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RED BANK: LOTTERY SETS NEW COUNCIL TERMS

red-bank-reorg-triggiano-070623-500x375-1165010Councilwoman and Deputy Mayor Kate Triggiano at Thursday’s meeting. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

hot-topic_03-220x138-2130637Two key drivers of the overhaul of Red Bank’s government that began this week will get to serve on the borough council for four years, following a lottery held Thursday night.

Councilmembers Kate Triggiano and Nancy Facey-Blackwood drew terms twice as long as their four council colleagues.

red-bank-reorg-bonatakis-070623-500x375-3592316Councilmember Kristina Bonatakis pulls the first golden egg in a drawing conducted by Clerk Laura Reinertsen. Below, Councilmember Nancy Face-Blackwood. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

red-bank-reorg-facey-blackwood-070623-220x165-1058328

At a special meeting to kick off the “council-manager” era, Clerk Laura Reinertsen conducted the lottery in compliance with state law governing the borough’s new charter. It will enable staggered, nonpartisan elections every two years, as approved by voters last November.

“Let’s see who gets to do this again in two years, and who gets to relax a little bit,” Mayor Billy Portman said before the drawing.

As a result of the lottery, the other four councilmembers – Kristina Bonatakis, David Cassidy, Ben Forest and Laura Jannone – will serve initial terms ending June 30, 2025, unless the council resets the election to the first Tuesday in November, as expected. The new state charter calls for initial nonpartisan elections to be held in May, as occurred in Red Bank May 9.

After the next election, all council seats will carry four-year terms, with elections held every two years instead of annually. The mayor’s term remains set at four years.

At age 35, Triggiano, is now the most senior elected official in town; she joined the council in January, 2018. She’s also regarded as a mover and shaker in Democratic circles, as characterized by Governor Phil Murphy and others at the July 1 inauguration ceremonies.

She was voted deputy mayor, to stand in when Portman is absent. The new title replaces that of council president.

A year ago, the Leighton Avenue resident won a fraught battle for control of the local Democratic organization just weeks after helping Portman, then a political unknown, win the party’s primary race for mayor. She and Portman then put together the Red Bank’s Ready slate that won a crushing victory over an opposing slate May 9.

Facey-Blackwood served as chair of the 2022 Charter Study Commission, which recommended the change in form of government and switch to nonpartisan elections approved by voters last November.

Neither Triggiano nor Facey-Blackwood commented from the dais about the lottery results.

In other business Thursday night:

• The council appointed Greg Cannon as borough attorney, restoring him to an influential post he was abruptly fired from, without explanation, by the council majority a year ago.

• Locust Avenue resident and activist Ben Forest, was sworn in as a councilmember. He had missed Saturday’s inauguration ceremonies due to a family emergency. He also served on the five-member Charter Study Commission.

• Breaking from the past, the council will no longer have members designated as liaisons to borough government offices, Portman told the audience.

“We’re no longer going to have direct council representatives to any of the offices in government. That will be held by the manager,” he said.

Among the liaison assignments eliminated were those to the Senior Center, the Office of Emergency Management and the public utilities department, he said.

Purported meddling and interference by councilmembers in borough operations was a recurring issue that came up in testimony at Charter Study Commission hearings.

On the council’s to-do list is to hire a profession manager to oversee day-to-day operations of the municipal government. For the past two years, that job has been held on an “interim” basis by police Chief Darren McConnell, who, as first reported by redbankgreen, is retiring July 31.

• Portman said no appointments were being made immediately to the Historic Preservation Commission, which has been working on a proposed ordinance to bolster its standing in land-use cases.

“We’re not quite sure which direction it’s going” in, he said. “Right now, the HPC has been in this weird middle ground where it doesn’t have the authority to do what it wants to do, but it has a degree of autonomy.”

Portman said the council would meet with “some attorneys” and others “to figure out which direction should go” in, whether that’s an advisory board to the council or “if we’re going to empower it so it works properly.”

The council has 90 days to decide, he said.

• The council set its meeting schedule for the rest of the year, and will now assemble on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month, starting July 13. For years, the council has met on the second and fourth Wednesday.

Sessions will continue to be held at 6:30 p.m.

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