WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange Township Council opened the new year by swearing in a new councilwoman, council president and Mayor Robert Parisi for his third term in office at its meeting Jan. 8. Newly elected Cindy Matute-Brown took the oath of office and Councilwoman Susan McCartney was sworn in for her fifth term on the council. Jerry Guarino was elected council president.
“Mayor Parisi’s dedicated public service in exemplary, but his consistency and passion for everything West Orange is second to none,” township attorney Richard Trenk said prior to swearing in the mayor. “As the mayor begins his third term I know his foot is firmly planted on the accelerator, aiming to keep the town as financially stable as possible while planning to prepare West Orange for the future with exciting improvements to continue to make it a destination place to live, work and play.”
Trenk discussed Parisi’s popularity in town, mentioning that he’d won the 2018 election handily in each voting district.
“Elections have consequences, as we have learned ever so painfully over the last two years at a national level,” he said. “Here in West Orange, we saw the overwhelming re-election of Mayor Parisi in every district in every ward, so the consequence of the election in 2018 will be the mayor’s continued leadership, energy and unwavering commitment to a strong West Orange.”
Parisi thanked Guarino and McCartney for their service on the council. He also said he is looking forward to working with Matute-Brown.
“It’s a very exciting time for you and it’s an exciting time for the council, administration and community,” Parisi said at the meeting. “We are excited to hear a new perspective and new viewpoints, and I’m looking forward to working together.”
He also thanked the voters and members of the public who attended the meeting to support him.
“I’m honored that the voters gave me another opportunity to serve,” Parisi said. “I’m excited about some things that are on the horizon and excited as always about the future of this community. I look forward to continuing to work together.”
McCartney also won re-election in a landslide and, before swearing her in, Trenk spoke about the time she has spent serving West Orange.
“For the past two decades, she has never missed an event or any moment in this town,” he said. “There is not an organization she has failed to support and there is not a person she has not been kind to and in support of. She researches, she dreams, she rolls up her sleeves and she always reaches out to help.”
Trenk joked that in all the years he has been the town’s attorney and has known McCartney, he has never seen her get angry, a testament to her love of the township.
“I was motivated in 2002, and I thank the entire community for coming out to show your support and your faith and trust in me,” McCartney said at the meeting. “I don’t get angry because I see your passion and I feel your passion. I have not lost focus and I feel as focused if not more so than I did in 2002. Thank you all for that trust and support.”
Matute-Brown’s husband, attorney Stephen Brown, swore in the new councilwoman. First he spoke about when Matute-Brown first began to talk about running for office two years ago.
“About two years ago, my wife sat us all down and said that she wanted to run for Town Council. My first question was, ‘Why?’” Brown said. “She said she wouldn’t do it without myself and the kids and asked if we would provide that support. I saw the look in her eye and I knew no matter what we said she was going to do it anyway. My wife has always been the kind of person that when she sets her mind to something, she does it. She’s like the little engine that could, can and will.”
Matute-Brown thanked her family members, who were at the meeting, for helping to run her campaign.
“For everyone who is here and for all of your families, you understand how exhausting it is to run a campaign,” she said at the meeting. “We ran a grassroots campaign that included every single member of my family including my mother, who canvassed in West Orange for the first time. I’m so excited to have shared that opportunity with her and with so many others who are here.”
She went on to encourage residents to keep going to council meetings and get involved in the community in other ways in the rest of her remarks.
“There are a lot of great things that are happening in West Orange,” Matute-Brown said. “There is so much more that happens behind the scenes than we observe sitting in the seats out there. I’m going to ask that we start visiting more meetings. Let’s become and stay involved. The only way we’re going to move forward is together. I look forward to working with all of you and I look forward to you holding me accountable, but you’ve got to be here to do that. Please make sure you keep showing up.”
Parisi read the oath of office to swear in council President Guarino, who last served in that role in 2015.
“It’s been a great opportunity serving as a council member and as a council president to help bring the township to the highest apex it can achieve,” Guarino said at the meeting. “We have great assets in our people, in our children and in our facilities. All I ever want to do is make this township even better and leave it better than how we found it.”
While Guarino has lived in West Orange for more than 30 years, he did not grow up in town. He spoke at the meeting about how he wishes he had.
“I’ve always said I wish I grew up in West Orange,” he said. “With the stories that I hear and the people that I’ve met, it must have been a great experience. I know it was for my wife and was for my children. We’re all one family and we’re all here for the betterment of our community, to leave something even better for our children and grandchildren.”
The council also voted to approve council liaison positions for 2019. One change was made from the Dec. 11 meeting, making Matute-Brown the second liaison to the Insurance Fund Commission rather than McCartney. The change was approved unanimously, and Guarino will serve as the first liaison.
McCartney will continue as the liaison to the Planning Board as well as to the West Orange Arts Council; she will also serve as the liaison to the Renna House. In addition to the Insurance Fund Commission, Guarino will continue as the liaison to the Downtown West Orange Alliance and the Joint Meeting Commission.
Councilwoman Michelle Casalino will be the liaison to the Degnan House and will continue as the liaison to the Public Relations Commission. Councilman Joe Krakoviak will remain the liaison to the Open Space and Recreation Committee.
In addition to being liaison to the Insurance Fund Commission, Matute-Brown will be the liaison to the Local Assistance Board and the West Orange Municipal Alliance Committee.
Photos by Amanda Valentovic