New Providence Mayor Hern Calls on Republicans to Nominate a Woman for Council Vacancy; Republican Committee Chair Says Hern Engaging in Political Theater
Tuesday, March 19, 2013 • 5:02pm
NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Mayor J. Brooke Hern is calling on Chairman Al Morgan and the New Providence Republican Committee to support a woman to fill the vacancy that will be created by the resignation of Councilman Alan Lesnewich, whose nomination for Superior Court Judge was confirmed by the State Senate on Monday. In response, Chairman Morgan told TheAlternativePress.com, "This is a political ploy to try and divide the community over a non-issue. The Republican Committee welcomes all Republican men and women in good civil standing to screen before our Committee."
Under state law, the vacancy will be filled after Morgan and the local the Republican committee present three nominees to the council. The council must choose from among the three Republican nominees to fill Lesnewich’s vacant seat on the governing body.
“Since 2008, the dozen or so members of the New Providence Republican Committee have backed candidates for Mayor and Council 13 times,” Hern said. “And every single time, they chose a man.”
Chairman Morgan told TheAlternativePress.com, "Mayor Hern definitely knows the process because he's been through it. The Republican Committee consists of half women. For him to insinuate that there's a gender problem is ridiculous."
Adding that there is "simply no excuse" for their failure to support women for public office, Hern said, “Over the past five years, the Republican committee repeatedly rejected women who sought their support and wanted to serve on the New Providence Borough Council.”
However, according to Councilman Gary Kapner who serves on the Republican Committee, to the best of his knowledge, only one woman during the past five years has screened for a Council position. Kapner added that the Republican Committee has actively sought women to run and would welcome women to screen for a Council position.
“I dare anyone to say there are no qualified women who are willing to serve,” Hern said. “That’s an insult to women, and it’s just not true.”
The mayor pointed to three women who served on the council with distinction: Maxine Hirsch, Terri Keller, and Julia MacDermott, who was the last woman to receive Republican Committee support in 2007. Kapner said that all three women were or currently are members of the Republican Committee. Chairman Morgan added that the Committee approved many women to serve on the Council including Hirsch, Keller and MacDermott.
“I served on the Council along side Maxine, Terri and Julie, and I can tell you that each one of them brought important perspectives to our policy deliberations,” recalled Hern. “They were all creative, thoughtful and hardworking elected officials, and Terri and Julie both served as council president.”
Reached for comment, former Councilwoman Julie MacDermott told TheAlternativePress.com, "I appreciate that Mr. Hern felt I served with distinction. Reading those words came as quite a surprise. During my time on the Council, Mr. Hern rarely supported my recommendations, rarely returned my calls and once my term expired - although I offered to continue to serve the Borough on various committees - specifically excluded me despite my experience in serving the Borough in so many capacities for over 8 years. He refused to appoint me to any Borough committee."
“The sad reality is that the New Providence Borough Council has turned into a men’s club, and the responsibility for this failure rests squarely with the Republican committee,” Hern said. “Councilman Lesnewich’s elevation to the bench should be used as an opportunity to broaden representation and strengthen our municipal government by supporting qualified women who wish to serve. I feel strongly that Al Morgan and his Republican committee should nominate three women for the Council to choose from, because it’s been far too long since they backed any women at all."
MacDermott responded, "...the entire time I was on the committee, it actively sought women to be on the Council. The only woman that screened for the position during my last year on the Committee was far less qualified than the men who screened at the same time. I have been on all sides of the process, as someone who was screened and ran, someone who had a vote on the committee for candidates as well as appointees and as a council member who voted on one of the three potential candidates. In all cases, the committee members as well as the council are very thoughtful about the needs of the Borough and what qualifications may fill a spot. In the case of Mr. Gennaro, it was important that we try to find someone who had engineering experience. In the case of Mr. Lesniwich, we were delighted to have someone with Labor/Employment experience as well as someone who was instrumental in the recreational activities of the Borough."
Former Councilwoman Terri Keller told TheAlternativePress.com, "I disagree with Mayor Hern's contention that the New Providence Republican Committee (NPRC) does not support or encourage women to screen for Council seats. In my many years as an elected official, and as a member of the NPRC, I never witnessed any such behavior. His notion that the NPRC should 'recommend three women,' for Council seats is surprising because he is well aware of the screening procedure. The NPRC, (or any political committee) simply can not appoint or recommend anyone for a Council seat who doesn't screen. The NPRC does, in fact, make a concerted effort to recruit women to screen for Council positions, but, to my knowledge, only one woman has screened since Julie McDermott left the Council. To accuse the NPRC of being a 'men's club,' is simply an unfair and false statement by Mayor Hern. As a member of the NPRC, and former Councilwoman, it is offensive to be cast in such light."
Chairman Morgan told TheAlternativePress.com, "The mayor's opinion isn't being sought by the Republican Committee. He was asked to resign by the Committee two years ago because he was very misleading to the Committee....While many in New Providence are working hard to unite the community, the mayor is trying to be 'the great divider.' Why does he have to constantly engage in this behavior?"
"Sadly, Mr. Hern's words and actions are disingenuous. I can only reach the conclusion that his newly found support of womens' rights are nothing more than an effort to discredit the Republican Committee. Alternatively, Mr. Morgan, who was Mayor during my first term on Council provided me with unyielding support and assigned me significant responsibilities rare in the world of politics. Al was one of my biggest supporters when I ran and during my entire term on Council and the Committee," MacDermott concluded.