EDISON – The fifth largest township in the state will have a full-time mayor in 2022.
The Township Council discussed and approved amending the position of mayor from a part-time position to a full-time position at meeting on Nov. 9.
Council Vice President Sam Joshi and Council members Richard Brescher, Joe Coyle and Ajay Patil voted “yes” and Council members Alvaro Gomez and Robert Diehl voted “no.” Council President Joyce Ship-Freeman abstained from the vote.
The position of mayor was part-time for years until former Mayor Jun Choi took office in 2006. In 2008, the council voted in favor of increasing the mayor’s salary from $49,000 to $75,000 and later making the position full-time. When former Mayor Antonia Ricigliano followed in 2010, she became the next full-time mayor. She reduced the salary back to $49,000.
When Mayor Thomas Lankey took office in 2014, the mayoral position was amended back to part-time with a maximum salary of $50,000. He currently is serving his second term and earns $49,000. He was re-elected in 2017.
Coyle proposed the amendment in March. The amendment establishes a full-time mayor’s position and recognizes mayoral duties have become full-time responsibilities “including, without limitation, with respect to the township’s oversight of health and public safety, finances, operation of a water utility authority, the development of a comprehensive economic development plan, and code enforcement.”
The amended ordinance takes effect in the next mayoral term on Jan. 1, 2022. The position includes an annual salary of $135,000.
Joshi said with the amended ordinance the council is sending a message to the whole town that they want a mayor to dedicate 100% of his or her time to the town. He said he supports the annual salary, which would allow for the dedication.
“[The salary] is comparable to other municipalities,” he said.
Gomez said when the discussion of a full-time versus a part-time mayor came up a few years ago, issues arose.
“The issue we run into is the mayor position is not a 9 [a.m.] to 5 [p.m.] job … the mayor is a 24/7 job,” he said. “I think the only thing the ordinance achieves is a limitation on the pool of [mayoral] candidates that you can have.”
Diehl said he remembers when former Mayor George Spadoro, who served three terms as mayor from 1994 to 2006, used to say he was a full-time mayor and part-time lawyer.
He said he supports Edison having a full-time mayor; however, he said a slippery slope develops because legally, a person who becomes mayor can have other employment.
“I think the most important thing here is who we want as mayor,” he said.
Coyle said the hope is for the next mayor not to have four to five other jobs.
“The hope is for the person to advocate and have the best interests of the taxpayers [in mind] and available to be here full time, ” he said.