Governor swears in East Brunswick mayor, councilmen virtually

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Gov. Phil Murphy administered the oath of office to Mayor Brad Cohen and Councilmen Sterley Stanley and Michael Spadafino during East Brunswick's reorganization meeting on Jan. 4.
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Gov. Phil Murphy administered the oath of office to Mayor Brad Cohen and Councilmen Sterley Stanley and Michael Spadafino during East Brunswick's reorganization meeting on Jan. 4.
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Gov. Phil Murphy administered the oath of office to Mayor Brad Cohen and Councilmen Sterley Stanley and Michael Spadafino during East Brunswick's reorganization meeting on Jan. 4.
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Gov. Phil Murphy administered the oath of office to Mayor Brad Cohen and Councilmen Sterley Stanley and Michael Spadafino during East Brunswick's reorganization meeting on Jan. 4.

EAST BRUNSWICK–Safely behind their computer screens, Gov. Phil Murphy swore Mayor Brad Cohen and Councilmen Sterley Stanley and Michael Spadafino in to their next terms in office.

In November, Cohen won the mayoral election, securing his second four-year term. He was first elected mayor in 2016.

Murphy said, “I’m humbled and deeply thankful to have been invited to administer these to three outstanding individuals, each of whom I consider friends. … It’s an incredible honor to be with you. I’m humbled to be invited to do this. East Brunswick is a quintessential New Jersey community in a quintessential County of Middlesex.”

Before the swearing in ceremony on Jan. 4, Rev. Thomas Walsh of Saint Bartholomew
Catholic Church delivered the invocation. Cohen’s daughter, Rachel Cohen, led the Pledge of Allegiance.

With his family by his side and Murphy at the center of his computer screen, Cohen recited the oath of office in front of more than 120 residents during the Township of East Brunswick’s annual reorganization meeting via video conference.

“Gov. Murphy, it was indeed an honor having you swear us in this evening, truly an honor. I also want to thank my family. Clearly, nobody gets to where they are by themselves,” Cohen said. “My wife’s been a big support, and taking time away from my family to participate in helping run the town is a big sacrifice, and my daughter who ran our campaign for us and helped us get a majority that I don’t think we’ve seen in this town in years, and my son has always been supportive.”

Cohen also thanked his runningmates Sterley and Spadafino, along with the East Brunswick Democratic Organization and the Middlesex County Democratic Organization.

“I want to especially thank all the directors and staff of the township who took a mayor four years ago who knew nothing about municipal government and we worked together and made a good team. Of course, we have to thank the residents,” Cohen said. “I do appreciate all of the residents of the township, including those that didn’t vote for our team. Clearly, we’re in office where are we’re running a town for everybody, not just those people that voted for us.”

Outlining the issues his administration plan to tackle for the next four years, Cohen said it goes without saying that the township’s number one job is to try to find that delicate balance between being fiscally responsible with the people’s money and providing the services that they want.

“With (COVID-19), we need to finally say ‘goodbye and good riddance’ to COVID-19. It’s clearly a national, state and local focus, not only for the health and welfare of all of our citizens, but the economy as well,” Cohen said. “We now know how intertwined those two really are. We acted very early in this pandemic which resulted in lower than average COVID-19 rates for our township. We will continue to keep the community well informed, especially as we move down to a vaccination phase.”

Cohen said the township will work extremely closely with the state and county government’s Departments of Health to make sure they get vaccinations out as rapidly as physically possible.

Despite many Americans losing their jobs due to the ongoing pandemic, Cohen said the township did not lay off or furlough any of its township’s employees, which he is very proud of.

“When it comes to redevelopment, the only way that we can increase tax revenues and reduce the burden of property taxes, which is still everybody’s number one complaint, is by ‘smart’ redevelopment,” Cohen said. “We intend to develop a true transit-oriented development on our most important route a commercial corridor. Along with the other redevelopment areas of town, it’s going to provide housing opportunities, both in the full market arena and will follow through with our court-mandated affordable housing obligation.”

Cohen said the township’s redevelopment projects will bring jobs and will invigorate the township’s ailing retail centers in a way that adapts to a post COVID-19 world.

“The tax incentives that we’re going to do [brings] much-needed revenues to the town for repairs, infrastructure improvements, redevelopment fees, which then could be used for the recreational facility that everybody in town would like us to build, or school building repairs that are desperately needed,” Cohen said. “It can be done in a way that gets done through redevelopment and not property tax dollars.”

Over the last four years, Cohen said there has been a groundswell of community involvement, bringing on new boards and commissions such as the East Brunswick Arts Coalition, the Sustainability Committee, and the Beautification Committee.

“The dividend on diversity really has shown itself during this pandemic. When people came from all corners of the community, and volunteered their time, their donations of money and food and volunteerism helped those who are in greatest need during the pandemic. See, when you reach your hand out, people will actually respond,” Cohen said.

In response to the murder of George Floyd, Cohen said the township created a “Reimagining Policing Pledge” where the township worked with its police department and discussed in detail issues that are important in terms of social justice, its operations, procedures and policy.

“We have a very aggressive agenda with very big and very bold plans. I tend to shy away from the council those who continue to fill the airwaves with all the ways that we’re going to fail, I don’t want to hear that. I’d rather have those show me how we can open the doors of opportunity,” Cohen said. “I believe that very much in a post COVID-19 East Brunswick, we’re going to have the winds behind us and that there’s nothing that we can’t achieve together. In the words of Walt Disney, ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.’ ”

Once sworn into office, Councilman Michael Spadafino thanked Murphy, Councilman Kevin McEvoy, East Brunswick Democrats Chairman David Londensky, residents, and his wife Kathy, who was right by his side while he recited the oath of office.

“I’m proud to service these residents as a councilman for seven years and I am excited about the future, finding our way through recovery from this pandemic, and onward to growth and prosperity,” Spadafino said.

Along with help from his two daughters, Stanley also thanked Murphy, his family, the residents, members from the Middlesex County Democratic Organization, the volunteers on the townships various boards/committees, the township’s employees, and the East Brunswick Police Department.

“A special thanks to our township employees and our police force. They are the integral part in helping us fulfill the vision for East Brunswick. Our town is a modern example of unity in diversity,” Stanley said. “We will continue championing this cultural harmony and a community environment in which all residents feel encouraged to express their faith and values. My fellow residents, let’s stand proud about diversity of various faiths and cultures, believe in your town, and believe in your leaders who are unwavering in their commitment to serving.”

Councilwoman Sharon Sullivan was nominated and approved to become the council president for 2021.

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.