The message from Mahwah government officials sworn into new roles at a reorganization meeting Thursday night was pretty unanimous – the election is over, and the winning politicians and residents need to work together in order to accomplish anything in 2013.
The winners of November’s municipal election – incumbent mayor Bill Laforet, incumbent council members Lisa DiGiulio and John Roth, and newcomer Steve Sbarra – were officially sworn into their posts by Judge Anthony Gianni Thursday night.
Laforet was sworn in for a four-year term after serving a one-year term he won in a special election last year to finish out the term started by late Mayor Richard Martel, who died in March 2011. Thursday night, Laforet said tensions that have risen within the community and in the town government over the past two years of highly contested elections should now be put aside.
“The election is over, and now is the time for us come back together as a community,” he said. “We did it during the recent Hurricane Sandy, and we are stronger together.”
Councilman Harry Williams, who was unanimously selected by the council to serve as this year’s council president, said he has two main goals for this year.
“The first is to increase the level of communication between the mayor and administration’s office and the council, so our debates can be informed…and our disagreements can be civil and respectful.”
Throughout 2012, members of the council and the mayor engaged in several public spats over issues like the privatization of the Recycling Department, and pre-election practices. Williams commented that he’d like a better working relationship between the two sides moving forward.
His second goal, he said, is to “encourage this to be a council of ideas.”
Councilwoman Lisa DiGiulio, who was sworn in both to take her ninth term as a councilwoman in Mahwah, and as the council’s new Vice President, said she hopes the new year will bring political peace to the township.
“I hope now that the election is over, there will be peace in our town,” she said. “We have been divided for too long, and there is so much anger. I hope now we…can all speak to each other respectfully, and honor each other, and work everything out.”
The one new addition to Mahwah’s government, Steve Sbarra, officially took his seat Thursday, replacing longtime Councilman Sam Alderisio, who did not run for reelection last year. Sbarra won the seat by just over 30 votes.
“I have spent many nights sitting [in the audience] watching great work being done,” Sbarra said. “Now, I get to sit up there,” he said, motioning to the council dias.
All of the newly sworn-in politicians thanked their families, supporters, and all voters in Mahwah.