Coming into the new year the Howell Township Council was going to have new leadership when then Deputy Mayor Bill Gotto was elected to succeed Robert Walsh. Coming into Tuesday's reorganization the question became who would fill Gotto's vacated seat at the dais.
With Gotto and newly sworn in Councilman Ed Guz took their seats the council was presented with a list of three possible candidates by the local Republican party. From the list which included Walsh, Michelle Flaherty and Matthew Rasmussen it was decided after a short discussion that the former mayor would return to the dais.
After being sworn in Walsh said he was glad to have another chance to serve the residents of Howell. He said he would have been glad to have taken a break from public service after opting not to see reelection but said there are issues he is looking forward to helping tackle.
From zoning to sewers and other topics the council will take on as part of Mayor Gotto's agenda, Walsh said he believes he can help with the knowledge he has gained through the years. "They asked if I was willing to step back up on the council and I said yeah," he said. "At the end of the day it's about serving the people."
Moving from the center seat at the dais in the new Municipal Building to one of the side seats is not something Walsh said he is concerned about and is in some ways looking forward to it. "I wouldn't have just went back on the council just to go back on the council if I didn't have confidence in the process they use to make decisions and watched them the past few years," he said. "I joke around but at the end of the day we make serious decisions."
Not everyone on the dais gave Walsh's appointment a full endorsement as Councilwoman Pauline Smith said she had concerns about his return to the council. She said with issues like the environment, she believed Walsh needs "education," about what affect his decisions have on the township in the long run. "I have observed, not just believe, I'm sure that the same person would've voted differently in certain situations if he understood down the road when his children are old and his grandchildren are around to protect the quality of the water especially," she said.
Councilwoman Smith said she likes Walsh as a person and thinks he's a "nice gentleman," and believes he makes what he thinks are in the best interests of the township. "I think he's well intended, I believe him when he says he cares so much for Howell," she said after the meeting.
Mayor Gotto said he did not share the same concerns about Walsh's abilities or decision making and believes his record and time on the council will help the current members of the board. "It's about getting good people," he said. "Good people that you know have a track record of always voting in the best interests of the residents."
Deputy Mayor Robert Nicastro agreed that having Walsh's institutional knowledge will help the council this year. "I think Bob Walsh has proved his abilities and is worthy," he said. "We're still in some difficult challenges but I think he brings another aspect and perspective because he's been on the inside to know."
Also joining the council on Tuesday was Councilman Ed Guz who ran alongside Gotto in the November elections. Being sworn in, he said, made the responsibilities of the job even more real. "It's always some cold water in the face that you realize you attained what you sought after and now the rubber's got to meet the road," he said. "Hopefully I'll live up to everyone's expectations."
Councilman Guz also said he believed working with a group of experienced members will help him as he learns his new responsibilities calling them, "people who have loads of experience and loads of talent."
The council will meet again on Jan. 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the new municipal building.