Moylan is mayor in Montgomery; Henkel quits party

Committeewoman Ali Henkel announced Monday she will become a Democrat.

By: Helen Pettigrew
   MONTGOMERY — Committeewoman Ali Henkel announced Monday that she will change her party affiliation from Republican to Democrat after Committeewoman Sondra Moylan was selected as the township mayor for the coming year. Former Mayor Don Matthews was sworn in as deputy mayor.
   Ms. Moylan won the position with a 3-2 vote in her favor at the Township Committee reorganization meeting Monday. Ms. Henkel and Committeeman Jim Irish voted against Ms. Moylan’s nomination.
   Ms. Henkel has questioned Ms. Moylan’s motivation to serve as mayor as well as her commitment to the committee.
   "She said she feels this will be her last chance to be mayor because Democrats might take over next year. She’s not doing it for good of community but for her resume," Ms. Henkel said previously.
   In a letter distributed to members of the committee and to the press, Ms. Henkel stated, "I have concluded, after the Mayoral selection and Board and Commission nomination process, that the Montgomery Republican leadership and the Republican members of the township committee are wedded to the past and not to the future of Montgomery."
   "It wasn’t an easy decision. I gave it a lot of thought," Ms. Henkel said of her announcement to switch parties. "I feel like a battered child who has just exposed her parents," she added.
   Ms. Henkel said she has felt an animosity from the Republican Party ever since she ran as an insurgent and won the 1998 primary without the party’s backing.
   She has been a member of the Republican Party for as long as she can remember, she said. Between 1982 and 1988, Ms Henkel served as a special assistant in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under the administration of Republican President Ronald Reagan and also worked on Mr. Reagan’s national election campaign as well as the campaign of Republican George Bush.
   The Democratic Party allows more debate and discussion about issues that affect the township, according to Ms. Henkel, and this will allow her to be "more effective in serving the people of Montgomery."
   Democratic Party Chair Alan Bookman said, "She is an independent thinker and places township concerns over political priorities."
   "We welcome Ali’s announcement today," Mr. Bookman said.
   Committeeman Jim Irish, who abstained from voting for mayor last year said of his vote against Ms. Moylan, "I’m the lone member of the opposition party and it would be nice for the opposition party to have some impact in the discussion and process about who becomes mayor and the committee appointments. I’ve had no input and have not been asked about it, and I am elected by the people of Montgomery," he said, adding that the elected mayor should have and "understanding of voters in town and the willingness and time to talk to residents."
   "I’m very concerned about this party vote for mayor and my ability to work with the Township Committee," Mr. Irish said.
   "I expected it," Mayor Moylan said of the 3-2 vote. "I think Ali was not pleased with the selection," she added.
   "I’m looking forward to it, and I’m pleased to be given the opportunity to show my leadership despite some comments that were made," Mayor Moylan said.
   "This is not a job you stand here and do alone," Mayor Moylan stressed, saying she will need the support of the committee, boards and commissions, and residents.
   Mayor Moylan announced at the meeting that she plans to concentrate on reactivating the Veteran’s Memorial Committee and will establish a Memorial Day parade committee.
   "I believe it will be a way of bringing us together as a community and at the same time honoring those who have fought in our wars," she said.
   She hopes to establish a youth advisory group to discuss the wants and needs of community youth and will work to reduce the municipal tax rate, she said.
   Mr. Matthews said he would like the committee to continue to preserve open space in the township and work to protect the Sourland Mountains, while Mr. Irish said he hopes to continue discussion about the future development of the state-owned North Princeton Developmental Center property and will work on adding an indoor hockey rink to the township and sidewalks on the northbound side of Route 206. Ms. Henkel hopes to continue work on the township deer management plan and to keep a "watchful eye" on the bill S-940, recently defeated in the state Senate, that would transfer municipal oversight of mines and quarries to the state.