When you're taking the oath of office to become a mayor for the fourth time, there is a chance the ceremony could become repetitive and boring. The same old "I do solemnly swear," blah, blah, blah.
However, that wasn't the case last Wednesday night, when Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner and the Township Council, who swept into office for another term in a landslide victory in May, were officially sworn in to serve another four years by retired Supreme Court Justice Marie Garibaldi, a Weehawken native.
Turner didn't use the "reorganization" ceremony, as it is officially called, as a chance to stamp his feet and sing praises to himself.
Rather, the evening turned into a way to honor the hundreds of people who were called to duty in a variety of ways when the World Trade Center tragedy took place Sept. 11.
After the Port Authority Police Honor Guard entered the Weehawken High School gymnasium and Hudson County Sheriff's Officer Elsie Mendoza performed a moving rendition of the National Anthem, Pastor Birgid Solano of the Good Shepard Lutheran Church provided the benediction.
With several local dignitaries like Assembly Speaker and West New York Mayor Albio Sires, Union City Mayor Brian Stack, Hoboken Mayor David Roberts, Guttenberg Mayor David Delle Donna, Kearny Mayor Albert Santos and Harrison Mayor Raymond McDonough in attendance, Turner took the oath of office as a councilman, then, to no surprise, was appointed by the other council members to serve as the mayor for the next four years.
Hudson County Freeholders Silverio "Sal" Vega and Maurice Fitzgibbons also attended the festivities. Letters were read from Gov. Jim McGreevey and Rep. Robert Menendez. North Bergen and Bayonne sent representatives to serve in place of Mayors Nicholas Sacco and Joseph Doria, who were busy serving in the state government in Trenton that day.
First Ward Councilman Louis Ferullo was appointed to serve as deputy mayor, the spot he has held for the last two terms.
Then, the council passed resolutions to reappoint all the different department heads throughout the township. There were no changes in the current administration.
After the Weehawken Jazz Ensemble performed some tunes to serve as a musical interlude, the presentation of awards began, with several organizations receiving plaques, and 170 municipal employees and representatives of the township receiving certificates of thanks.
Sept. 11 awards
"More than 60,000 people traveled through Weehawken on Sept. 11, some 45,000 more than usual," Turner said. "They were evacuated out of New York by NY Waterway, the Horizon Cruises, and the Spirit Line of New York and New Jersey, and using our pier facilities, were transported to safety in Weehawken."
Added Turner, "Then our people went to work. Our police and fire departments were magnificent. Our volunteer rescue squad was ready to treat those who needed medical assistance. People came to Town Hall to rest and get shelter. We opened up the library for those who needed help and fed people at the Nutrition Center. It was a total community effort, where every single one of our employees went above and beyond the call of duty."
Turner said that 150 workers stayed until the wee hours of the morning to insure that everyone was safe and fine.
"Our local businesses chipped in," Turner said. "Pathmark provided food. McDonald's provided food. Houlihan's did the same. It was incredible."
Turner said that he was waiting for the proper time to hail those who aided in the cause.
"The reason why we chose this night was that the police and fire personnel thought it was inappropriate while there was still recovery going on at Ground Zero," Turner said. "With July 4 weekend coming up, this made it fitting. I'm very proud of everyone that got the job done in the face of tragedy. We have a top-notch work force, a highly professional group that serves this community tremendously."
The groups honored included: the Weehawken Police Department, the North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue, the Weehawken Volunteer First Aid Squad, the Weehawken Department of Public Works, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Weehawken Housing Authority, the Senior Center, the Board of Education, employees of Town Hall and the Weehawken Library.
Also, plaques were presented to the Hudson County Sheriff's Office, the West New York Police Department, the Union City Police Department, the West New York Volunteer First Aid Squad, the New Jersey State First Aid Council Mobilization Unit, NY Waterway, Weehawken Sheraton Suites, the Hudson County Chapter of the American Red Cross, the Horizon Cruise Line, Spirit Cruises, New Jersey Transit, the Weehawken McDonald's, the Weehawken Houlihan's and the Weehawken Pathmark.