Educator Sworn In As Teaneck Mayor -- 
Pledges Unity, But Partisan Blocs Emerge

(From: The Record, Sunday, July 3, 1994 p. N-6)

Peter M. Bower was chosen mayor of Bergen County's largest municipality on Friday, as three newcomers joined the seven-member Township Council.

Bower, an educator who was first elected to the council in 1992, succeeds John Abraham, who chose not to run for reelection in May after serving two years as mayor during his four-year council term.

Councilman Mel Henderson, the principal of Dwight Morrow High School in Englewood, was selected deputy mayor, making him Teaneck's highest-ranking black elected official since Bernard Brooks served as mayor from 1982-88.

Under Teaneck's form of government, the mayor and deputy mayor are chosen by the council members. In secret balloting, Bower drew four votes and Paul S. Ostrow, the previous deputy mayor, drew three. The tally for deputy mayor was six for Henderson, one for Ostrow.

Before the vote, Municipal Judge James E. Young swore in new council members Gary Fiedler, a former police captain; Betty O'Brien, the former township clerk; and Leo Wielkocz, a former township Health Department official. Ostrow, the top vote-getter in the May election, took the oath for his second term on the council.

Although his duties as mayor are largely ceremonial, Bower promised to use his position to try to unify the council, citing two key concerns: the township's budget problems and relations between the government and its constituents.

"If there's one thing we can do in two years, it's eliminate the them-and-us equation that has existed on this council," he said.The 4-3 split on the mayoral vote was an indication of how the voting blocs are likely to break on the new council, which is ostensibly non-partisan.

Following the elections of Bower and Henderson, the council also split 4-3 on its seating arrangements, the appointments of members of the planning and zoning boards, and the selection of Martin Kramer to succeed Michael Kates as township attorney.Members of the minority -- O'Brien, Ostrow, and Eleanor Kieliszek -- either abstained or voted no, saying the selections were made without consulting them or holding a "transition meeting" between the old council and the new.

Henderson said the majority group followed the same procedure as previous councils.

 

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