Mayor James Davis and the new Bayonne City Council were sworn in during an elaborate ceremony on Friday, July 1.
Davis and his council slate just avoided a runoff with now-former City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski who challenged the incumbent mayor in the 2022 non-partisan municipal election. As he was sworn in for his third term, Davis called for Bayonne to continue to embrace the changes it has undergone in the past eight years under his administration.
Davis and the five members of his council slate took their oaths in the auditorium at Bayonne High School. The place was adorned with American flags and red, white and blue decorations for the combined inauguration and Fourth of July festivities planned by Inaugural Chair and “Bayonne’s First Lady” Jamie Davis.
Prior to that, an Inaugural Mass at St. Henry’s Roman Catholic Church across the street from City Hall at 28th Street and Avenue C at 1:30 p.m. Council members marched from City Hall to the church across the street in what was dubbed the “March to Mass.”
Later at the inauguration, Davis was sworn in by former City Clerk Bob Sloan at the ceremony which kicked off at 3:30 p.m. Meanwhile, State Senator Sandra Cunningham swore in City Councilman At-Large Juan Perez and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop swore in new Second Ward City Councilwoman Jacqueline Weimmer.
In addition to Fulop and Cunningham, Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla was in attendance, as was Assemblyman William Sampson, Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, and the Democratic candidate for the 8th Congressional District of New Jersey, Rob Menendez. Religious leaders offered prayers, musical entertainment was provided, and a number of elected officials and politicians gave speeches including Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Eduardo “Junior” Ferrante and Law Director Jay Coffey.
Each council member offered a speech, including Perez, Weimmer, new City Councilman At-Large Loyad Booker, First Ward City Councilman Neil Carroll, and Third Ward City Councilman Gary La Pelusa. Of note, Booker made history as the first Black elected city council member and he was subsequently voted to be the council’s new designee on the Bayonne Planning Board.
Davis touts Bayonne’s progress
After being sworn in, Davis gave a speech akin to his State of the City Address 2022. He highlighted how Bayonne needed to embrace redevelopment and the financial tools to enable that in order to survive, and that the city would continue to change into his third term since he was first elected in 2014.
“I never dreamed I would be mayor,” Davis, a retired police captain said. He noted that he also never thought that the former Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne (MOTBY) would close, or that a “world-class” cruise port and golf course would open in the city.
“As much as things are different in Bayonne than when I was a kid, things are much different now than they were just eight years ago,” Davis said. “There is no structural deficit anymore in the City of Bayonne.”
Davis also touted the new residential redevelopment on many former abandoned industrial sites in the city, as well as the planned movie studio, UPS distribution center, and ferry service coming to the city, as well as pedestrian walkways over Route 440. He pointed to even the most iconic symbol of Bayonne, the Bayonne Bridge, as having changed for the better during his tenure.
“Other than Chuck Wepner, is there anything more Bayonne than the Bayonne Bridge?” Davis said. “Because it needed to change for the demands of the 21st Century, … there will be generations of people from Bayonne that will only know the Bayonne Bridge that sits there now. Nothing is forever.”
La Pelusa elected City Council President
Following Davis’ speech, the new city council met for a brief reorganization meeting. During the meeting, La Pelusa was unanimously elected City Council President as part of his third consecutive term with Davis, though he has served on the council under other mayors in the past. He also serves as Hudson County Manager of Parks and Grounds, heads the civic association in his name known as the Gary La Pelusa Association, and runs his own landscaping company called Gary La Pelusa Landscaping, LLC.
The council also voted unanimously to reappoint the following directors: Robert Kubert as Public Safety Director; Tom Cotter as Director of Public Works, and Gary Chmielewski as Director of Municipal Services. The only new appointment was Assistant City Attorney Donna Russo, who now serves as Acting Business Administrator following Business Administrator Melissa Mathews resignation after Davis’ decision not to reappoint her.
The council then passed two resolutions honoring the outgoing Council President Ashe-Nadrowski and the outgoing Second Ward City Councilman Sal Gullace. In the long and at times drawn out ceremony, the only ounce of drama came when City Clerk Madelene Medina accidentally referred to Weimmer as Ashe-Nadrowski, to groans from the audience.
Hudson County Commissioner Kenneth Kopacz, who represents Bayonne, then gave a short speech praising Davis and the council and recognizing other dignitaries in attendance, such as Commissioners Bill O’Dea and Anthony Romano, as well as Kearny Mayor Al Santos and Jersey City Council President Joyce Watterman and Councilman Yousseff Saleh.
Fourth of July festivities
The ceremony closed with a prayer benediction and a performance of “God Bless America” by the Bayonne Interfaith Inspirational Choir. Davis’ inauguration, dipped in patriotism and wrapped in the American flag, was a self-congratulatory pat on the back after a narrow election victory amid low voter turnout.
Following the ceremony, the city held a celebration with food trucks, children’s rides, music, and more at 16th Street Park complete with fireworks. It was an interestingly chosen patriotic-themed celebration in Bayonne, as Davis joins mayors Francis Fitzpatrick, Dennis Collins, and Joseph Doria as the fourth mayor to be elected for a third time under the current mayor and council system of government in Bayonne.
Davis has already hit the ground running, holding a fundraiser at The Chandelier on June 28. More change is coming, and it will be a good thing, Davis said in his remarks.
“Change may be uncomfortable, it may be upsetting, it may be unsettling, but change is necessary,” Davis said. “Change is another name for growth. Change is another name for progress.”
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at email@example.com.