Jaclyn Veasy, Heather Cooper and Patricia Hansen officially took their seats on Evesham Township Council this week.
Gov. Murphy and state Senate President Steve Sweeney end up together in packed courtroom.
No, it’s not the setup to a joke — rather, that was the scene this week for Evesham Township Council’s annual reorganization meeting, where top Democrats Murphy and Sweeney were on hand to help swear-in the three, newly elected officials now making up the council’s new Democratic majority.
With the meeting officially called to order and an invocation delivered by Monsignor Richard LaVerghetta of St. Joan of Arc Parish hanging in the air, Murphy greeted Jaclyn Veasy at the front of the room as he officially swore her in for her four-year term as mayor of Evesham.
Murphy also swore in Patricia Hansen to her term on council, while Sweeney took over duties to swear in Heather Cooper for her term.
Veasy, Cooper and Hansen then officially joined sitting Republicans Ken D’Andrea and Bob DiEnna as members of the council.
However, before Murphy left to attend other commitments, he described the “incredible” leadership team in Evesham, which now consists of three Democrats and two Republicans.
“We’re Americans first, we’re New Jerseyans first, and then we put our partisan hats on,” Murphy said. “An incredibly talented team, again, from both sides of the aisle.”
He also praised Evesham Township for making an impact not just in Burlington County, but the greater region as well.
“The reason I wanted to be here is because this is one the most consequential communities in our state, both in its size and its heft. It punches above its weight,” Murphy said.
Sweeney echoed Murphy’s sentiments about the meeting serving as another “peaceful change in government,” and with that, he thanked former Mayor Randy Brown for his service to the township.
In September, Brown announced he was dropping his bid for reelection and ending his time as mayor after 12 years to pursue other professional opportunities.
From that decision, former Councilman Steve Zeuli replaced Brown in the race for mayor, running alongside former Councilwoman Deb Hackman and newcomer Jay Levenson, before all three were defeated by the Veasy, Cooper, Hansen ticket.
In the months since the election, officials from Evesham’s local political parties have debated on just how much the result of the November election can be attributed to voters’ feelings on Evesham’s local politicians versus their feelings about former Republican Congressman Tom MacArthur and Republican President Donald Trump.
Yet looking toward the future, Sweeney said Evesham would need everyone to work together to move the township forward.
“Whether it’s Republican or Democrat, it’s about people first,” Sweeney said. “That’s why it’s exciting to be here with this new team. It’s exciting, it’s fresh, and they have visions and plans that are going to make this town go even further than it has.”
In one of the evening’s first examples of the bipartisanship Murphy and Sweeney spoke to, it was D’Andrea, a Republican, who nominated Cooper, a Democrat, for the position of deputy mayor for the year, to which all five members of council approved.
Each of the five members of council also offered personal remarks at the meeting, with the new members of council thanking their family, friends and supporters, while also promising to work for the greater good of the people of Evesham.
All members of council, the three Democrats and two Republicans, also committed to trying to work together, despite their different political parties.
Veasy also noted she had conversations with former mayors Gus Tamburro and Randy Brown, and she thanked them for taking time to speak to her to offer advice and guidance on her new leadership role.
“Everyone in our town, despite our differences, wants to keep improving our town and make it a better place for everyone,” Veasy said. “I look forward to the opportunity to work with this council and give back to the community for all it has given to us. “
In other news:
· Following the departure of Murphy and Sweeney, as well as a brief intermission, the meeting resumed for normal business.
Of note, council approved the 2019 calendar of meetings. Council looks to meet on the first and third Tuesdays of every month, with regular meetings set to begin at 7 p.m. — a change from the previous start time of 6:30 p.m.
Council’s next meeting is set for Tuesday, Jan. 15.
· Council also made its annual reappointments. Notable differences from the prior year included the following:
· A change in the township solicitor, switching from John Gillespie of Parker McCay to Primitivo Cruz of Capehart Scatchard. Council approved this change with a 5–0 vote.
· A change in the township labor counsel, switching from Louis Cappelli, Jr. of Florio Perrucci Steinhardt & Fader to Nicholas Repici of Genova Burns. Council approved this change with a party line vote of 3–2.
· A change in the township auditor, switching from Bob Nehilia of Bowman & Company to Warren Brody of Mercadien, P.C. Council approved this change with a party line vote of 3–2.
· A change in the township financial advisor from Acacia Financial Group to Phoenix Advisors. Council approved this change with a 4–1 vote, with DiEnna the lone “no” vote.
· A change in the township architect, from Bach Associates to the firm of Regan Young England Butera. Council approved this change with a 5–0 vote.