UNION, NJ — Union hosted its annual reorganization meeting at town hall on Jan. 1, where former Deputy Mayor Suzette Cavadas was appointed Union’s new mayor, succeeding former Union Mayor Manuel Figueiredo. Former Union committeeman Joseph Florio will now serve as Union’s deputy mayor.
Cavadas has served on Union’s Township Committee for six years and as Union’s deputy mayor for two years, and has been active in the Department of Recreation as well as an active proponent for the expansion of programs at the senior center.
Cavadas, a longtime Union resident, has served as board member of the Union Charter Study Committee and the Union Board of Adjustment. She also sat on the Prevention of Child Abuse Committee, served as liaison to the Board of Education, and as commissioner of Community Development, Licensing, Recreation, as well as the senior center.
Cavadas told LocalSource that she is pleased with the progress that Union has made in recent years, and that she is not daunted by the task of ensuring Union’s growth and revitalization.
“I don’t see many things as challenges — more so opportunities to learn and grow,” Cavadas said. “Along those lines, we’ve identified these opportunities in areas like infrastructure, taxes and economic growth, particularly in Union Center. My colleagues and I have worked diligently to progress in these areas and we have certainly seen results. In the past two years alone we have seen improvements to almost 100 roads. We have seen businesses invest and reinvest in Union, and we are on the verge of a rebirth in Union Center.”
Cavadas, who is a practicing attorney of real estate, family and municipal law, and who also serves as a municipal prosecutor in Plainfield, said there are several challenges she’d like to take on as Union’s new mayor.
“I have never been a believer in having a single focus, and it’s part of why I believe I have been able to accomplish so much,” Cavadas said. “As such, there are several areas I would like to touch upon in my term as mayor. To start, I believe that continuing and seeing through our redevelopment projects and shoring up our economic vitality are keys in maintaining a thriving town that people are proud to live in and raise their families in. I have a commitment to maintaining our taxes stable and debt service low, maintaining our AA+ bond rating and ensuring the same high standard of quality for our public safety and municipal programs and services. I would also like to build on our vision of unity and focus on the strength of our children and families.”
Florio has served on Union’s township committee since 1997, and has served four terms as mayor. A 46-year resident of Union, Florio has served on Union’s planning board and board of adjustment, and has served as co-chairman of the Study Commission for the Board of Education Adult Advisory Committee.
Florio, an advocate of youth recreation programs, was involved in Union’s Little League, and was one of the original founders of the current recreational basketball program. He was also involved in the funding and opening of the senior center and Union’s train station.
Florio told LocalSource that he has seen many changes throughout his 21 years on the township committee.
“I think one of the changes that has been most challenging has been simply how and where people live, shop, and how they get their information,” Florio said in an email. “The fact of the matter is that when I began my career in public service, the definition of the American Dream was very simple. You would find a good job, and settle down there and think of your career as long term. You would buy a house in a nice neighborhood and live out the rest of your life in one place. You would shop local and invested local. You read your local newspaper to find out what was going on around town. Nowadays our residents needs are as diverse as they, themselves.”
According to Florio, the township has always been proactive and responsive to the changing needs of its residents, and the administration has been working on advancements and developments to diversify housing options, bring in new business and provide convenient transit services.
“I’ve also see the township demographics change,” he said. “Earlier this year we were ranked as one of the most diverse towns in the state. And while this certainly is not a challenge, it has brought with it welcome change, as we now can experience so many cultures within our borders.”
Florio said the administration will continue to remain focused on the many ongoing projects that are happening throughout the township. “We are looking forward to major changes within Union Center, with new retail and residential models coming soon, as well as significant improvements that I think will change the way residents, visitors and businesses see the heart of Union,” Florio said.
Cavadas, who is also a busy mom, said her passion is what allows her to find time to balance all of her responsibilities.
“My philosophy as a woman — and as a mother — is that you always find time for the things that you are most passionate about,” Cavadas said. “This town and its residents happen to be one of those things.”
According to Cavadas, it is her solid support system that makes it that much easier. “Even my children have encouraged me to take the next step and follow my passion for public service,” Cavadas said. “My 8-year-old son has pledged to be with me every step of the way, and I can’t tell you how proud that makes me feel.
I aspire to be an inspiration to our youth — especially young women — and to show them that nothing is impossible. The fact that my son and my daughter believe in me and are in awe of what I do makes me believe that I am well on my way.”
Florio said that he is looking forward to Cavadas’s term as mayor.
“I am excited about the energy that Suzette brings to the table,” Florio said. “She is truly dedicated to the community and offers a dual perspective that is much needed when your goal is solid and transparent governance.”