RAHWAY – Samson Steinman took the oath of office as the city’s 50th mayor last week before a packed audience of supporters who cheered his appointment.
Steinman, flanked by fellow political supporters, including Democratic County Chairman Jerry Green and Assemblywoman Linda Stender, said a few short words that brought an end to the divide that existed since former mayor Rick Proctor took office in 2011.
Then, without fanfare, the former 6th Ward councilman walked over to the table where the mayor’s seat is located, sat down and moved a nameplate in front him that read “Mayor Samson Steinman.” This move was pivotal because at all but a few city council meetings in the last two years, the mayor’s chair remained unoccupied; a testament to the animosity that festered and grew between Proctor and the governing body.
“I look forward to working with the city council,” began the new mayor, interrupted by clapping from the audience, but going on to explain that since becoming acting mayor 15 days earlier he focused primarily on storm preparation and working with the police department on crime awareness efforts.
Steinman also mentioned Nixle, an internet alerting system that is critical when there is threatening weather approaching or other emergencies, suggesting residents sign up for this notification so they are kept abreast of what is happening if other means of communication shut down.
Shortly after the meeting adjourned, Steinman was quickly surrounded by well wishers and politicians, several from surrounding towns and county government, who offered their congratulations. Steinman, who has been on the city council for 10 years and served as council president, was named acting mayor immediately following Proctor’s resignation. The Rahway Municipal Democratic Committee had 15 days to present three nominees for the mayor’s spot, selecting Steinman, former mayor James Kennedy and Committeewoman Hilda Judah for consideration. However, according to party insiders, Steinman was always the choice to fill Proctor’s remaining term.
Proctor, who resigned Sept. 10 with no explanation, has been a thorn in the side of the Democratic party since he took office in 2011.Following a 32-month mayoral career steeped in controversy, the former city health officer and municipal Democratic chairman left the door open for the city council to work cohesively with the new mayor, who will fill the seat for the remaining 15 months of Proctor’s four-year term as mayor.
Now that Steinman is mayor, a 6th Ward seat is open. According to New Jersey statutes, this seat has to be filled 15 days after a vacancy. As with the mayoral seat, the local Democratic Committee has to present three nominees to city council by Oct. 10, which then has 30 days to select one of the three as the interim 6th Ward councilman. The person selected would serve until the next election, which is the end of 2014. At that time the remaining two years of Steinman’s seat as 6th Ward councilman would be up for grabs.