IRVINGTON, NJ — The city of East Orange was well-represented at Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss’ fourth annual State of the Township Address on Friday, Feb. 23, at Christian Pentecostal Church on Clinton Avenue in Irvington.
With Mayor Ted Green at the event were Leroy Jones, chairman of the East Orange and Essex County Democratic committees and 4th Ward Councilman Casim Gomez, along with many others. Prior to becoming Irvington’s mayor, Vauss served as the Irvington Board of Education president who earned the saying: “Ain’t no party like a Tony Vauss party.”
“You know, the Academy Awards are coming March 4, and I would not be surprised if there is a nomination for film editing and style and who else would be a recipient but our good mayor, Tony Vauss. I do have to say that,” said Jones at the event. “I marvel at these young people. We got a little taste of what tomorrow brings. We got a little taste of Wakanda, for those of you that have been able to see ‘Black Panther.’ And it’s a celebratory moment for all of us to be able to revel in.”
Jones also was an awards presenter for one of the biggest stars of the night, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo.
“Ladies and gentlemen, let me ask our county executive, the honorable Joseph DiVincenzo Jr., to come up here and accept this award,” said Jones. “Surprise, surprise, surprise!”
Green was surprised to receive a leadership award as well. He and Vauss have been friends for years, even before he served as his fellow municipal leader’s Building Department director, from 2014 to 2017, when he resigned, in order to run for mayor of East Orange.
Green and Vauss share a birthday and have taken family vacations together, so Green is familiar with Vauss’ flair for the dramatic, which was on display at his annual address. Vauss also screened his leadership video, footage from last year’s annual Christmas Tree-Lighting Gift Giveaway and Holiday Spectacular, and a video tribute to former President Barack Obama, interspersed with Vauss speaking at the protest rally on Thursday, Jan. 18, on the steps of Newark City Hall, where President Donald Trump’s alleged recent remarks about Haitians, Africans and other Third World countries were denounced.
“As you see, here in Irvington, we believe in ‘One Team One Dream.’ That’s why we do this together as one unit. There’s no separation here. We’re all family and we work as one in the township of Irvington,” said Vauss on Friday, Feb. 23, prior to playing the Obama tribute video. “You know, it’s been a troubling time in our country. We see what’s going on in Washington, D.C., and everyone being as divided as we are in this country. It seems like we promote more hate than love and it’s getting out of control. The things that No. 45 (Trump) has said and done since he’s been in office should be condemned and, anytime you make a racist statement about anyone anywhere, good people in this country should stand up and say that it’s wrong. Kind of makes you miss No. 44 (Obama), doesn’t it? So we have a tribute to No. 44.”
The most poignant moment of the event may have been when Vauss led the entire audience in a moment of silence to honor of the victims of the recent shooting at a Florida high school.
“In light of the tragedies that happened in Florida, I’d like to take a minute out, to give a moment of silence for everyone who lost their life or lost their loved ones in Florida,” Vauss said.
“Now we get to the special part of the evening,” continued the mayor. “You know, it takes a team to accomplish what we’ve accomplished here in the township of Irvington and no one man is on an island, no one woman is on an island. It takes a partnership and, every opportunity I get, I like to thank the council members for working hand in hand with me and doing what we all love: making the township a better place to live and grow and raise a family. So let’s give them a big round of applause.”
Vauss’ presentation was scored to hip-hop music beats, which Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren and Assemblyman Tom Giblin both acknowledged. But even Green was surprised when Vauss presented him with a special leadership award, after an extended introduction by Irvington North Ward Councilman and Municipal Council President David Lyons.
“I agree with the county executive that Mayor Vauss has got the best team in the state of New Jersey, between my colleagues and his staff. And one of the things that Tony does is, he hires good directors and those directors really do their jobs,” said Lyons on Friday, Feb. 23. “The director that I’m talking about, all I have to do is call and I say: ‘Could you send somebody out,’ and he says: ‘Councilman, I will go out myself, because I want to make sure that it’s done right. And his staff is tremendous. And I’ve known him for a long time and the good thing about him is he was not only a good director, he was a good friend, and I know he and the mayor are good friends and I’m just so proud to give him this award, because he deserves it. The only problem is, he decided that he wanted to do some other things, so Irvington’s loss is East Orange’s gain. So I want everybody to please give Ted a hand because Ted served us well, just like he’s going to do for East Orange now, and he deserves it.”
“Thank you all very much for this. I wish my wife was here. When I get home, I know she’s going to say: ‘You knew you were getting an award and didn’t tell me,’” said Green on Friday, Feb. 23. “I want to just personally thank Irvington for giving me the opportunity … to come in and be director of the housing department. To the council that always supported me, I want to say thank you so much. … But I want to thank all the employees of the housing department and the building department. … I’m very grateful for this award and I always say, as the mayor of the city of East Orange, that you could never do all of this by yourself. But for the opportunity that y’all have given me, I am able to do the things that I do in the city of East Orange, each and every day. So it’s easy for me to switch from the legislative side to the administrative side, back to the administrative side. So Irvington, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to do the things I do. I love you guys. Thank you.”