James to replace outgoing chairman as Awe is sworn in

Photo by Chris Sykes
From left, firefighter and Young Professionals of East Orange member Akeem Cunningham shakes hands with East Orange 1st Ward Councilman, former member of the Essex County Young Democrats and now new council Chairman Chris James on Saturday, June 2, during the city’s annual Music Arts & Culture Festival, also known as the MACFest, which was in City Hall Plaza.

EAST ORANGE — The East Orange City Council elected 1st Ward Councilman Chris James as its new chairman and Mayor Ted Green swore in new 2nd Ward Councilman Chris Awe at the council’s meeting on Monday, July 9.

James is replacing Romal Bullock, the former chairman and 2nd Ward councilman, who resigned, effective Saturday, June 30, to become the city’s new tax assessor. Awe is taking over Bullock’s 2nd Ward seat.

“Christopher Awe was sworn in this evening by Mayor Green,” said city clerk Cynthia Brown on Monday, July 9. “Councilman James is the council chairman.”

Neither James nor Awe could be reached for comment by press time this week. Green was also unavailable for comment.

According to Brown, Awe was appointed to replace Bullock by East Orange Democratic Committee and Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman Leroy Jones.

“There’s a lot to come from a young man that has put in his time in this community,” said Jones on Saturday, June 16.

Brown said Awe’s appointment is only temporary, however, until a special election can be organized in November, so he can run to officially fill the remaining three-plus years of Bullock’s term.

“Since Bullock is a member of the Democratic Party, a Democrat will be selected to replace him,” said Brown on Tuesday, June 19. “Three names will be provided to council by Chairman Jones. The selection of the successor will be made by the council. The successor serves until the special election in November, at which time the unexpired term of Councilman Bullock will be filled.”

Bullock won re-election to a second consecutive term as part of Green’s successful Team Green in 2017 ticket, but then decided to trade in his seat for the chance to run the Tax Assessor’s Office.

“July 1 will be my last day on council. Then, on Monday, July 2, I take over as assessor,” said Bullock on Monday, June 4.

“I’ve been the city of Newark tax assessor for the last six years. It’s sweet, because I like Newark and I love East Orange,” said Bullock on Tuesday, June 5. “They do things differently there, in terms of who the assessor reports to, than we do here in East Orange. But it’s funny, because having served as a councilman while I was working for the administration in Newark, I got to see both sides. It’s been a big help to see both sides.”

Bullock said he plans to put his dual perspective from the legislative and executive sides of government to good use on behalf of East Orange.

“As an assessor, I think the politics side of this is important, because I’ve always been focused on residents and taxpayers, but when you’re their elected representative, then it’s different,” said Bullock. “When you’re from East Orange like I am, I care about the whole city. Managing the tax base and managing expectations can only be helped by having been on the council and having to represent people directly and answer to them, too.”

Bullock said he plans to bring a whole new level of accessibility and accountability to the city Tax Assessor’s Office.

“They’re still going to be my constituents,” said Bullock. “In East Orange, they’re your constituents, but they’re also your neighbors. So they feel comfortable reaching out to you when they have an issue, questions or concerns about something in the city or city government that they hope you can help them with resolving. When you have the mindset of a public servant, you have the mindset, whether you’re an elected official or not.”

Awe expressed similar sentiments.

“When you are committed, when you lead by example, I stand here before you as a testament of the product and result of that,” said Awe on Saturday, June 16. “One of the beautiful things that I see among us is the range of our elders and our young people here and I want to take this opportunity for all the men … in this community … the stalwarts and cornerstones in our community (who) have taken part in raising us and making us who we are.”

Awe said he and other city youths have been blessed to have positive black male role models and they owe them a debt that can never be repaid.

“I want to thank our coaches, I want to thank our educators, our teachers, our protectors, our policemen, firemen. … You see them in the stores, you see them in the schools, you see them in the library and I think it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing. So I want to take this opportunity to thank all you men who stay in this community, put in the work here and I pray that you guys reap the benefits and get to see all the seeds … you sowed among all of us.”