When Mayor Robert Walsh adjourned the meeting of the Mayor and Council on Dec. 11 it was the last time he would do so at a regular meeting. It also marked the last meeting for Councilman Juan Malave after both men decided not to seek a new term in office.
The council will meet again on New Year's Day Deputy Mayor Bill Gotto will take his seat as the new mayor and the process of finding his replacement will begin.
Walsh said he was comfortable knowing that he will be a former mayor on January 1. "I had made that decision seven months ago not to run," he said. He also has not ruled out a return to politics sometime in the future though he does not know when or at what level that will be.
Until that time comes he said he takes lots of memories from his time serving the township. "I've never been prouder in my life of being a part of something than when Brian Brennan came home," he said of the highlight of his term. "To see the people of Howell Township lined up on the highway, lined up on the street, eight-to-10 thousand citizens lined up. That was the highlight of my time on the governing body."
The outgoing mayor said he has also been through some tough times on the council. The toughest, he said was two years ago when New Jersey State Trooper and 18-year-old township resident John Bukowiec died within a few months of each other. "That was a very tough month for the town, it really truly was," he said.
No matter where he went in the town or who he talked to Walsh said the two tragic events were on everybody's mind. "It was just tough and being mayor you hoped to be able to solve the problems or make them feel better but you really couldn't." He added, "It was a very tough time to console them and to mourn with that. That was the toughest part."
For Malave, his second and most recent term in office only lasted one year after he replaced Councilwoman Susan Schroeder Clark. He had served in the past but said he always knew he would be back. " For some reaons I always thought I had unfinished business," he said.
This time, Malave said he feels good about his decision not to run again. "This time I know that I'm done," he said. "Not that there wasn't good people on the dais back then. But this time I really feel confident that we are definitely headed in the right direction."