GOP endorses Michele Dale for mayor

Seat left open by departing Bieri will be filled by winner of November election

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When the mayor’s seat is up for grabs in a special election on Nov. 6, three candidates with experience in township government will be on the ballot.

Chris Garcia, a member of the West Milford Planning Board, will be the Democratic candidate for mayor. Tim Wagner, council president now serving as interim mayor, run as an Independent who is a Republican.

Michele Dale, former council member, was chosen on Sept. 6 by the West Milford Republican County Committee.

West Milford GOP Municipal Co-Chair Vivienne Erk verified to The Messenger that 24 of the 26 county committee members attended the meeting with 18 of them supporting Dale, who is the GOP Organization chair.

Five of the committee members voted to have Luciano (Lou) Signorino as the Republican Party candidate for mayor. He had submitted a letter to the organization earlier asking them to give him the party’s nomination.

He will continue to serve as a councilman until his term ends at end of December 2019.

A committee member abstained from voting during the GOP meeting and two committee people were absent.

“I thank all our County Committee members who came out to engage in this important process and to ask some excellent questions of the candidates,” Erk said. “I also thank all the candidates for their professional presentations and answers to the numerous questions from the committee.”

Erk mentioned and praised newcomer Leslie Wilson for her willingness to engage in the selection process in competition with two seasoned candidates.

She had submitted her name for organization consideration for nomination as their candidate, but did not receive any votes of support.

Erk congratulated Michele Dale for being selected as the candidate by the committee and wished her success in the November election.

“I encourage more citizens to register in the party of their choice and for them to be actively engaged in the selection of party candidates,” Erk said. “An informed and educated citizen is democracy’s best asset.”

Wagner told Dale, who is also the GOP chairperson, on Thursday before the meeting that he had decided to withdraw from what he termed “tonight’s biased selection process for the Republican Party’s nomination.”

“I feel that the writing is on the wall and I am not going to waste either the committee members’ or my own time when we all know what the outcome (of the meeting) will be,” Wagner said in an email to Dale. The letter was also copied to news outlets.

He was critical that the chairwoman of the committee submitted her own letter of intent to run for the position of mayor and that she called a meeting to choose the GOP candidate for mayor after the deadline for independent candidate filing passed.

According to Dale, she tabled the discussion of the candidate at the Aug. 6 meeting of the committee because she receive an objection from Wagner and Paul Zarrillo. They claimed that the meeting was premature because Bieri hadn't yet given an official notice of resignation. So, Dale consulted with legal council and Dale decided that it would be prudent to change the meeting date in order to comply with state statute, she said.

Wagner claimed there was no clear direction given prior to the meeting about how the nominating process would proceed.

Wagner said he had already submitted his Independent petition to the county and will therefore his name will be on the ballot in November.

“Unlike how you are presumably obtained your place on November’s ballot, my spot was earned by actually having voters sign for me for mayor as a show of support,” Wagner wrote to Dale. “I wish you well and look forward to this contest.”

Michael Siesta, a county committee member, responded to Wagner’s email by accusing him of pre-planned grandstanding by copying his email to the media. He said copies should have been sent to the county committee members.

There has been disagreement within the Republican Party for the past few years.

In April 2016, the GOP County Committee members selected incumbent Signorino and newcomer Peter McGuinness as council candidates.

McGuinness was nominated from the floor during the meeting held to choose people for the ballot. After a county committee vote Dale, an incumbent, did not have sufficient votes to be on the slate.

At that time she told a reporter she was snubbed because she refused to run a negative campaign and refused to vote on dictates. Dale said then that she voted her conscience and would always continue to do so.

In the June 2016 Primary, Signorino and McGuinness were victorious over opponents Dale and James Ronayne who ran with her.

Signorino and McGuinness won those seats in the General Election with no Democrats on the ballot and their only other opposition being Libertarian Michael Chazukow.

In June 2017, Tricia Gerst and Andy Pegel won the Republican nomination, and defeated Dale and Erk and won the General election.

They are serving their first of three years in office.

Dale was elected to a three-year term on the council at the 2013 General Election.

She began her term on Jan. 1, 2014. In 2016 she was Council President.

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