MORRIS TOWNSHIP – The first meeting of the year is a time for both politics and ceremony.
And when they intersect in a positive way, it’s nice to see.
The governing body here reorganized Wednesday night with Democrats holding all five seats on the township committee.
That’s a big deal and a sign of how politics in this once “very red” town and county has changed.
Jeff Grayzel, whose election last fall helped give the Dems a complete lock on town government, was the only Democrat on the committee when he won a seat in 2007 – in a special election no less.
For a number of years after that, municipal elections were incredibly close, but no longer.
Whether it is changing demographics or the MAGA movement turning off moderate voters, Democrats are now winning by comfortable margins.
Grayzel won by almost 1,000 votes and the other Democrat on the ballot, Donna Guariglia, won by about 1,400.
The man Grayzel defeated was Peter Mancuso and this is where the politics ended and the ceremony began.
Mancuso is very much a legendary figure in the township.
He served 21 years on the committee in two separate stints.
More than that however, Mancuso was an active volunteer and participant in a wide range of civic and charitable activities. Morristown Memorial Hospital, the Morris Museum, the County College of Morris and the College of St, Elizabeth are just some of the institutions in which he was involved.
More relevantly, perhaps, as the lone Republican on the committee in recent years, Mancuso by all accounts worked with his colleagues to serve the municipality. Making political points for the sake of making political points was not his style.
He was voted out of office two months ago, but Mancuso still attended the reorg meeting, earning praise for his service from his old Democratic colleagues,
Mayor Mark Gyorfy put it this way:
“Peter’s been a steadfast leader in Morris Township for decades.”
That earned Mancuso a nice ovation.
Now in his 80’s, Mancuso pointed out that he’s attended the last 45 or 46 township reorganization meetings, So, why stop now?
“This is my town, these are my people,” he explained.