Editor’s note: the following is from Maplewood Mayor Frank McGehee’s Facebook page, December 7, 2021. The Maplewood Township Committee will choose a new Mayor at tonight’s TC meeting. Village Green asked McGehee, who has served as Mayor since January 2020, if he was interested in continuing in the leadership role; he politely declined to respond.
As part of our annual process, tonight our Township Committee will caucus with the Maplewood Democratic Committee Chair to decide who will be Mayor in 2022. It has been an absolute honor for me and my family – Marie and Madison – to serve and lead our town as your Mayor since January 2020, with dignity, thoughtfulness and love.
In the last two years, we have experienced so much – together. We worked everyday to fight against the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic to keep our residents informed and safe – from providing daily updates on cases and deaths to communicating information on how best to protect each other and managing the vaccination roll out.
We tackled the task of helping deserving families in the community receive access to essentials throughout the pandemic while providing our first responders with necessary PPE so that they could continue to serve. We also assisted our small business community with exploring or linking to financial opportunities to assist them during the pandemic.
We came together after the murder of George Floyd and worked with our youth to reaffirm that Black Lives Matter here in Maplewood both in our words and actions. And frankly, we still have work to do.
We embraced the opportunity to recognize the importance of Juneteenth in our community and before it was a national holiday, we celebrated this true day of independence.
We continued to change the culture of our Police Department top – down stemming from the events of July 5, 2016 which was the year that I first ran for office.
We stood up to anti-Asian hate and mourned the loss of Asian life. We also reiterated that antisemitism is not welcome in Maplewood.
We assisted our residents and small businesses with recovery efforts as a result of the devastation in the aftermath of tropical storm Ida and continue to apply pressure in Trenton to address infrastructure.
In addition to the community members who we lost as a result of COVID19, we were shocked and saddened by the tragic losses of our beloved community members including Moussa Fofana, Kadeem Buckham, and Danny Ives among others. May they continue to rest in peace and may we all continue to show our love and support to their families in the years to come.
On the municipal front, the last two years have only enhanced our relationships with our county and state level officials in Newark and Trenton. In addition, our ongoing collaboration with mayors across Essex County including Newark, Irvington, Orange, East Orange, Union, Millburn, Livingston and South Orange is strong.
We endured a contentious presidential election in 2020 which would have had direct implications on our community if the outcome had gone the other way. We rallied within and throughout New Jersey as well as in accompanying states to ensure Maplewood’s voice was heard and that our values were reflected resoundingly.
Our township operations went through significant changes including the search and hiring of a new business administrator, which is critical to how we manage our day to day operations.
We addressed several difficult situations from reimagining our Maplewood pool staff to engaging with our school district and teachers union in partnership with South Orange Village President, Sheena Collum, to find a way to get our children, teachers and staff back in school safely after over a year of virtual school as a result of the pandemic.
It has been a privilege to work with such an amazing Township team – from our Township Clerk, Liz Fritzen; our Health Officer Candice Davenport (thank you Candice!); Township Attorney, Roger Desiderio; to our department heads in Engineering, Public Works, Code Enforcement, the Library, Finance, Fire, Police, Recreation and their teams. I can’t thank them all enough for their tireless commitment to our town.
Many in our community might not be aware of the amazing behind the scenes efforts led by our Township staff to keep our town running smoothly every single day. As a result, since becoming Mayor I started our employee of the month /employee spotlight to recognize these amazing individuals publicly.
It has also been my honor to publicly recognize so many of our residents for your tireless efforts to better our community whether (former Maplewood Mayor) Ellen Davenport or Maplewood resident/music teacher Jake Ezzo to the extraordinary Christina Swarns. It’s also been wonderful to appoint and work with many of our residents on a wide range of committees from the Maplewood Planning Board to the Green Team.
And I couldn’t have done any of this without the love and support of my family. Marie has been and continues to be a champion for small businesses throughout our community. As a member of the Board of Trustees for Family Connections New Jersey, She has raised money and advocated for their social services including mental health resources. Also, Marie’s own personal story about how she prioritized her self care so that she can continue to serve others in so many capacities is such an amazing inspiration to so many across our community and beyond.
Madison inspires me with her tenacity. Being a teenager is hard, particularly at this time in our history. But she continues to navigate the ups and downs with courage, grace, wit and humility. She has also forged her own path in service by being involved with the issues that she cares about such as food insecurity in Essex County.
Some of my favorite moments at Town Hall have been when Madison would visit me on her walk home from school and stuck around to hang out with the Township staff.
Serving on our Township Committee is about service, sacrifice and dedication. No matter if you’re Black or White, LGBTQ, a man, a woman or non-binary individual, it is first and foremost about doing the work, and notably the hard work, of the people who elected us to serve each and everyday.
Regardless of who leads our amazing community in 2022 as Mayor, I will continue to work with my colleagues on the Township Committee to serve our community in the development of our master plan. I will finish overseeing the merger of our Fire Department with South Orange and lead our Public Safety Committee. I look forward to working with our residents to find a solution for our athletic fields and greenspace through our task force. And I will continue to collaborate with our Maplewood-South Orange School District leaders along with our municipal counterparts – the Village Trustees in South Orange.
So again from the bottom of my heart and on behalf of my family, thank you for this opportunity, it has been an honor.
Warmest Regards and Happy Holidays.