The Verona Town Council convened on the steps of Town Hall for its reorganization meeting on Monday night and elected Jack McEvoy mayor and Alex Roman deputy mayor. Roman was sworn in for his second term and the Council welcomed Christine McGrath, who won a seat on the body in May.
Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ11) administered the oath of office to McGrath, who is the first woman to serve on the Council since Teena Schwartz lost her bid for re-election in 2013. In her remarks, McGrath thanked her husband for his support. “I know we did not anticipate, when we moved here nine years ago, that we would end up here at this moment,” she said. McGrath also thanked her sons for their help during her campaign, and thanked her parents for the example they set in community involvement during her youth. McGrath promised to keep up her outreach to the community as a councilwoman. “My main priority will be to make sure that we try new methods to inform and engage residents,” she said.
Brian Aloia, Verona’s township attorney, administered the oath of office to Roman. The new deputy mayor thanked town employees and leaders for working together to deliver services to Verona in a more cost-efficient way. He also thanked town residents for making Verona “a unique and special place”. “My commitment has always been the same,” he said, “that I will listen to you and hear what is important to you, and I’ll make sure that I am making decisions in your best interest.”
McEvoy becomes the first Verona native to be mayor since Nicholas Rolli, who served from 1995 to 1997, and he reflected on his family’s long attachment to Verona and Verona’s strong sense of community in his speech. He noted that Verona remains attractive to new residents and praised Verona for becoming a more inclusive town. “Therefore it’s my opinion that if displaying a flag can help to make Verona feel like home to a community of people, then we should display that flag,” he said.
But McEvoy made it clear that the new Council has a difficult road ahead. “Now and in the coming years,” he said, “we will be facing some challenges. The most obvious of these is that we must continue to negotiate on the mandate for affordable housing. No one sitting up here is pleased with the potential for hundreds of new housing units that could further intensify traffic congestion, wear and tear of our infrastructure and emergency service issues.” McEvoy pledged that the Council will work together on addressing Verona’s challenges. “This Council,” he added, “will think long and hard on those tough decisions.”
You can read Mayor McEvoy’s speech below and watch the reorganization ceremony in full:
Good Evening and Thank you
First I’d like to congratulate Councilwoman McGrath and Councilman Roman. I’m looking forward to working with them both, alongside with Councilmen Giblin and Ryan.
I’d also like to thank our Town Manager Matt Cavallo, our Clerk Jennifer Kiernan and our Township Attorney Brian Aloia for all their help behind the scenes.
A special thank you to Mayor Ryan for his four years serving as mayor. The amount of time and his dedication to the office of mayor is commendable and has set a very high bar for me to follow. I look forward to Kevin’s help
over the next two years.
For those of you who know me, you already know that I proudly grew up right here in Verona and have been an active community member for many, many years.
For those of you who don’t yet know me I hope to meet you soon and I’d like to give you a brief history.
In 1959 my parents were married and decided to leave Brooklyn & Queens to be in Verona. My father would say they moved out to “the country”… at that time Grove Avenue was a dirt road. Talking to many residents that have moved into Verona since, I find that this is not uncommon. Verona is where many want to reside and raise a family.
My parents had 5 children – I have two brothers and two sisters and we all attended Our Lady of the Lake and Verona High School. Through those years I became close friends with many people and many of those friendships still exist today.
My freshman year in Verona High School I met someone that throughout college and for years after I would regularly bump into and catch up with. Over the years that person has become my best friend, and my wife. I Want to thank Jessica for her support, love and advice.
I also like to thank my friends, my brothers & sisters and especially my mom for all the support and understanding about the time it takes being involved with township affairs. Thank you.
Now and in the coming years, we will be facing some challenges. The most obvious of these is that we must continue to negotiate on the mandate for affordable housing. No one sitting up here is pleased with the potential for hundreds of new housing units that could further intensify traffic congestion, wear and tear of our infrastructure and emergency service issues.
We must also address our localized flooding by updating our ordinances to reflect a stricter stance on stormwater management, tree removal and other standards of development in our zoning code. Recycling and waste management is becoming a bigger issue. These are just a few of our challenges.
Each Council member up here has his or her eyes on specific issues. We all have core areas of concern and as mayor I will do my best to make sure that we will be a cohesive body, that we will listen to each other, that we will allow for differences of opinion and that will maintain respect for each other.
We will always be faced with challenges and decisions that we will not all agree upon, however I am humbled and I thank all four of you for supporting me to be the mayor for the next two years. We as a Council will also make decisions that not all residents will agree with. Decisions should be made taking into account the effects on the entire Township. This Council will think long and hard on those tough decisions.
When you take a step back and look at our town from a broad view. I can’t help but think about the clash of opinions that we hear from time to time: That Verona’s changed. And on one level I will agree: We’re growing too fast.
But Verona, like all other municipalities, has always been evolving, becoming more inclusive and should always have open arms.
Therefore it’s my opinion that if displaying a flag can help to make Verona feel like home to a community of people, then we should display that flag.
All in all Verona is the same. People are still leaving the city and moving into Verona. That is the aspect of Verona – or Mayberry – that hasn’t changed at all. Verona is still a front yard kind of town. Neighbors become great friends and their front stoops become regular gathering places. That’s been the case ever since my parents moved here from Brooklyn and Queens in 1959. If you look to your left and right or next door to your home I’d bet at least one of your neighbors also came from one of the five boroughs, so nothing’s really changed. Same old same old.
We’re still the same good community that people move to for good neighbors, tree-lined streets and a great place to bring up your kids. That’s Verona.
As your mayor, I look forward to serving Verona and advocating for what’s best for the Township.
Photo courtesy Steve Neale.