UPDATED: Petition opposes full-time mayor plan

WEST MILFORD. Nearly 650 people call on Township Council to oppose two ordinances introduced Feb. 14.

| 12 Mar 2024 | 09:09

Nearly 650 people have signed an online petition urging the Township Council to vote no on two ordinances introduced at the Feb. 14 meeting.

One proposed ordinance would allow the council to decide each year whether the mayor’s job would be full- or part-time.

Another ordinance would set the salary range for a full-time mayor at $90,000 to $135,000.

Public hearings and final votes on the ordinances are scheduled at the council’s meeting Wednesday, March 20.

The petition, on the website change.org, was started by Melissa Brown Blaeuer, who ran for mayor as a Democrat in November. She lost to Mayor Michele Dale, who was elected to her second four-year term.

The petition says those who signed it oppose the ordinances because residents voted in 2002 to change the township’s form of government to one with an independently elected mayor.

“Our current form of government is the Council-Mayor-Administrator, which is considered to be a strong mayor model. A strong mayor is independent of the council, can veto legislation, acts as a tie-breaker and makes appointments. By giving the council the authority to change the mayor position from full-time to part-time or vice versa annually, the proposed ordinance makes the mayor dependent on the council and negates the principle of a strong and independent executive branch.”

The petition also says the signers see no changes in West Milford that would require a full-time mayor.

The township’s population has fallen from 26,418 in 2017 to 24,382 in 2022, and while it covers 80 square miles, much of the land is undeveloped and managed by other authorities, including the Newark Watershed and the state and county park systems.

“In addition, the Highlands Act prohibits new development so we cannot expect significant increase in needs for services in the near future.”

According to the petition, alternatives that would improve administrative capacity with less long-term taxpayer burden include separating the administrator/clerk position into two job or hiring contractors.