MAPLEWOOD, NJ — In a meeting that highlighted the arts and amazing strides of the township’s youth, Frank McGehee was sworn in as the next mayor of Maplewood.
At the Jan. 1 Township Committee reorganization meeting, McGehee, who is now entering his second term on the committee, thanked the many people who supported him throughout his life and who play a critical role in helping Maplewood to grow and become better. He spoke of his brother, a policeman in Chicago, who has many similar attributes.
“While serving his community, he always acts with respect for whoever he is interacting with and goes out of his way to talk with everyone and see their humanity,” McGehee said. “We both learned these principles from our mother, a public servant in education who passed away of breast cancer. Her legacy was to instill in us to respect and treat others as you or your loved ones would want to be treated.
“In that spirit, here in Maplewood over the last three years, we have worked diligently to move forward from the events of July 5, 2016, where our youth were racially profiled and marched out of town. But since then we have rebuilt our police department from the ground up and the top down,” he continued, highlighting the recent promotion of Capt. Niheema Malloy, the highest ranking woman of color in the history of the police department; the hiring of local officers who have a vested interest in the community; the Community Board on Police; and the many successes of community policing, such as food and clothing drives. However, McGehee acknowledged that there is still work to do.
McGehee also took time to recognize his mayoral predecessor, Committeeman Vic DeLuca, who served as mayor of Maplewood for 14 years.
“I want to recognize Mayor Vic DeLuca, not only for two decades of leadership and service to Maplewood, but also for his work and dedication to the Ironbound district in Newark and the greater state of New Jersey,” McGehee said. “He has led with integrity, passion, commitment and continues to be an inspiration to me.”
McGehee described how he got to know DeLuca and how the two men and their wives became good friends.
“Thank you not only for your incredible leadership, but your incredible friendship,” McGehee told DeLuca. “Mayor DeLuca has forged an incredible path for the next generation of leaders.”
The “next generation of leaders” were also honored at the meeting. McGehee discussed how today’s youth are so active in social justice and environmental sustainability causes, and how they serve as role models to the older generations.
The 2020 reorganization meeting was dedicated to local youth by Dean Dafis, who later in the meeting was sworn in as deputy mayor.
“Every year we dedicate our reorganization meeting to local members of the community — volunteers, public servants, community organizations — all of those who have demonstrated exemplary public service, social justice advocacy, community building and organizational leadership all year long, the effects of which have often extended far beyond the borders of our town,” Dafis said, standing alongside members of Columbia High School’s Students for Justice Club and Environmental Club.
“This is for all the youth who are leading us, despite all the empty talking and false promises from work leaders convening at countless global conferences and summits year after year for at least the past couple of decades,” Dafis continued, praising Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg, the teenager who started a global movement among youth to strike against climate change. “This is the power of youth, transforming vague anxieties about some distant abstract notion into real urgent danger, transforming inaction into action, and reminding us that they are leading us, for we will not be in charge forever. And they will not, shall not, should not inherit our dysfunction and failures.”
Specifically, Dafis praised area youth who organized climate strikes and teach-ins, and are using their voices to reform issues such as food insecurity, income inequality, voting disenfranchisement, the proliferation of guns and more.
At the reorganization meeting, the five members of the Township Committee were also appointed to the following standing committees for 2020. Code Enforcement will include Chairman Dafis, Nancy Adams and DeLuca; Communications will include Chairman McGehee and Dafis; Entrepreneurship & Economic Development will include Chairman McGehee, DeLuca and Adams; Engineering, Public Works & Planning will include Chairwoman Adams, DeLuca and McGehee; Finance will include Chairman DeLuca and McGehee; Public Safety will include Chairman Greg Lembrich, McGehee and Dafis; and Recreation and Human Services will include Chairman Dafis and Lembrich.
Additionally, the five members were each appointed to liaise with various committees and organizations for 2020. McGehee will liaise with the following committees and organizations: Board of Education, Fire Department Shared Services, Green Team, Office of Emergency Management, Springfield Avenue Special Improvement District and Youth Advisory. Dafis will liaise with the following committees and organizations: Community Board on Police, Drug Alliance, Local Assistance Board, Open Space Trust Advisory, Senior Citizens Advisory, SOMA Two Towns for All Ages, Village Alliance SID and Youth Advisory.
Adams will liaise with the following committees and organizations: Community Garden, Environmental Advisory, Historic Preservation, Maplewoodstock, Planning Board and Sustainability. DeLuca will liaise with the following committees and organizations: Affordable Housing, Arts Council, Community Coalition on Race, Fire Department Shared Services, Fourth of July, Holocaust Remembrance, Office of Emergency Management, SOMAtv, Springfield Avenue SID and Sustainability. And Lembrich will liaise with the following committees and organizations: Board of Education, Community Board on Police, Durand-Hedden House, Fourth of July, Maplewoodstock, Recreation Advisory, Swimming Pool Advisory and YouthNet.