JACKSON – Mordechai Burnstein who heads the Jackson GOP organization was voted in during a recent special council meeting to fill the unexpired term of Councilman Martin Flemming who resigned in October.
Flemming resigned having officially moved into his new residence which is outside the township and was therefore no longer eligible to serve on the council or as a member of the planning board.
Burnstein was chosen in a 3-2 vote. Council President Steve Chisholm and Vice Council President Nino Borrelli voted against his appointment while Councilman Scott Sargent and Councilwoman Jennifer Kuhn voted in support of the motion.
By procedure when such a deadlock occurs, the mayor can step in and break the tie which is what Mayor Michael Reina did with this vote. The event of a tie-breaker occurring was not a surprise to those residents who have been attending council meetings and following the political bickering that has occurred between the all-Republican council this year.
“I am honored to have this opportunity to serve our township. It has been a privilege to call Jackson home and to be raising our family here. I am excited about the chance to give back and look forward to working in collaboration with my fellow council members, the mayor, and the residents of Jackson as we continue to move our township forward,” Burnstein told The Jackson Times.
Chisholm and Borrelli who are both up for re-election next year, supported Jeffrey Riker, a long-time member of the Planning Board, rather than Burnstein for the vacant council seat.
Sargent and Kuhn ran with Reina last year. Reina ran against then-Council President Flemming and it proved to be one of the community’s most aggressive campaigns and also served to cause a divide within the Jackson GOP organization. In the end, Reina prevailed and his council running mates defeated the GOP council incumbents in office. There was no Democratic slate in the contest.
This also led to a change in leadership within the Jackson GOP Club with Burnstein taking office as chairman early in the year.
“The bi-laws of the club do not require a change in presidency given my new role on council,” Burnstein told The Jackson Times.
The addition of Burnstein, who is a strong supporter of Reina, to the dais marks a change in the balance of power within the council.
Since January, Flemming, who served as council president, Chisholm as vice council president and Borrelli have voted in unison. Sargent and Kuhn have also voted in unison in what frequently were 3 to 2 votes on matters of council committee assignments, selection of council president and council vice president and certain ordinances and resolutions.
In recent months, the council argued over many topics, such as appointments to the volunteer land use boards and the open space committee.
In July, Flemming stepped down as council president and alerted the governing body and the public of his intent to resign from the dais before the end of the year as he was moving out of Jackson after being a resident for more than 40 years.
Burnstein is also a member of the planning board and will serve as council’s liaison to the planning board.