Elections: How The Governing Body Works in Fair Haven

As people go to the polls to vote in Fair Haven today, there are some facts about the borough governing body and its function and history that may have eluded many.

So, the notion in mind that an informed voter is a better voter, here are some facts that may enlighten and inspire at the polls:

Form of Government

Do you know what form of government with which Fair Haven is run?

It is what is dubbed the Borough form of municipal government in New Jersey. There are several forms. While it may seem like a given that since Fair Haven is a borough, the form of government follows suit with that name. It’s not.

The Borough form of government is partisan, meaning that borough council members are affiliated with their particular party and elected on that partisan ticket. This form of municipal government is also a “strong” council, “weak” mayor form of government. This means that the mayor does not vote, except in the case of breaking a tie among council members.

The mayor also has veto power over ordinances (which are, essentially, borough laws). His vetoes, however, are subject to what is termed an “override” by a council two-thirds majority vote. The mayor also chairs, or runs, the meetings. The mayor. too, has the power to make professional appointments and liaison assignments to council members with the advice and consent of council.

Each council member serves as a liaison to a particular department or organization within the borough to affect better communication between departments/organizations and the governing body.

The mayor can veto ordinances subject to an override by a two-thirds majority vote of the council. The mayor makes committee and liaison assignments for council members, and most appointments are made by the mayor with the advice and consent of the council.

Borough council members are elected to serve three-year terms on a six-member council dais in a completely volunteer capacity. They are not paid a cent to serve. The mayor serves in four-year terms and is elected separately as terms expire.

What happens when a borough council member must resign/retire?

If a borough council member must resign or retire due to emergent circumstances or a move and cannot complete their term on the dais, the governing body must fill the position within 30 days. The replacement, who is chosen from a pool of candidates nominated by the borough party organization (Democrat or Republican, depending on the party affiliation of the council member leaving), serves out the remainder of the term.

Note that the resigning elected official must be replaced with someone of the same party affiliation.

The person who was appointed must run in the November election to either complete that term as an officially elected official; or, depending on the seats up for grabs, can opt to run for a full term and run a newer candidate for the shorter, unexpired term.

Two seats are up for grabs on the six-member council dais are those of currently sitting council members Jonathan Peters and Jacquie Rice, both of whom are running for re-election. They are being challenged by Democrats Meghan Chrisner-Keefe and Mike McCue.

About Fair Haven

Fair Haven is a roughly 1.6-square mile borough with about 6,000 residents, most of them families. The last U.S. Census report indicated that more than 70 percent of the residents of Fair Haven are married couples. There are roughly 1,700 families.

Fair Haven is in Congressional District 4, which is currently served by Rep. Chris Smith. Prior to redistricting, Fair Haven was in District 12.

The borough is part of Legislative District 13, represented by Republican Senator Declan O’Scanlon.

Republican Assemblywomen Amy Handlin and Serena DiMaso are also serving. All six districts vote at the Church of the Nativity on Hance Road in Fair Haven this election. Polls are open until 8 p.m.  

The major issues in Fair Haven are: affordable housing, seniors a proposed facilities upgrade and eminent domain, business district development, Commercial, residential and upcoming major facilities development, eminent domain (concerning facilities development), zoning, affordability (primarily affordable housing) and seniors and senior housing.