New mayor, two committee members are sworn in

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MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Maplewood swore in a new mayor and Township Committee members on the first of the year at its reorganization meeting.
Former Mayor Frank McGehee passed the torch to Dean Dafis. Committeewoman Nancy Adams was sworn in for her third term on the committee and Jamaine Cripe began her first term. Vic DeLuca was elected as deputy mayor at the meeting.

“To serve and to lead is the greatest privilege. I’m stepping in with open eyes, mind and heart, and I welcome all to the table with me,” Dafis said in his speech after being sworn in. “This is a collaboration with my colleagues and with the community. Together, we will lead. I have ideas of my own, but I want to hear yours, too. I have things to say and decisions I want to make, but I want to listen to you and support yours.”

Dafis is the first mayor of Maplewood to be openly gay, and he applauded the LGBTQ community, saying his becoming mayor is a win for them, as well as himself.

“Today is also a triumph for the LGBTQ community, past and present advocates whose efforts have paved the way for our enhanced equality and our increased representation at all levels in society and government,” he said. “It’s a triumph for our LGBTQ youth, who get to see themselves in leadership. This affirms them, and I’m so proud of that. Representation matters. It saves lives.”

In his remarks, Dafis detailed the plans he has for Maplewood while he serves as mayor, including expanding township services.
“I’d like to see through social justice and mutual aid programs I’ve championed and bridge gaps in township services,” he said. “I will use my voice and visibility to expand our community’s representation at the county, state and federal levels, ensuring that we are heard and receive our fair share in critical infrastructure investments, and I aim to strengthen our regional partnerships to effectuate necessary change or solve problems that are broader than our borders or our budget.”

Adams thanked those who voted for her in her three campaigns for the Township Committee; she was the top vote-getter in each campaign. Adams described herself as an independent and important voice on the committee.

“I have served with integrity and honesty for the past six years, and I pledge to continue to do so,” she said in her speech at the meeting. “Mine has proven to be an independent and therefore important voice at the table, as was publicly evidenced by my solo stance on the bond ordinance for artificial turf this past summer. The results of the referendum that followed showed my stance was representative of a substantial majority of our residents. I will continue to be outspoken and dedicated to thoughtful deliberations and decisions that are based on facts, combined with my experience and expertise, to make sure we don’t jump into anything until careful and complete consideration has been given, whatever the topic.”

Adams has been the only woman on the Maplewood Township Committee for the last couple of years, but with Cripe’s election to the committee, she is now one of two. She congratulated Cripe in her speech, saying she is excited to serve with her.

“I’m so excited to have another woman join me on the Township Committee, and another woman who is not afraid to speak her mind, too,” Adams said. “As you and I have discussed, we often talk in this town of the importance of representation, but women have and continue to be underrepresented at this table and in Maplewood leadership. All children, especially girls, need to see more women representing them in leadership roles, and I know you join me in encouraging more women to run for office and more men to stand up for women.”

Cripe also spoke at the meeting, detailing the challenges the town and country have faced in the last two years since the COVID-19 pandemic started. She also mentioned social justice issues on which attention needs to be focused, in order to make more progress.

“We can’t afford to sit and accept ‘the norm’ from our leaders, and I’m proud to say I am anything but normal. I promise you that I will fight for all of Maplewood,” Cripe said in her speech. “To work with the members of our Township Committee and this township’s amazing professional staff to improve the quality of life shared by all. To improve our public goods. To support our low-income families, our seniors and help them put down roots and be able to stay in Maplewood.”

At the end of her speech, Cripe said she and the other members of the committee will be able to work together well.
“I believe Nancy, Dean, Frank and Vic have what’s best for all of Maplewood at heart when decisions are made, and I look forward to working as a part of this body to move us into a stronger, more unified and more respectful Maplewood for all,” she said.

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