A new year and a new era dawned on Wednesday, Jan. 1, in Vernon Township.
U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer swore in Howard L. Burrell as Vernon Township’s first African-American mayor, and his immediate predecessor, Harry Shortway, was sworn into a four-year term on the Township Council, along with new councilwoman Kelly Weller.
In his opening remarks, Burrell announced that Vernon Township was at the “beginning of the end of its long, negative political nightmare” and that the township was “open for business”.
“I won’t allow myself or my years as mayor to be used in a negative or divisive fashion,” Burrell said. “I also want to confirm to those that you could trust and believe me when I repeatedly said on the campaign trail that if you trusted me with your vote as Vernon’s next mayor, I would do everything I could to bring this town together and to move our town forward, I want to know that you were right to trust and believe me.”
Burrell said he did not make any wholesale changes because he said he didn’t want to wreak havoc because he could. He also wanted to make up his own mind regarding previously appointed board and commission members and town hall staff.
“I have learned in life that simply having the authority to do something in itself is not always a good or an ethical, fair or ethical reason to do a particular thing,” Burrell said.
Shortway was unanimously elected council president and John Auberger was unanimously elected as council vice president.
Shortway’s agenda remains unchanged from when he was mayor.
He wants to continue work on the short-term rental ordinance for the township, which was tabled at the last council meeting on Dec. 9. He also plans to support walking, hiking and biking paths to connect established trails to the resort.
He also pledged to work with Burrell.
“If the occasion arises that I do not agree and intend not to provide consent, I will give advance notice in an effort to open the door for discussion, hopefully leading to consensus and/or compromise,” Shortway said.
In her outgoing comments, former Council President Jean Murphy asked all in attendance to remember the late councilman Dan Kadish, who died on Feb. 25. She also thanked former councilman Patrick Curreri, who filled the remainder of Kadish’s term and Sandra Ooms, who completed her four-year term on Dec. 31.
Neither sought re-election.