EAST ORANGE, NJ — The who’s who of Democratic Party members who attended East Orange City Council’s annual Reorganization Meeting in City Hall on New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, almost eclipsed the swearing-in of new members 5th Ward Councilman Mustafa Brent, 4th Ward Councilman Casim Gomez and 1st Ward Councilwoman Amy Lewis, and 2nd Ward Councilwoman Jacquelyn E. Johnson and 3rd Ward Councilwoman Quilla E. Talmadge, who are veteran council members.
Attending the meeting were state Assembly President Stephen Sweeney, U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr., Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver, Assemblyman Tom Giblin, Essex County Clerk Chris Durkin, Essex County Advocate Ted Stevens, Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss, Hillside Mayor Angela Garretson, Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren, state Sen. Nia Gill, Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders President Britnee Timberlake, Freeholders Lebby Jones and Wayne Richardson, Irvington Democratic Committee Chairwoman Baseemah Beasley, Essex County Registrar Dana Rone, Ronald Salahuddin, Essex County Deputy Clerk Tony Jackson, Irvington Municipal Council President Charnette Frederic, Orange East Ward Councilman Kerry Coley, Orange West Ward Councilman Harold J. Johnson Jr., Orange City Council Vice President Elroy Corbitt and a host of others.
East Orange 3rd Ward Councilman Ted Green was chosen to serve as the 2016 council chairman by his council peers; he served as the council vice president in 2015, while 5th Ward Councilwoman Alicia Holman served as chairwoman.
East Orange Mayor Lester Taylor was also at the meeting and remarked about those in attendance when he addressed the audience. “It looks like East Orange is a pretty important place to be today,” Taylor said Friday, Jan. 1. “I would like to thank the elected officials from across this county who took the time to come out today. It is so humbling to be the mayor of this city. Council members, new and incumbent; I look forward to working with you all in 2016.”
Taylor said their presence was proof of two things: East Orange Municipal Democratic Committee Chairman and Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman Leroy Jones has as many friends outside the city as he does within it, and others from around New Jersey are tuned in to his administration’s mission to turn East Orange into a “destination city” and model of “urban excellence.” Taylor also noted that all the speakers spoke highly of Jones and his leadership of the Democratic Party in the city and county.
“I’m just so happy we have a leader in Leroy Jones who has molded such a great team,” Taylor said. “He is always so cool in trying times. To my outgoing City Council chairwoman, Alicia Holman, I want to thank you for your hard work and dedication. To my incoming Council chairman, Ted Green, I’ve known you for a long time and you have always been a consummate gentleman. I’m confident that, with you and your ability to build consensus, we will be able to work together to turn this into the destination city that we all want. I know that we will be successful together.”
Sweeney and Payne also echoed the sentiments regarding Jones and praised the mayor.
“Leroy Jones is respected throughout the state of New Jersey,” Sweeney said. “And East Orange really is living up to Mayor Taylor’s vision of becoming a destination city and model of urban excellence.”
Payne said the state Democratic Party and its congressional delegation are doing all they can at home and in Washington, D.C., to ensure that Jones, Taylor and their constituents get what they need to turn their visions for East Orange, Essex County and the rest of New Jersey into reality.
“We’re going to be there to make sure that (Taylor) gets to finish the job that he started, transforming East Orange into a destination city,” Payne said. “To the council, continued success. To Chairman Green, you’ve been dedicated to this town for many years … I just want to wish you continued success.”
Green thanked Sweeney, Payne and the mayor but said there is still a lot of work left to do to help East Orange become a destination city and model of urban excellence. He added that he’s grateful his council peers have entrusted him to lead the way, as it is a team effort.
“I am so East Orange,” Green said on Friday, Jan. 1. “I’m excited about the New Year and ready to get down to the people’s business. We want to personally thank all the men and women of East Orange that keep things running here and in the rest of New Jersey.”
Talmadge said she is also thankful for her re-election to the City Council and said she agrees with Green that there is still a lot of work left to do to help Taylor realize his vision for the city.
“I said two years ago (that) we elected a mayor who wanted to redevelop East Orange and make it a destination city and set the standard for urban excellence,” Talmadge said on Friday, Jan. 1. “I said to myself: ‘I’m going to hang in there to help him do that.’ Mayor, when you do that, I will think about retirement.”
Taylor said he would hold Talmadge to her promise.
“For better or worse, we are all in this together. I’m just so grateful and happy that we have so many better things happening in the city,” Taylor said. “I know we want to make East Orange a destination city and a model of urban excellence right away, but Councilwoman Talmadge wants to hang around for a couple more years.”