Council to vote tonight on plan for full-time mayor

WEST MILFORD. Three former mayors opposed to ordinances that would allow a full-time mayor with a salary of $90,000 to $135,000.

| 20 Mar 2024 | 10:09

Three former mayors expressed opposition to a plan to allow the Township Council to decide annually whether the mayor is a full- or part-time position.

The Township Council will hold public hearings and final votes on two proposed ordinances at its meeting Wednesday, March 20. Those would allow the council to decide each year whether the mayor’s job would be full- or part-time and would set the salary range for a full-time mayor at $90,000 to $135,000.

Former Mayor Carl Richko pointed out that West Milford lost 1,600 residents from 2000 to 2020. In addition, the lack of sufficient water means the township will not see much development.

”It simply does not make sense for a town like West Milford with a population of less than 25,000 to have a full-time mayor and a full-time administrator,” he said.

Former Mayor Glenn Wenzel noted that Wayne’s mayor last year proposed that he become full time with a salary of $140,000 and the mayor of Paterson proposed that his pay be raised from $119,000 to $140,000. Both plans were withdrawn.

“I don’t feel that this move is practical for our town,” he said.

Former Mayor Robert Moshman suggested that the proposal for a full-time mayor deserves more public attention than being handled as common ordinances, such as those covering zoning or leaf-blower rules.

“This is a transformative type of ordinance that will affect the town and the interrelationship of town and council. It’s a big financial undertaking. It has a lot of consequences and they need to be vetted in the proper way.”

He recommended that a task force be formed to gather information and invite feedback and said a public meeting could be held in a large auditorium to discuss the issue. A referendum also may be needed, he said.

Melissa Brown Blaeuer, who ran for mayor as a Democrat in November, said changing the mayor’s job to full time requires a public referendum. She lost to Mayor Michele Dale, a Republican who was re-elected to a second four-year term.

”This feels like a bait and switch on the public to subvert our funds and blur the lines between the executive and administrative powers for the benefit of an elected official who may be having financial problems,” Blaeuer said.

Allowing the council to change the mayor’s post each year is “unstable, unpredictable and undoes the independence of the mayor,” she said.

The proposed salary ordinance would increase the mayor’s compensation by 550 percent with benefits and a pension, she said. “It looks like opportunism and grift from over here and a betrayal of the public trust of the voters who just a few months ago entrusted you with our democracy.”

Stacy-Ann Webb, who moved to West Milford in 2021, said she considers the plan for a full-time mayor “a progressive action to manage and move our township forward in a fiscally responsible way.”