BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Democratic Mayor Michael Venezia was sworn in for his fourth consecutive term on Friday evening, Jan. 6, at Town Hall, before a full chamber of family, friends and spectators. Sleighing into office on the popular mayor’s runners were familiar faces, all at-large members: Councilwoman Wartyna Davis, commencing her fourth term, and Councilmen Ted Gamble and Rich Rockwell, each starting his third term. All elected seats were uncontested in the November general election.
Municipal clerk Louise Palagano presided over the ceremony. She provided a deft hand and light humor. The national anthem was sung by Skylar Canabal, and the Rev. Anthony S. Ventola, of Agape Worship Center, gave the invocation. Ventola asked God to bless the elected officials with health and wisdom. Bloomfield Councilwoman Jenny Mundell introduced attending dignitaries and township department heads. A prayer was delivered by Bishop Shammah Womack-El, of the Temple of Radiant Light, who recalled St. Timothy’s plea for leadership not to fall into evil ways. Following ceremonial remarks, the reelected officials were sworn in and spoke.
Venezia thanked his wife, Laura, for her support; for caring for their daughters, Ella and Sophia; and for “keeping me sane.” The best part of his days, he said, is being with his family. But he understood his life also extended to his family of 53,000 Bloomfield residents.
“Our differences make us stronger,” he said, reflecting on the entire community, adding that Bloomfield is a wonderful town.
He said Bloomfield’s government is close to the people, and any problem it faces is the foundation for beneficial change.
“Not only is it possible for Bloomfield to deliver basic services and generational change, but it is
also absolutely necessary at this moment,” Venezia said. “We tackle our biggest challenges by getting the small things right, by getting town hall out of town hall and into our neighborhoods, block by block, street by street.”
During the initial days of the COVID-19 pandemic, beginning in 2020, every day was a struggle, he said. A monument, dedicated to residents who died from the virus, will be dedicated. Getting back to normalcy, he said, was in no small part because of Essex County assistance.
“In the same year, we also saw the crisis of race-related inequities come to a head, with the tragic murder of George Floyd and many others,” he said. “Bloomfield responded with the same sense of community we have come to expect as just part of who we are, holding community marches in collaboration with the Bloomfield Police Department and many honest community conversations, which have continued to inform the way we govern and remind us of the importance of ensuring all voices are heard.”
He commended the completion of Lion Gate Park, saying it was a generational benefit. He concluded by saying that, when he first became mayor, though he was not perfect, he always worked to make Bloomfield proud.
“I hope I have done that,” he ended.
Davis thanked the mayor for his support in her initial election. She recalled a proverb about planting tree seeds under whose eventual flowering the planter would not be shaded, but whose shade would instead benefit future generations.
“I’ve seen a little of that,” she said.
Throughout the previous three years, she said, in large part due to COVID-19, she learned the importance of community commitment.
“Holding that in my heart,” she said, “I recommit myself to the community.”
Gamble said that, when he first came to the council, he was relatively new to Bloomfield and was thankful to his neighbors.
“By making those connections and listening to our neighbors, we become better leaders,” he said. “We lead with compassion and understanding for what our community needs.”
Gamble said all his work has been worth it.
“It’s made easy because I’m doing it with the friends which I’ve made in this community,” he said. “I couldn’t do this without the support of my wife, Jenni (Preziotti-Gamble), and my amazing son, Asher, who stand by me and chip in to help out whenever needed.”
Rockwell’s theme was collaboration, and he considered each council colleague by name. He thanked Mundell for her work with the Bloomfield Public Library Commission and for organizing the annual town cleanup; Nick Joanow for his work with the environmental commission, open space and recycling committees; Sarah Cruz for her effort with the Juneteenth and garden committees; Davis for her work with the Bloomfield Civil Rights Commission; and Gamble for his work with the animal shelter. For his part, Rockwell works with the Morris Canal Greenway Committee and the Bloomfield Historical Commission.
The closing benediction was given by the Rev. Vernon Miller, of the New Light Baptist Church.
Photos by Daniel Jackovino