Bridgewater Township, New Jersey is governed under a “Faulkner Act” Mayor-Council system. It has been this way since 1975.
Under the Mayor-Council form of government, the Mayor is a separate elected office, with a 4-year term. The Township Council, a five member board also with four-year terms, decides the policies of the township, and the Mayor implements these.
Since Mayor is a part-time position, paying in the range of $15,000, the real work of administration is done by the Township Administrator. That is the 40+ hour job in most towns, paying these days in the low $100,000’s.
If the township administrator is good, you get good administration.
If it’s not so good, well . . . Thank goodness Bill O’Neill was NOT one of those kind of administrators!
Bill O’Neill was the Township Administrator in Bridgewater Township for 20 years. He was appointed by former Mayor Dowden, with the consent of the Republican-controlled Township Council. They—the Republican controlled Township Council– approved him five times. If I am not mistaken, Councilwoman Flannery voted in favor of Bill O’Neill in 2000, even.
Now O’Neill decides to run for Mayor, and NASTY PATTI IS BACK! (You remember her? The witch who sent her campaign manager out on the internet to post a battery of personal negative comments about a certain blogger. The one who liked to draft up attack letters-to-the-editor and get surrogates to sign them, back in say the year 2000 or 2001. That Patti Flannery.)
So on the O’Neill announcement, she does get in the boilerplate “I welcome the opportunity to debate the future of Bridgewater with Mr. O’Neill” or words to that effect. But then, it’s zingers like:
Flannery said O’Neill had two decades to implement those policies while working for the township.
Wrongo. The Township Administrator implements the policies that are decided by Township Council. A Council that has been 5-0 or 4-1 Republican for years and years.
Administrator O’Neill was very effective in keeping township costs low, given what Council set up for him to work with. It was the Republicans locally who drove up all the development, and when it turned out to be so unpopular, placed the blame on Dowden. Up until ’98 or ’99, they—the Republican Township Council—were even bragging about all the development they had invited in!
They said it would keep your taxes eternally low.
Well, what happened next?
Didn’t it? YOUR TAXES SKYROCKETED! Councilwoman Flannery, and her Republican buddies had been there all the way.
Bill O’Neill knows the history going back to probably before Mayor Flannery showed up in these parts. And I am sure O’Neill knows where “the bodies are buried” so to speak. (Which in New Jersey is a phrase you sometimes have to elaborate on—he knows the (good and) bad about what had gone on with the Republicans on Council for years and years.)
So who would make the better Mayor? Someone with 20 years administrative experience or someone with just FOUR?