James L. Cassella (Mayor, East Rutherford)
Thank you all very much for giving me the opportunity to preside, for the next twelve months, over your league of Municipalities. It is an honor for me and for my hometown, East Rutherford.
First and foremost, I’d like to thank my wife Janice, who held the Bible today. Good job!
I also have to acknowledge and thank, and unfortunately he can’t be here today, past president and former Mayor of Moonachie Fred Dressel. He’s a good friend and he’s the one that gave me a call eight, nine years ago and said, “Would you serve on the Executive Board?” I said, “I don’t know if I have the time.” He said “Eh, it doesn’t take any time. A couple of meetings a year, one in June, one in December. That’s it.” I said, “Ok.” Well here I am today. I’ve seen more of Trenton in the last two years than I ever saw of Trenton in my life, so we’ll see. But also, very importantly I wanted to thank my friend Paul Sarlo. He’s usually out of here by now, but he stayed on my behalf to swear me in and I really do appreciate it. All the kidding aside, thank you for taking time out. I know you’re busy. He’s coaching his kids, he has a job, he’s mayor, he’s senator, he’s head of the budget committee, and he has two boys that are quite busy with their athletic endeavors, so this is really special that he took the time. Thank you, Senator.
I also must thank the family of people who work together in Borough Hall, and all around our community, to serve the people of East Rutherford. The members of our Council.
I do have Councilman Lahullier here, so thank you, Jeff, for being here. Danielle Lorenc, our clerk and Tony Bianchi, our CFO, I’d like to thank them for coming down and without them I don’t think we could operate quite well, thank you. And Police Chief, DPW, Fire Department, EMS, and most of all our volunteers throughout our community. It is because of their dedication East Rutherford has become what it is today.
East Rutherford is known to many people only because of the number of professional sports teams that have called East Rutherford home for the last 41 years, including currently the Jets and the football Giants. And of course for the hosting of the Super Bowl a few years back. But there is so much more to our community. The signs that greet visitors coming into the borough bear the three words that serve as our motto. Family. Progress. Commerce. That is what our town is about for those who live and work there. And I am proud to say that I’m the Mayor of East Rutherford, New Jersey, in Bergen County.
In accepting election as League president, I want to recognize another family. The family of public servants, who serve the people of New Jersey in local government and who join together in our League of Municipalities.
I especially want to recognize my friend and my immediate predecessor in this office, Mayor Albert Kelly of Bridgeton. Above everything else, he really is a good man and has been a great leader for this organization. He also is on the transition team of Governor-Elect Murphy for agriculture.
He’s Mayor of Bridgeton. I’m Mayor of East Rutherford. You could not find two more different communities in New Jersey, but this is what makes the League of Municipalities unique. He’s a democrat, I’m a republican. Bridgeton is almost as far southwestern New Jersey you can go, and East Rutherford is almost as far northeast as you can go in New Jersey. Bridgeton is surrounded by farms; East Rutherford is surrounded by New York City, Newark, Patterson, and Passaic. But there are many common issues that are confronted in our communities, and every community in New Jersey.
Property taxes, 2% arbitration cap, state mandates, affordable housing, pensions, and so much more. We stand together fighting for what is right for our municipalities.
Speaking about democrat and republican, though, one thing that impresses me most about the League of Municipalities is its bipartisanship or even nonpartisanship. When you become a member of the Executive Board and you attend meetings you realize you check your party affiliation at the door. We are there to support democrat and republican municipalities, whether they are urban, suburban, or rural municipalities. No matter what the makeup of a municipality’s population or where it is located - whether it be along the Jersey Shore, the rolling hills of the northwest, in the shadows of New York City, along the banks of Delaware, and everywhere in between - we are one, fighting for those many issues that affect all of us.
I also want to honor those who have served and are serving on the League’s Executive Board and I thank each and every one of you. I will depend on your enthusiasm, your insight, and your counsel in the coming year. Congratulations to my fellow officers, certainly Janice Kovach. Welcome, I think you’re going to enjoy this. She’s Mayor of Clinton and she’s been active with the League and most deserving of this position. Certainly, Colleen Mahr, my first vice president and my old friend Jim Perry, who I should mention, his brother George is a Councilman in East Rutherford. Congratulations to all of you, I look forward to working with each and every one of you.
I want to honor all those who have served and all of those who continue to serve their fellow citizens on the local level in New Jersey. I’m proud to be one of you and I’m humbled by your examples of honorable service. I will depend on your support during my term as your president, but without your active participation in League affairs my efforts will fall flat and we won’t get anywhere. So I really do look to you to help me to be successful.
It will be an exciting year with a new administration coming in, and on behalf of the League of Municipalities, I wish the Governor-Elect Phil Murphy and Lt. Governor Elect Sheila Oliver the best and of course the same goes to the Legislative leadership, our good friend Paul Sarlo who was just reelected, and we look forward to working with all of them. I think we’re going to have a lot of dialog. I see a good year coming up.
The League is celebrating its 102nd year and I’m not here to reinvent the wheel, because it is the staff through the year, people like former director Bill Dressel and the current staff, starting with Mike Darcy, Mike Cerra, and the entire staff. This is what makes this organization. We are there to support them and their efforts. You go to the Conference and everything is set up, everything is great. Well it’s all because what these people do, our staff, our leadership, it’s amazing each year and it gets better and better.
You have given me an important mission. But it is not only mine. Please remain active in our efforts to create a better tomorrow for all the people of our Garden State. If we all work together, I know we will be successful.