Blackman at Center of Dover Ceremonial Shindig

Murphy swears in Blackman in Dover.

DOVER – By the time Phil Murphy and his entourage arrived at the town American Legion hall, the party was in full swing.

With orange and black balloons on display throughout, more than 200 supporters witnessed new Mayor Carolyn Blackman and the board of aldermen march to the dais to the stirring strains of “Eye of the Tiger.”  Then, high school students took turns reading a poem by Maya Angelou.

There were cheers and smiles all around.

“It was a tough battle, people have a right to celebrate,” said Rep. Tom Malinowski, one of the many dignitaries on hand for Saturday’s event.

That was probably an understatement.

Political division has enveloped Dover, one of Morris County’s most historic towns, for more than a year.

Blackman, who was then a Democratic alderwoman, narrowly won election last fall over Mayor James Dodd. The mayor, too, is technically a Democrat, but he ran as an independent.

The new mayor officially took office on New Year’s Day.

“I’ve already sat down with all the department heads,” she said. But Saturday was the ceremonial shindig.

Addressing the crowd, Blackman stayed away from specifics in favor of stressing that the mood in town hall has changed. She said the new governing body would strive to treat all with “dignity and respect.”

She also announced a pay cut – for elected officials. Blackman said the mayoral salary has been cut from $60,000 to $30,000 annually and that pay for aldermen has been reduced from $25,000 to $12,000. Reducing pay had been a Blackman campaign promise.

When Murphy came through the doors, state Sen. Richard Codey, a political opponent of Dodd, was already on stage swearing in new aldermen and women, He invited Murphy to join him and when the governor did, Codey was ready with a joke.

“The only difference between us is $300 million,” Codey said. Murphy just smiled and shrugged.

He then praised Murphy for supporting “real” Democrats – like Blackman – as opposed to what Codey termed “Christie Democrats.” And just in case anyone missed the point, Codey soon amended that to “Norcross Democrats.”

An interesting comment to be sure, but it’s questionable how many in the room follow state politics closely enough to get the point.

Murphy, for his part, said he likes coming to Morris County and that Democrats can not be afraid to campaign in Republican areas.

The audience, as is common for swearing-in events, originally included a number of local Republicans – state Sen. Anthony M. Bucco, Assemblywoman Aura Dunn, County Sheriff James Gannon, County Clerk Ann Grossi and Freeholders Deborah Smith, Stephen Shaw and Doug Cabana. Some of them had left by the time Murphy spoke – it was a long ceremony – but some were there to hear the governor’s partisan message.

In a more general observation, Murphy said Dover and its diversity is a quintessential New Jersey town.

Malinowski, whose 7th District includes Dover, agreed with the governor’s view, but cautioned that the concept of “diversity” is under attack in this country from those who feel threatened by inclusion of all people and faiths.

He said the “enemy” here is not necessarily a politician or political party you do not like, but “people who give up” and don’t get involved.

And in a very small way, Malinowski suggested that’s why it was important for people in Dover to get energized and to oust the incumbent mayor in favor of Blackman.


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