ESTELL MANOR — Joseph Venezia resigned from his seat on the Estell Manor City Council at the start of the city’s annual reorganization meeting Wednesday, Feb. 14 to take the mayor's chair for the third time in his political career.
Normally the reorganization takes place in January. However, in the November election Venezia, running under the banner of Independent Conservative Leadership, finished in a dead heat with incumbent Mayor Stephen Teasenfitz, a Republican.
A special election was held Feb. 6, which Venezia won 391-367.
Venezia, who served as mayor in 1999-2000 and from 2006-2013, was sworn in Wednesday by New Jersey State Sen. Jeff Van Drew.
“It was an amazing election,” Van Drew said. “It was one for the record books.”
Venezia then gave his state of the city address, in which he outlined his goals and visions for the city.
“I already have a meeting set up with a representative from the Department of Environmental Protection to discuss the $200,500 loss in PILOT funding for land acquisitions by the state,” he said.
“The state now owns 60 percent of the land in Estell Manor. I also spoke to Governor Murphy, who pledged to personally review the facts and details.”
Venezia also vowed to finish the closure of the landfill which started in 2006.
“I would like to see solar, cell towers and other environmental uses placed there,” he said. “We could lease the land to a developer and share the revenue.”
Other goals that he outlined include seeking grants for road projects, having the Planning Board become more proactive, forming a partnership with the school and youth groups for community involvement, working with the state police to start a neighborhood watch program, and starting a public awareness campaign about the dangers of wildfires.
Venezia also took a swipe at those who he said had spread lies about him on social media during the campaign.
“For those pointing their fingers at me, they will be the accused,” he said. He called for an unnamed councilman to resign for making some of those comments.
He ended his address on a conciliatory note.
“I ask council to work together for the betterment of Estell Manor,” he said. “Throwing barbs and insults is counterproductive.”
During public comment resident Jeanne Olsen agreed.
“I hope for the betterment of the town you can all work together and be a model for our youth,” she said.
The mayor and council members agreed on most matters during the remainder of the reorganization meeting and the regular meeting that followed. The exception was the renaming of Alfred Scerni as city solicitor.
Venezia asked to have that nomination discussed in a closed session after the meeting. The meeting was adjourned with no decision on his reappointment announced.