Cary Africk: How to Choose a Mayor

Montclair pundits are keenly aware that Montclair is under a “special” form of Government created under the Faulkner Act.

Under this Act Montclair has seven elected representatives, including six Councilors and a directly elected Mayor, and an appointed (by the Council) professional town manager.

The day to day operations of the Town, including management of all personnel, is the responsibility of the manager.

Under the Faulkner Act, the Mayor has few “powers” in addition to those of the six other Councilors. The Mayor is “just” another Councilor for the most part, but one who appoints the Board of Education, and who sits on various Commissions.

The Faulkner Act, and its provisions, are not well known. So when the Mayor is out and about, he is treated as THE MAYOR and most assume his is a position of great power and influence.

So, my first pieces of advice for voters are:

1. Choose someone as Mayor who you believe represents Montclair. This person will call upon legislators at the state and federal level, as well as grant makers, executives, university leaders, the media, and potential financial benefactors. Choose someone you believe has values that resonate with those representative of the majority of Montclair, yet is respectful of others.

2. Choose someone who can lead groups of people, including the Council, who all have strong interests and views, and who might not all agree. Choose someone who has demonstrated that they are a consensus builder. Choose someone who has demonstrated respect for differing viewpoints.

3. The single biggest factor in choosing a Mayor should be the amount of time the person could spend on Town matters. This position should ideally be full time, and a stipend should allow the person to do just that, i.e. work at being Mayor full time.

But even though we can’t increase the salary, we MUST ask the person who wants to be Mayor to be prepared to spend upwards of 40 hours per week addressing the Town’s needs.

Thus, a person who can take leave of his job for four years, or who perhaps has taken early retirement, or whose personal situation makes available the time.

That’s 40 hours a week. Not including nite and weekend meetings, trips to Trenton and elsewhere, as well as perhaps a half dozen other business and charity meetings per month.

Needless to say, merely having the time is insufficient; the person has to want to spend that time in the service of Montclair, and must be committed to do so.

4. One of the strongest driving forces to Montclair’s success is our schools. And since the Mayor ultimately appoints the Board Of Education, the Mayor’s viewpoints are most important. He must choose people who will drive the schools to meet ever-increasing challenges both educationally, and fiscally.

There are some areas on the BOE where we are well represented, others not so much. We have to hear from the Candidates on what’s right with the schools, and what the remaining tasks are.

5. The person must be willing to routinely meet with all who affect our lives, especially our Federal and State Representatives. Montclair has done poorly in this area. On a resume one would call this “ability to establish executive level relationships.”

6. This person must aggressively pursue opportunities for Montclair within the grant-making world. Again, Montclair has done poorly in this area and a candidate with experience would be a plus.

7. The Candidate should be able to establish a strong working relationship with Montclair State University. I feel that we have failed to take advantage of the opportunities the University provides, instead treating them as a pariah and trying to scheme ways to “milk them” for more money. We are extremely fortunate to have the university and thanking and collaborating would be more appropriate. We should choose the Mayor who could best do this.

8. The Candidate needs to be comfortable in pursuing business opportunities for Montclair. The Mayor needs to lead development, including potential investors and companies interested in Montclair. The Mayor MUST work with the State. Again, a candidate who has done this would be appreciated.

9. The Candidate would be most valuable if he or she had existing relationships with potential benefactors and donors. People have to LIKE the Mayor, and the Town. Who can best do this?

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  1. I like this list, but I’d make school issues the #1 factor in choosing a Mayor (instead of #4). The council (and others) can “pick up the slack” on any of these other items, but it is only the Mayor that has exclusive control over the BOE.


  2. Great stuff, as usual, Cary. So the big question:

    Who do YOU endorse?

    And can I write in “Cary Africk”?

  3. What an awesome topic, an awesome article.

    I so strongly agree with the sentiment that experience as an executive and leadership skills are a must. Any recent ATT executive retirees out there? Had more than a few of them take on key positions in my career, and leadership skillls seem to be taught well there. Throw those hats in!

    BTW…Look at Bloomfield…. Classic example of someone who clearly does not have those skills and the failed relationship amongst government peers. Just saying.

  4. The Montclair High School Civics and Government Institute will be hosting a community-wide mayoral debate.
    The debate will take place April 26 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the school’s LGI room.
    The focus of the debate will be on education in Montclair.
    It will be moderated by two high school seniors, Chris Murphy and Gabriella Peterson.
    Residents can submit questions for the candidates via email at or Twitter @CGIdebate.

  5. How about a house-wife who manages a home and family? We can hold an open house at her home and see the results of management skills. A clean refrigerator, no dust bunnies, bills caught up, well behaved kids. Not sure about the travel to far away places to sell Montclair and bring business. But that seems to be a borderline objective, IMO.

    How about a DeCamp bus manager, or driver for that matter? Slings and arrows would roll off the back. Not beholden to a burdensome schedule. Can make change on the fly.
    Seriously, the job is duanting. Let’s hope we make the right choice,

  6. Dear Montclair,

    How about a seasoned responsible businessman? We are talking ex GS CEO, ex NJ Governor, ex CEO of a huge derivatives broker. For those with doubts, come on, I promise not to screw up a fourth time, I can handle this one.

    Yours Truly
    Jon Corzine

  7. Pretty basic description of the responsibilities. Now lets find someone capable of carrying them out, rather than obsessing over personal projects such as bike lockers, $15,000 solar streetlamps, and electric car chargers. in other words, lets elect some mature adults for a change that share the same concerns as the beleaguered citizenry, and relegate the utopian idealism to the blogosphere and editorial page rather than the counsel chamber. We’ll all be better off.

  8. Under my plan we will be able to afford bike lockers, street lamps, and electric car chargers all while decreasing the tax burden. The idea is to get long the sovereign debt of the PIGS. The trade will pay off huge as the ECB and even the FED have no choice but to prop up the failing nations.

    We will also be able to complete the southpark project and as a bonus we will fix all structural problems on the Siena. Furthermore we will begin a trolley service free of charge, leave the Wildwood property alone, and install 14 more frozen yogurt shops such that every Montclair citizen is in walking distance of one.

    Jon Corzine

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