CRANFORD— The entire political dynamic on the governing body changed as a result of the recent election. While this is not new for the township, it could foretell changes to come with new member Tom Hannon taking a seat in January.
After all the votes were tallied, it only took 679 votes for the Democratic party to regain control on the township committee, something that was lost last year when former mayor Dan Aschenbach and his running mate Hannon were defeated by the GOP. But Hannon refused to be daunted by the loss, coming back stronger this year to defeat former governing body member Scott Mease.
A week after the election, Hannon has already hit the ground running, preparing to serve on the governing body of the town he loves in January.
“I was elected, in part, because people are concerned about the way the township is managed. We need to resolve our administrator situation. I want a full-time administrator and I plan to push for that,” Hannon said in an interview with LocalSource.
He also wants to review the shaky chief financial officer situation which has been filled by an outside firm since last year.
“With a $34 million budget, I think Cranford needs a full-time employee managing taxpayer dollars, not a contracted firm,” Hannon said, adding that during the campaign he heard stories of municipal utilities being shut off because bills were paid late.
“This is unacceptable and I want to ensure that we are managing our staff and resources more closely. I’ve been in business more than 30 years and I know how to do that,” he said, mentioning that he would like to require department heads to periodically attend township committee meetings to answer questions or just be there in case questions come up regarding their particular department.
Hannon is well aware that he is just one of five members of the governing body, but with power shifting to the Democrats, the majority vote now rests with his fellow committee members Kevin Campbell and Edward O’Malley, leaving just two Republican members, Andis Kalnins and Lisa Adubato in the minority.
This allows the three Democratic members not only to decide who will be the next mayor, but also control what issues will be addressed and how.
Hannon, who previously lived in Winfield Park and served four terms as mayor, said no decision had been made about who would fill the mayor’s seat. Instead, he preferred to focus on the tasks that lay ahead as he prepares to serve the three-year term to which he was just elected. Among the issues Hannon holds close is flooding in the township.
It’s no secret that last year at this time Cranford was on its knees after Tropical Storm Irene left countless homeowners with uninhabitable homes. Hannon’s house was one of them.
“It was rough,” the new committee member-elect said, his voice growing serious for a moment as he recalled the amount of water that inundated the home he shares with his wife and four children.
Usually jovial and sporting a broad smile, Hannon’s shift in demeanor was one that happens to flood survivors in Cranford. In fact, the Hannon’s have gone through three floods since they moved to the township, but Irene was the worst.
“It was a long, long haul,” he said, explaining that just recently he received the last check from his insurance company for damages incurred over a year ago. That is why he intends to do all he can to see that things change.
He hopes to advocate and lead the implementation of floodwater storage in the South Mountain Reservation, lead the fight for county participation in building up the township dikes and redesign the Lenape Park detention basin.
Hannon said he believes that stepping to the plate and being a strong advocate for the township will go a long way towards helping resolve the flooding issues facing the township so residents in the flood areas can breath easier when a storm approaches.
“I know what that is like and no one should have to go through that every time there is a storm,” he added.
In the meantime, he has a plan laid out that he believes will take Cranford to a better place.
Hannon also intends to ensure that legal representation for the Birchwood appeal consistently acts in the best interests of Cranford.
The new governing body member also wants to resolve the question of outstanding responsibility for the Cranford Crossing garage reimbursement costs and provide for a financial plan that funds tax appeals without borrowing.
“I intend to be hands on,” Hannon vowed, explaining that one thing his father taught him about the business they owned was he “better know every job on the floor.”
“If I’m heading up the Department of Public Works, I want to ride in a plow truck, find out what DPW workers do,” he said, adding that “I want to know what is going on.”
Hannon said he is not a miracle worker but does want to see the township move in a better direction.
“I want to be a catalyst in moving Cranford forward,” he said, adding “I think we can get everyone moving in the same direction.”