A momentous shift in Montgomery leadership drew a standing-room only crowd into the municipal building on Route 206 to begin the new year.
In a matter of minutes, Catherine Gural went from being sworn in as one of two new members of Montgomery Township Committee to accepting a nomination for the town’s deputy mayor position, and taking her second oath of office at the January 3 reorganization meeting.
Gural was joined by her three children, husband Todd, plus friends and supporters at the meeting. Some brought bouquets for her; many others took photos and recorded the full inauguration ceremonies on their cellphones that night.
Photo from left:
Deputy Mayor Catherine Gural with two of her children and her husband
Gural and her family moved to Montgomery in 2010. Prior to that, she says “Montgomery represented an aspirational place for us.”
As a newly elected official, she says she is committed to respecting the township’s past and partnering with the people of Montgomery on a vision for the future.
"I am excited to share responsibility with my four fellow committee members, and I’m confident we are well-positioned to make meaningful progress in the coming months and years … I have always approached issues and problems with the idea 'this can be fixed,’" Gural said.
"My career has been built on trying new things and stepping out of my comfort zone," Gural said. "Many good things have been accomplished in Montgomery throughout its rich history, but we also need to be realistic about issues we see coming down the road and come up with actionable, scalable and sustainable solutions.”
Her running mate on the victorious Democratic ticket in November 2018, Marvin Schuldiner, was sworn in as a committeeman by State Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-16) on January 3.
Schuldiner says his first projects will be working to improve the blighted intersection at routes 518 and 206, and to establish a proactive plan for increased transparency in local government.
“My family and I moved to Montgomery over four years ago and we really love living here," he said. "In the 1990s, when I worked at Toyota, I held the position of ‘kaizen administrator’ and I was tasked with improving various operations. While most people think of kaizen as meaning as ‘continuous improvement’ it is actually derived from two words with simpler meanings — ‘kai’ means change and ‘zen’ means good.
Photo below: Marvin Schuldiner at his first meeting as a Montgomery Township Committeeman, on Jan 3.
"'Change for the better' has become my philosophy in life. In 2018 I ran for office because I want to keep Montgomery affordable while maintaining the quality of life we enjoy here. The goal I repeat for all Montgomery residents is that we want a more open, inclusive, and transparent government that goes beyond the minimal requirements of the law,” Schuldiner said.
Sadaf Jaffer, who just completed her first year on township committee, was sworn as mayor. Her daughter Zareen, 4; her husband Daniel Sheffield; and her mother Batool (who flew in from Chicago) attended the ceremony. The mayor said her family’s support and guidance make it possible for her to pursue her goals.
NJ Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal swore in Mayor Jaffer. (Photo by Barbara A. Preston)
“In preparing for my new role as mayor, I have been inspired and heartened professionals in our administration and police department," Jaffer says, "as well as from volunteers on our local boards and commissions who help Montgomery thrive.”
“From my experience in local community organizing and public service, I conclude it is indeed our people who make Montgomery great. I see my role as mayor not only to serve the people of this community but to also bring them together for the purpose of the common good and to promote the synergies that result when we work together ... I believe Montgomery has an opportunity to be a leading example of cooperation and success in municipal government,” Jaffer says.
Quoting New York City-born feminist, civil rights activist, and poet Audre Lorde, the mayor says, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
Mayor Jaffer is busy working with her transition team, and will reactivate a community budget and finance committee by appointing members from the Montgomery community. The mayor encourages community members to participate on Montgomery’s many volunteer boards, commissions, committees, and organizations, and is asking residents to consider what skills and abilities they possess as individuals that would benefit the whole community, and how they can apply them to serving the municipality.
(Community members interested in serving on a board should email the mayor at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Township committeeman Kamran Quraishi, who was appointed on December 20 to fill the unexpired year-long (2019) term of Patricia Graham–R after she resigned, had run on a Republican ticket with former Mayor Christine Madrid. Both lost their campaign in November to Gural and Schuldiner.
“I have lived here for 19 years and it is a great place," Quraishi says. "That’s why I have stayed for such a long time. We also have outstanding schools. Last year with the bias incident me and my family went through, and that was one reason I wanted to get involved with our township committee. But I’ve seen how our town responded and people have gotten together, people came to the meetings and spoke up."
Quraishi says Mayor Jaffer, Former Mayor Christine Madrid, and Committeeman Ed Trzaska were among the first people to call him, listen, and to show their support. He also commended Police Director Thomas Wain, along with his lieutenants and officers, for making his family feel safe. "The police have a very hard job," he says,"but they are doing so great at it."
Quraishi added that he’s looking forward to the liaison role with the Zoning Board of Adjustment and other commissions, and to starting up a township employee health initiative with the input of Montgomery’s Board of Health.
Below: Marvin Schuldiner, Deputy Mayor Catherine Gural, Mayor Sadaf Jaffer, Kamran Quraishi, and Ed Trzaska.
Committeeman Ed Trzaska, the tenured veteran on committee who served as mayor of Montgomery in 2017, reflected on efficiency in township operations. Trzaska praised of the township’s professional staff from Town Clerk Donna Kukla to CFO Michael Pitts and longtime Administrator Donato Nieman. He also thanked former committee members Graham, Mark Conforti, Madrid and Rich Smith. Trzaska said responsible management of the state’s affordable housing mandate, reducing the township’s debt, and implementing a multi-year plan to achieve zero-tax-increase budgets will solidify the legacy of committee work from 2010 to 2018.
“When the new municipal complex is projected to open, we are projected to have a zero-tax-increase township budget," Trzaska says. "These are some broad strokes of the past nine years as we never lost sight of the big picture and that we’re building the future Montgomery for generations to come."
"We preserved almost 900 acres of open space and saved Skillman Park from development, and just recently committee preserved the iconic Matthews farm," he added. "We transitioned the Montgomery police department to an entirely new leadership team, hired the next generation of cadets and officers, and increased funding for training, personnel development and equipment. Committee invested more than $10 million into roads and sidewalks and this summer we hope to begin a five-year initiative to repave all the primary roads in town. This is going to be a great year and I am confident our new leadership will work very hard to make our community an even greater place to live."