Wilson narrowly keeps Montgomery mayoralty

Warms and Caliguire oppose same person holding top position over long period

By: Jake Uitti
   MONTGOMERY — Mayor Louise Wilson narrowly retained her position as mayor by a vote of 3-2 during the Township Committee’s reorganization meeting Wednesday.
   Mayor Wilson joined Committeewomen Cecilia Birge and Karen Wintress to form the three-member majority. Fellow Democrat John Warms and the committee’s lone Republican, Mark Caliguire, voted against Mayor Wilson, asserting that Montgomery’s form of government does not fit with the idea of one person maintaining the position of mayor for many consecutive years.
   "It’s an issue of precedent for one person to serve (as mayor) this long," Mr. Caliguire said, "and one I am not sure should be set."
   Mr. Warms agreed. "It’s very simple," he said. "I don’t believe this form of government is established for someone to be mayor year after year after year."
   Mayor Wilson said she understood the issue. "Both gentlemen have a perspective on a change of leadership that I respect," Mayor Wilson said. "I was grateful for the support that I got from the people who did vote yes. I’ll do the very best job I can. I hope and expect to work very closely with John and Mark during the year. We don’t always agree on everything, but I think that works to the township’s benefit in the long run.
   "Some towns stick with one person for many successive terms; others do not," she continued. "It’s a choice made year by year. I agree with John and Mark that it’s not a bad thing to change mayors periodically, provided there is support for a change among the committee members. And I certainly don’t expect to be the mayor year after year beyond the point that I’ve worn out my welcome. But I am honored to serve again in 2006."
   This marks Mayor Wilson’s fifth consecutive year as mayor.
   Later in the evening, Ms. Birge was elected deputy mayor by a vote of 4-1, with Mr. Warms casting the lone negative vote.
   "I am excited," said Ms. Birge, whose term ends at the end of this year. "With the tremendous growth the township has been experiencing, we are at a critical juncture."
   Ms. Birge cited the township’s finances, taxes, open space, ratables and the Sunoco loop road as major issues for 2006.
   Ms. Wintress was also sworn into office Wednesday, having won re-election in November.
   "2005 was a good year, and I believe 2006 will be even better," Mayor Wilson said in her formal remarks following her election as mayor. "NPDC will continue to demand a great deal of time and attention on the part of the Township Committee and our staff and professionals."
   Other issues facing the Township Committee, the mayor said, include the Hillsborough Bypass, a plan that she called "not workable," as well as public safety, planning, traffic and open-space preservation.
   "It is a privilege to work with this Township Committee," she continued. "We are five very different people, with our own perspectives, but all of us work hard on behalf of Montgomery. … We are at our best when working as a team."
   Ms. Birge, Ms. Wintress, Mr. Caliguire and Mr. Warms all addressed the public as well, echoing the mayor’s sentiments, as well as stressing issues regarding the township’s budget, patience and creativity while working on NPDC, the environment and the Madison-Marquette development plan involving a shopping center on Route 206 between Princeton Airport and Route 518.
   Mayor Wilson said that there would be some "long" meetings ahead of the committee toward the middle of the month involving NPDC.