Cranford holds reorganization meeting for new year

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CRANFORD, NJ — The township rang in the New Year with its reorganization meeting on Sunday, Jan. 2. During the meeting, Gina Black was sworn in as a township commissioner while Cranford Mayor Kathleen Miller Prunty was nominated and sworn in as the chairperson of the Township Committee, in addition to being unanimously voted to serve another year as mayor. Jason Gareis was also nominated as vice chairperson and deputy mayor.

Additional appointments were Mary O’Connor as the commissioner of Finance, Brian Andrews as the commissioner of Public Works and Engineering, and Juan Carlos Nordelo as a Class II Planning Board member for a one-year term, among a host of others appointed to various boards.

For the first time, three female commissioners have been appointed to the five-member Cranford Township Committee, making a female majority.

“I want to express my congratulations to Commissioner Black for officially being a member of the committee. I feel very confident you’re going to do a great job. You’ve already hit the ground running,” township administrator Jamie Cryan said during the meeting. “Congratulations once again to Mayor Miller Prunty for being chosen again by your peers to lead this committee. … It was a very difficult year, but, through it all, this committee and our professionals here were doing everything possible to work for the residents. You did an incredible job, and I’m very hopeful for 2022, and I do think that we will do an incredible job for the residents as well.”

Township clerk Patricia Donahue congratulated Black, Gareis, Miller Prunty, township attorney Ryan Cooper and others on their appointments, adding she looked forward to working with them in 2022.

“I want to thank my colleagues in the clerk’s office,” said Donahue at the reorganization meeting. “Per usual, you rose to the difficult challenge. Last week, there were many people sick, and you rose to the challenge of putting out 97 resolutions on the reorganization meeting agenda during a day where, each night, we left that office not knowing who was going to get sick that night. Per usual, your humor, your stamina … is something that I’m indebted for, I’m inspired by and I’m grateful for.

Donahue then thanked the mayor, particularly for her work with the volunteer directory, which proved an undertaking.

“It’s easy to work when you are shown respect, and I feel that from the mayor,” she said, adding that the respect and sense of workplace camaraderie has proved extraordinary.

“Here’s what township colleagues usually say to me when we end a phone call: ‘If you need me, call me. I mean it.’ It’s an unusual and great work environment, and I’m very much in appreciation of the cooperation that the clerk’s department consistently receives. I want to thank members of the Township Committee. Your concern for me and our department was very helpful. You called, you reached out to us, and you wanted to make sure that we were healthy this week and last week, and that went a long way toward us meeting our goals.”

Black said she was honored to be appointed to her new position as commissioner and acknowledged the tremendous effort that went into pulling off the meeting. She said the decision to move to a virtual format was not an easy one to swallow, but that dedicated professionals did what needed to be done to make it work, and that was very appreciated.

“Thank you to my family who were here to support me today in person,” she continued. “My father; brother, sister and their families; and my sons, Aaron and Nick — I owe a strong sense of right and wrong, as well as a healthy sense of humor. To my sons, Aaron and Nick: Thank you for your support and putting up with my life on the campaign trail. The Rev. (Alfred E.) Brown: Thank you for your words of wisdom. And a very special thank you to Sen. Tom Kean for being here for my swearing in. Throughout the years, Tom has been an undying supporter for all things Cranford and a great cheerleader for me personally.

Black then congratulated Miller Prunty and Gareis on being appointed chairperson and vice chairperson to the 2022 Township Committee.

“Thank you in advance to all of my fellow commissioners for your help in bringing me up to speed on the finer points of local government,” she added. “Thank you to all the municipal employees that have already reached out to provide any support needed. I look forward to working with you all.”

The mayor then took the opportunity to thank various people, as well as describe what’s next for Cranford.

“Let me once again congratulate and welcome Commissioner Gina Black as a colleague on the Township Committee. I look forward to working with you and I look forward to a good year,” Miller Prunty said during the meeting. “We begin 2022 facing many of the same challenges as we did 12 months ago. This year, we continue to deal with the impacts of the pandemic on our residents and possibly on our businesses again. We’re grateful for the support that you’ve shown to all of our local shops, restaurants and services businesses, and it’s important to continue that effort, because these days are unpredictable.”

The mayor said that fighting for an original flood-control project is a priority, as too many residents’ lives and homes have been turned upside down by flooding, and a regional solution is needed. A few days after Tropical Storm Ida, she said, she reached out to Millburn Mayor Tara Prupis, whose downtown had been totally devastated, and they discussed organizing mayors in towns affected by Rahway River flooding.

“Waiting and hoping for a big project is no longer enough,” said Miller Prunty.

“Simultaneously,” she continued, “we need to work on a parallel track to identify what we can do locally, from small projects to big projects, to mitigate flooding throughout Cranford, whether it’s from the Rahway River or flash flooding. The township has already made the decision to bring in experts to examine what has been done in the past and what measures we might consider in the future. Also, the Flood Control Advisory Board will be restructured and refocused to work on this major issue.”