when voters either voted for one or two candidates, but not three, or voted in an election on the ballot other than Township Council.
There were 57 write-in votes.
“It’s a great feeling being put in a position of responsibility where I can continue to take West Orange in the right direction,” Guarino told the West Orange Chronicle in a Tuesday night phone interview.
He added that it is rewarding to see his hard work pay off and to know that the residents trust him to continue working in the town’s best interest.
In his next term, Guarino said he plans to “continue to incorporate commercial development and continue rolling out Complete Streets,” the holistic roadway safety initiative that takes into account issues of traffic and aesthetics.
“We need to improve the quality of life in West Orange with senior services and youth recreation,” he said. “We need to attract new families and make people proud to live in West Orange.”
Being re-elected, Krakoviak also feels that he has been entrusted to protect West Orange by the voters.
“It’s inspiring that voters returned me to the council,” Krakoviak told the Chronicle in a Tuesday night statement. “I believe they want me to continue to work for more transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility from their municipal government. The council has multiple redevelopment challenges that will require citizen input.”
Although Krakoviak is often singled out during council meetings for asking questions and disagreeing with others, he expressed his continued interest to work with his colleagues and the township to help West Orange.
“I look forward to working with the council and administration to find solutions in the best interest of the entire community,” he said.
Casalino, who did not respond to Chronicle requests for comment by press time Tuesday night, made it clear during a sit-down interview with the Chronicle on Oct. 21, prior to the election, that she intended to continue the forward momentum she had begun while serving on the West Orange Board of Education for a decade. She explained that she sees a lot of opportunities for collaboration between the Township Council and the Board of Education, as well as between the council and other entities. She stressed that she is able to work with anyone, regardless of personality, as long as they can find common ground — and she can always find common ground, she said. She intends to find budget efficiencies, work to increase the commercial tax base and work with surrounding towns to find the best ways to make West Orange streets safer.