SPRINGFIELD, NJ — Mayor Erica DuBois says having an all-Democratic Township Committee won’t be an issue for Springfield.
“I’m sure that everyone is going to be concerned about this,” DuBois, who was chosen as the township’s fifth female mayor at the Jan. 1 reorganization meeting, said in a Jan. 2 phone interview. “We’re all going to do what’s best for our community and, just because people are under the umbrella of Democrat, that doesn’t mean they believe in achieving goals in the same way.”
With the swearing-in of newly elected Township Committee members Alex Keiser and Chris Weber, the the body will consist entirely of Democrats in the upcoming year.
Springfield operates under a township form of government in which five members of a township committee are elected at-large for staggered three-year terms. The committee then chooses the mayor from its members for a one-year term.
DuBois said political parties matter more at the national level than at the local level.
“I don’t think the fact that we’re all Democratic plays as much of a role in things as people outside of the process might think,” she said. “We each bring a different perspective to the table just based on our completely different life experiences.”
As mayor, DuBois said she hopes to breach the communication gap between residents and the committee by being more accessible to the general public. She also hopes to have committee meetings, and possibly other governmental meetings, live-streamed via the township’s Facebook page.
“This is an important idea I have that will really make us more accessible to everyone,” DuBois said. “Almost everyone is on social media these days, and it’ll be the easiest way to reach as many people as possible.”
The new mayor told LocalSource that 2019 will be a major year for redevelopment in the community.
“We have a lot on the redevelopment front that people will begin to see progress with this year,” she said.
The expansion of Chisholm Playground, a project that has been in the works since last year, according to DuBois, is one example of a project that will be completed in 2019. The committee has plans to make the park more accessible to those with disabilities.
“It’s important to make things accessible for more families in the community,” DuBois said. “All of this will make for a better Springfield.”
DuBois served as deputy mayor for 2018, and will take over for former Mayor Richard Huber, who will serve on the Township Committee for another year.
Committeeman Chris Capodice, who nominated DuBois for mayor, was chosen as the township’s deputy mayor.
Capodice and DuBois graduated from Union High School together before sitting on the committee together.
“What a thrill and honor it is as life comes full circle while I’m up here with her,” Capodice said after nominating Dubois. “I can’t think of a better representative to lead us into this exciting year.”
DuBois was praised by former Mayor Joanne Rajoppi, now the county clerk, at the New Year’s Day meeting. Rajoppi became Springfield’s first female mayor in 1977 and acknowledged the significance of DuBois’ appointment.
“There haven’t been many female mayors, so it is unusual but it’s also really great,” she said after presenting documents to Keiser and Weber that certify their electoral victories. “I know that you have what it takes to keep everyone in line up there.”
Along with being one of the few female mayors in the township’s history, DuBois is also the only female committee member on the board this year.
“It’s certainly a weird juxtaposition but the gentleman who are on the committee with me are fantastic,” the mayor said. “I think we’re going to all work very well together.”
DuBois, who is married with two daughters, coaches various youth sports teams in town and said she is excited to inspire young women in the community. She has been a teacher for almost 20 years in the Jersey City public schools.
“For me, it’s just exciting to be a female in this position. I just love the fact that I can show my daughters and the young women I coach that they can really do anything,” she said.