Independents take hold of Lower Township council

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LOWER TOWNSHIP – What a difference a year makes. 

Township officials met at the municipal complex here for the 2013 reorganization meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 2, with Mayor Michael Beck’s “Independents for Lower” ticket occupying four of the five council seats.

Beck, who defeated former councilman Erik Simonsen in the mayoral race, and Deputy Mayor Norris Clark, who narrowly bested former Deputy Mayor Kevin Lare, were sworn in by state Sen. Jeff Van Drew.

Jim Neville beat out Walt Craig for the Ward 2 council seat and had been sworn in early December. Glenn Douglass, campaign manager for the independent campaign, returned as Ward 3 councilman.
Ward 1 councilman Thomas Conrad occupies the fifth seat.

“The good thing about being independent is that you owe nobody and, yet, we owe everybody. Without all of you, this would have been impossible,” said Beck in his remarks to the standing room only crowd. “A simple ‘thank you’ will have to suffice. We have 23,000 reasons to do our best.”

The 2012 reorganization was called a “ten bell” meeting by Beck last year, referring to the contentious nature of the meeting under the former council. At issue last year was Walt Craig’s nomination to fill the Ward 2 seat left vacant by Simonsen’s resignation in December 2011 and the reappointment of solicitor Michael Donahue – also the chairman of the county’s Regular Republican Organization.

The tone and tenor of this year’s meeting was markedly different.

“I had a wonderful opportunity to work with these guys in their election,” said Douglass. “And, I want to say that I think we have a group here that is going to work together for the people of the township. I can see their hearts are where they need to be: working to be part of town and part of your lives. Help us to help you, like the senator said. We will all work as a team.”

Clark promised to keep the council focused on their campaign pledges to “spend every single dollar wisely, to provide the most open government we can in New Jersey”, to make public safety a priority, to promote economic development in the township, and “finally to promote education.”

Clark said he would look for private entities to partner with local public education.

“Next to our churches, schools are the most important thing in our community,” he said. “I am humbled by this responsibility and pledge that every single judgment will be filtered through one filter alone – what is vest for this township,” said Clark. “That is the only filter that makes any sense.”


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