ROSELLE, NJ — At Roselle’s annual reorganization meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 6, held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Assemblyman Jamel Holley administered the oath of office to 3rd Ward Councilwoman Cynthia Johnson and 1st Ward Councilman Richard Villeda, both for three-year terms.
According to newjerseyglobe.com, although Villeda defeated 1st Ward Councilwoman Isabel Sousa in the state’s July primary, both Johnson and Villeda ran unopposed in November.
Holley had great things to say about Johnson.
“I think we’ve all had some challenging times over the last year, but I don’t know of anyone who has had a rough year like our new Councilwoman Cynthia Johnson,” Holley said. “Having to run for public office, having to lose a mom, having to lose a son, all while campaigning and standing for what’s right for her residents and getting elected. It’s been a tough year for her.
“Cynthia, I want to just commend you for your strength, for all you’ve empowered me to be, as a human being, to be strong in any case,” he continued. “I don’t think I can ever imagine anything you’ve been through over this past year, but I’m very honored and proud to swear you in today, because I know that the residents of the 3rd Ward, a place where I was born and raised all my life, that they’re lucky to have you. You’re a great public servant and you care about people. It’s my honor to administer your oath of office for your second term. Congratulations to you.”
Holley also welcomed Villeda into his newly elected position as 1st Ward councilman.
“The one thing that I’m very proud of, and I’ve known Richard for a very long time, he went through our Roselle public school system. Richard is creating history tonight,” Holley said. “Richard will become the first Latino ever elected on the council, here in the borough of Roselle.
“I’m just very proud of him and of all the hard work,” he continued. “He’s just a wonderful man. He’s worked so hard with us over the years on the Board of Education as a member. But I’m just so proud of him. He’s going to be a great addition to the Borough Council, working with the mayor and our community leaders. … Richard, congratulations to you, and I wish you the best of luck.”
After being officially sworn in, Johnson gave a speech, recognizing the hardships she has been through, in losing her mother and son, and also giving thanks to those who were there for her.
“As everyone knows, I have been through challenges in the year 2020,” Johnson said. “Without my faith, without my beliefs, and without my friends and family that are here today to support me, I don’t know how I would’ve made it. But I’ve made it. As our assemblyman said, through campaigning, I lost my mom and my son. But my strength came from God. My 3rd Ward residents stood by me, through what I was going through. Never once have they turned their back on me, and never once am I going to turn my back on you.
“As your new 3rd Ward councilwoman, I promise and I commit to continue to appeal to your needs,” she added. “You put me here, and I’m going to continue to serve you as your 3rd Ward councilwoman. I’d like to thank everyone, our newly elected mayor, Donald Shaw, our assemblyman, my friends, my family, everyone that has been there for me. Not one time am I going to let you down as your elected councilwoman. God is in control.”
Councilwoman Denise Wilkerson was nominated to continue as council president, and Roselle Mayor Donald Shaw read the oath of office.
Wilkerson announced that 2nd Ward Councilman Brandon Bernier would be chairperson of the Finance Committee, with 4th Ward Councilwoman Cindy Thomas and 5th Ward Councilman John Fortuna as committee members; Wilkerson would be the chairperson of the Governance Committee, with Thomas and Bernier as committee members; Fortuna would be chairperson of the Department of Public Works, with Johnson and Wilkerson as committee members; Thomas would be chairperson of the Recreation Committee, with Villeda and Fortuna as committee members; Johnson would be chairperson of Public Safety, with Fortuna and Bernier as committee members; and Wilkerson would be chairperson of Redevelopment, with Bernier and Thomas as committee members.
Johnson is the liaison for the Zoning Board; Villeda is the liaison for the Board of Education; Thomas is the liaison for the Board of Health; Wilkerson is the liaison for the library; Fortuna is the liaison for the Chamber of Commerce; and Bernier is the liaison for the Planning Board.
During the New Business and Resolutions portion of the meeting, there were some issues of disagreement, including a lack of communication, lack of professionalism and lack of unity among the council.
“Twenty-seven things on this agenda were passed as presented,” Wilkerson said. “Two of those things were amended and passed, and two did not. … There is a tremendous amount of respect for each other…. This is not about that. It’s about a process, the form of government that we have, which is a borough form of government. Things pass, but … not all things will be consented on, and we will continue to work together.
“Yes, I wish some of this would’ve been worked out a little more before this meeting happened. It did not, but we’ll get better at it,” she continued. “It’s a process of working together across things. You look at the bigger, collective picture.”
Fortuna echoed the sentiment.
“We are going to work together, we do work together and we have been working together,” Fortuna said. “Anything that happened tonight is not going to set us back; it’s not going to send us careening in the wrong direction. There are going to be disagreements, there’s going to be things that some people like and don’t like, but you just have to keep moving forward.”
Shaw, who called the meeting “a lot of political theater he will not indulge in,” reminded members and viewers that he is mayor for the next three years and wanted to set the record straight about his focus.
“It’s time to work together,” Shaw said. “That’s what I’m about, and that’s what I’ve always been about. A lot of what you see on the resolutions has been turned over into what you guys originally wanted. So, when you have one or two different appointments from what you originally wanted, and we go back and forth with it, it was crazy to me. You’re not honoring my 30 days. That was absurd. But again, that’s political theater. You’re not going to bully me, pull my appointments and muscle me; it’s not going to happen. I’m here.
“It is a new year,” he continued. “It is time to roll up the sleeves and get some stuff done. Let’s work.”
During the meeting, Villeda was welcomed by other members. In his speech, he thanked the many people who supported him.
“I want to thank God for my family, friends and the entire community for their support of this last election of Nov. 2020,” Villeda said. “I also want to thank Assemblyman Holley, Roselle, Mayor Donald Shaw and councilmembers for being here. As a representative of the 1st Ward and member of Roselle Municipal Council, I have goals to work together with my colleagues, so that all the projects needed in our community can be carried out.
“I also want to address all those families who’ve lost a loved one due to COVID-19. I hope that this new year will be one of many blessings for everyone,” he added.