Wilson to lead Montgomery as mayor for third year

Birge and Caliguire sworn in to their first elected terms at reorganization meeting.

By: Jill Matthews
   MONTGOMERY — An upbeat atmosphere marked the start of the Montgomery Township Committee’s annual reorganization meeting Tuesday.
   Louise Wilson and Karen Wintress were unanimously selected to serve a third consecutive year as Montgomery Township’s mayor and deputy mayor, respectively. And Cecilia Xie Birge and Mark Caliguire were sworn in to their first elected terms as committee members.
   Mr. Caliguire steps into his first elected term after previously serving two appointed partial terms. Ms. Birge fills the seat vacated by Donald Matthews, who chose not to run for re-election in November. Mr. Matthews served 21 consecutive years on the Township Committee, including six terms as mayor and six as deputy mayor.
   In her annual address, Mayor Wilson highlighted the progress made in the past year by the committee and fortified her commitment to complete unfinished business, particularly the acquisition of the former North Princeton Developmental Center.
   "We did not close that deal or even sign a formal agreement, and that is a real disappointment," said Mayor Wilson, explaining that numerous details still need to be ironed out and that an announcement on the agreement should come within the next few weeks.
   "If there’s one promise I will make here tonight, it is that this Township Committee will deliver NPDC to Montgomery," she continued. "NPDC stays on my front burner for as long as I serve on the Township Committee, and should remain a top priority for years, for whoever occupies this chair."
   Mayor Wilson also reflected on the Township Committee’s commitment to dealing with traffic relief, community-based planning, open-space preservation, recreation and financial and capital planning. The township also hopes to break ground this year on the Montgomery Veterans’ Memorial, the mayor added.
   "We will try to strike the balance between dealing with the immediate needs and tackling the bigger, broader, extraordinarily important challenges that we face as a community — traffic, taxes, managing growth," the mayor said.
   Ms. Birge said she was thankful to be elected and she wants to focus on a long-term financial plan for the township. "If we don’t plan now, eventually we will pay for it," she said.
   Mr. Caliguire, who is both the only Republican and only man on the committee, jokingly referred to himself as a "distinct minority" while affirming his commitment to the tradition of civility and bipartisanship that has been the rule of the committee in the past. Mr. Caliguire also said he hoped to further the employee incentive plan that he introduced last year.
   Jennifer Wall, who is beginning the final year of her first term, announced she will not seek re-election in November. Before she leaves, Ms. Wall said she would like to see the Township Committee meetings broadcast on cable TV, the sewer fee issue resolved and development of the park at the Schafer tract at least 50 percent completed. The Schafer tract is a 95-acre parcel of land almost entirely in Rocky Hill between Route 206 and Princeton Avenue that was purchased through the joint efforts of Montgomery and Rocky Hill.
   Mr. Matthews, who was in the audience and has been appointed to the Recreation Committee, thanked the members of the committee and township employees for all their efforts in past years. He also challenged the new committee to continue the progress of the township in a nonpartisan matter.
   "We all have to put the interests of the community first, not politics," he said.
   Mark Petraske, who was Ms. Birge’s running mate in the November race, but lost, was appointed to the Zoning Board of Adjustment.