• January 26, 2020

Utts takes seat, changing power balance to Dems - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Utts takes seat, changing power balance to Dems

First time for control in Northfield since 2008

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Posted: Wednesday, January 15, 2020 11:09 am

NORTHFIELD — Democrats have taken control of Northfield City Council for the first time since 2008 with the swearing-in of Councilman Paul Utts on Tuesday, Jan. 7.

Representing the 1st Ward, Utts joins longtime Councilman Frank Perri, Councilwoman Susan Korngut and Councilwoman Barbara Madden in the majority.

Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, a former city mayor before being elected to the Assembly in 2013, performed the ceremony.

“I think good government is when it is equally divided and you have diversity up there on council because it represents the whole city,” Mazzeo said. “Northfield is a lot different than it was say 10, 12 years ago and I think it’s well represented here. It makes for good government when you have both sides talking over the issues.”

According to City Clerk Mary Canesi, Mazzeo was elected mayor in 2008, creating a vacancy in the at-large seat that was filled from January until the general election by Democrat Julie Zlotnick, giving Democrats a majority on City Council. In the election, Republican Tim Carew won the seat to fulfill the remainder of the at-large term, thus switching control of council from Democrat to Republican immediately after the results of the election became official.

After being sworn in, Utts thanked Mazzeo, saying the owner of B.F. Mazzeo produce market first asked him to run for City Council. 

Before being elected in November, Utts, 63, had run for a City Council seat twice and for mayor once. He first ran for council in 2009 and again in 2013, but lost to former councilman Tim Carew and current mayor Erland Chau, respectively. He then took on Chau for the mayor’s seat in 2014, with Chau winning 57 percent of the vote to Utts’ 42 percent.

Utts said although he was unsuccessful in his first campaign, he got a chance to meet Perri, who was also running that year.

“While we walked he shared his knowledge of the town with me. I don’t think there is anybody in our town that knows more about Northfield than Frank Perri, and I look forward to him serving as council president,” Utts said. “I also want to thank my wife, Helen, who after running three times thought we were through. I said ‘Somebody decided not to run’ and I entered the race with her full support.

“I want to thank my friends and neighbors for coming to support me and for support during the campaign; I really appreciate it. It’s a wonderful thing to have friends and neighbors and really one of the things that makes this town so wonderful.”

He also thanked the Atlantic County Democratic Party for providing “the infrastructure that I needed to run a campaign,” as well as Eileen Toland, head of the city Democratic Club, and others, including former City Council President Jeff Lischin, whom he defeated in the campaign.

“He was a gentleman throughout the entire process and then afterwards,” Utts said. “Most of all I want thank the voters of Northfield for bringing me here tonight and allowing me to have this honor. I hope that I do them proud and I hope that if they have any concerns that they bring them to me. I hope that if I am doing well, I would love to hear that, but if I’m not, I especially want to hear that. I look forward to serving with integrity and I thank you for your support.”

Perri, who has served on City Council for almost 30 years — he first was elected in 1990 and then served three terms as mayor beginning in 1996. He took two years off from 2008 to 2010 and has been back since then — was elected as council president unanimously after Republicans failed in their nomination of Councilman Greg DeWees.

He said the first priority would be formulating a budget.

“We’ve got a good team up here and a good team of employees. The first thing will be the budget and looking at all of the other amenities we’ve got besides the regular problems,” he said.

He particularly mentioned Birch Grove Park, which ended years of providing camping sites and closed it snack bar under the previous administration due to budget constraints. He said Dewees has supported allowing bicycles at the park and Korngut has been advocating for a dog park there.

Korngut said regardless of who is in control of City Council, the city must come first.

“I hope we’ll all continue to do what’s best for Northfield. If somebody has a good idea for Northfield, we are going to move ahead with it,” she said prior to the meeting.

When it came time to choose the council president, Korngut nominated Perri.

“When I was running for council, there was one elected official who bent over backward to help me and could not be more of a gentleman,” she said. “His door was always open, he always had time for me and he was more than helpful and gracious and patient. It is my honor and privilege to nominate Councilman Frank Perri for president.”

Utts seconded the motion before Councilman Brian Smith nominated Dewees, which was seconded by Councilman Jim O’Neill.

As expected, Perri received four votes to three for Dewees. Korngut later was elected president pro tempore, meaning she would fill in as president in the event that Perri were absent.

Atlantic County Freeholder At-Large Caren Fitzpatrick of Linwood, who was elected in 2017 and will be seeking her second term in November, attended to show her support for fellow Democrats.

 

 

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