WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange Township Council’s last meeting of the year saw council members and the public say goodbye to two longtime councilmen. Joe Krakoviak has served on the council since 2010, starting when he finished Robert Parisi’s unexpired term when Parisi became mayor; Jerry Guarino has served since 2012. Krakoviak opted not to run for a third four-year term this year, while Guarino lost a reelection bid in November.
“You’re always very passionate, always asking questions,” Council President Michelle Casalino said at the meeting to Krakoviak. “I’ve learned a lot from you, from a lot of the questions that you have asked. You’re always pushing us to do the best we can. I’ve always appreciated that from you.”
Councilwoman Cindy Matute-Brown also praised Krakoviak’s penchant for detailed questions and conversation when she spoke about him at the meeting.
“I am going to miss the banter that we’ve had,” she said. “Sometimes it got a little contentious, but all because I think we’re both very passionate about the direction of our town. Thank you for your service and your commitment, and I’m sure we’ll continue to seek out your advice and input despite the fact you will not be on the dais anymore.”
Councilwoman Susan McCartney likened Krakoviak’s leaving the council to a divorce, when she spoke at the meeting.
“The fact that you wrote out all your questions and sought all the answers that we were always seeking, I truly did appreciate that,” McCartney said. “When I say divorce, there’s always two sides of a story. You brought that all together at every council meeting.”
Prior to being elected, Guarino and Krakoviak ran council campaigns in the same year and lost, which Guarino pointed out at the meeting.
“I have great respect for you, Joe, because you never take ‘no’ for an answer,” he said. “You kept a lot of people on their toes.”
In his thank-you speech, Krakoviak, who did not seek reelection due to his belief in term limits, said he is leaving the council but not the town. Krakoviak thanked everyone who voted for him, his council colleagues and especially his wife, Clare Silvestri.
“I focused most on more transparency, accountability, fiscal responsibility and term limits,” he said. “I wish both the current and future council members great success in striving for more of these goals and wish the council great success in serving our community.”
Casalino joked when talking about Guarino’s time on the council that she appreciated him being the liaison to the sewage commission, a job that many other council members didn’t want.
“You always serve with such great passion,” she said. “You’re always there for the community and do a lot of community service. You’re always there helping out and pitching in. We thank you so much for all that you’ve done for this community. You will be missed.”
Guarino’s passion for being a council member was a theme throughout the meeting, including from Krakoviak, who pointed out that he and Guarino at times had a rocky relationship.
“One of the things that will always stick with me is that, more than anyone else who has either been on the council or has tried to get on the council, you lived for the job,” Krakoviak said. “It always showed. It was an inspiration to me. I’ll always remember how often and how passionately you encouraged residents to continue participating in the community, continue coming to the council meetings and speak out, and participate in our government.”
Matute-Brown said that, while she and Guarino did not always agree, after meetings he was quick to reassure her they could still work well together.
“The cameras were off and people didn’t see, despite the disagreements, how quickly you were to walk over and say, ‘We’re OK, we just disagree,’” she said. “Always looking to ensure that our relationships were OK. I appreciated that, and I will miss that.”
McCartney praised Guarino’s leadership on the Pedestrian Safety Advisory Board, of which Guarino said he would remain a member.
“I know how long it has taken to get the Street Smart program off the ground,” McCartney said. “Thank you for your leadership there, and your leadership in putting together such a great team, including Street Smart and Easy Ride people, but also residents in the community.”
Guarino thanked his wife, Robin; children, Brett and Mallory; and the other council members.
“I’m leaving, but I’m leaving with accomplishments that I hope will make the township and the residents a lot better, a lot happier, a lot safer,” he said. “Public service is not an easy thing, and you’re not entitled to it. You have to earn it. When people give you that trust to make decisions for them, it’s the greatest trust that anyone could ever give. I sincerely appreciate that.”