Robert Jackson, elected mayor Tuesday night by a wide margin—and others on his Montclair 2012 slate—have vowed to move Montclair forward and to start the healing process following a long and contentious race.
"I guarantee you there will be a big difference. A new Montclair. A new future," he told supporters Tuesday night.
But will he be able to bring together a town that became increasingly divided between supporters of three very different slates over the last few weeks?
Tim Barr, who ran as an at-large candidate on the For Montclair slate, said there absolutely has to be some healing.
"We all care about the town ... I think it would be helpful for [Jackson] to use the ideas of those who didn't get elected ... I think many of those who ran had some good ideas that will be worth listening to," he said.
Fifth District Freeholder Brendan Gill said he also hopes Jackson will reach out to those he beat.
"I think he should call those people and sit down with those people and mend fences so to speak," he said. "Asking what they think should be done as a sign that you will be an inclusive leader.
"The worst thing is when good people run for office and then you never hear from them again," he said.
Gill noted that politics is such a funny business in that, if six out of 10 people are happy with what you're doing, you are a superstar.
Former Mayor Bob Russo, who won an at-large seat on Jackson's Montclair 2012 slate, said he hoped people would be able to put aside their differences and work towards a better Montclair.
"We're going to have to work together," he said.
But it may take awhile.
In the last few weeks, the race—especially between the Montclair 2012 and the Real Progress Montclair slates—grew increasingly heated.
Montclair 2012 accused mayoral candidate Karen Turner of being against beloved Montclair institutions such as the library and the pre-k.
On Wednesday morning, Turner emailed out an audio recording that, she says, proves she is not against the arts or the library.
A few days ago, Montclair 2012 had emailed out a press release that included an audio tape of Turner’s remarks at a Sept. 30, 2010 council meeting in which she seemed to question the need for the Montclair Public Library, arts programs and funding for shade trees. Listen to the audio here.
Turner said Wednesday morning that she's "mortified that people might believe I don't support the arts or the library. I never said anything about the pre-k in this audio. They cut, paste, and dubbed this audio recording. Too little too late, I know, but if you listen to the whole thing, it shows that I was asking questions about the library, not suggesting to close it, and it stated I support the arts and shade trees. I also make an offer to help the town deliver a balanced budget. I also give Renee [Baskerville] a shout out of support in this audio for the ideas she suggested."
In a later email, Turner said: "I just went back and listened to the one used by Jackson. They didn't dub, but they certainly took it out of context."
Listen for yourself as the full video, emailed by Turner, is attached.
Meanwhile, many of the candidates who ran were gracious in defeat on Wednesday morning.
Jeff Jacobson, who ran in the third ward on the For Montclair slate, said he was not surprised by Jackson's victory.
"Anyone who saw Mr. Jackson's performance at the CGI debate at the High School should not be surprised," he said. "He gave a commanding performance, answering tough and unpredictable questions thoughtfully and always with a positive spirit.
"I later watched him answer questions from a restaurant full of Republicans and do much the same thing," he added. "That Mayor-elect Jackson loves Montclair and has a bold vision for its future is not remotely in doubt. And if he is able to run Montclair as effectively as he ran his campaign, we'll be in good shape."
Jackson ran on two sweeping themes—more development for Montclair to bring in new tax ratables and selling municipal services to neighboring towns through more shared services agreements.
"The voters gave him nearly his entire slate to be his partners on the council," Jacobson noted. "It therefore will be easy for the voters to judge his performance.
"We should all wish him and the new council well and support them however we can," he said.
Deputy Mayor Kathryn Weller-Demming, who had run as an independent at-large candidate, said Wednesday that she is thrilled with the results of the election.
"I think the voters of Montclair made really great choices, and we will all be well served by the 2012-2016 Montclair Township Council," she said. "I have really enjoyed serving the residents of Montclair, and feel truly confident that the accomplishments of the past few years will be exceeded, and we will all be able to remain in the community with values that we love."