LaCrosse and Zakar Swept into Office with 'Good Old Days' Message

All sides commended for 'clean, honorable' campaign

 

November 7th, 2010

by Erik Weber

 

BEACHWOOD - Drawing from the controversy and political turmoil that has roiled through this borough since shortly after the 2007 election upset that booted Republican incumbents Mayor Hal Morris and Councilman Gerald W. LaCrosse out for elected Democratic newcomers Mayor Ronald W. Jones, Jr. and Councilwoman Katina L. Clark, borough Republicans struck back and won the two remaining council seats held by Democrats by asking voters to hearken back to the relative peace of the earlier era.

 

On Tuesday, Mr. LaCrosse was elected to return to his place on the governing body along with first-time borough candidate and councilman-elect, Edward A. Zakar, who previously served as the chair of the borough land use board until being passed over for a reappointment when his term lapsed on December 31st. His replacement was Robert W. Clark, a borough Democrat who ran and lost the 2009 election in a race for one of two council seats held by incumbent Republicans.

 

That election, which was marked by a fierce campaign of accusations and personal attacks espoused at council meetings, distributed through printed materials to borough homes and posted online via shadowy websites registered and run by anonymous persons from behind proxy names and e-mail addresses, was seen by many local residents as a low point in the borough government's then-decaying public image. Voters chose to return Republican incumbents Beverly Clayton and Ronald Roma to office, who later stated they were disgusted by the level and volume of charges directed at them from both the Democrats and anonymous web administrators.

 

In sharp contrast to that post-election period, winners and losers of this year's race as well as sitting elected officials peppered their comments with a conciliatory tone.

 

"I want to congratulate Mr. LaCrosse and Mr. Zakar," said Bonnie M. Verga, the Democratic councilwoman who lost her seat in the election. Mrs. Clark, whose term expires at the end of the year, chose not to run again, and was replaced on the Democratic ticket by newcomer Carole Jansen.

 

"They ran a very good and clean race," she added. "They gave us a good run for our money, and we tried our best but couldn't do it."

 

The councilwoman also stated that if the council needs anything after her term expires on December 31st, to just give her a call.

 

Mrs. Jansen said that all things considered, she was glad to have run in what was her first election.

 

"In general, I feel that it was a good experience for me, and we had a good time with it," she stated. "I learned a lot, and it was not stressful because the people I worked with were fun people."

 

In the end, she added, "we did well - better than they'd done in the past - even though we didn't win."

 

"I think to everybody it seemed like a very quiet and respectful campaign," said Mr. Roma, the borough council president, during Wednesday night's council meeting. "I think the residents and everyone in town appreciate that."

 

He was joined by Mrs. Clayton in thanking Mrs. Verga for her service to the borough during her most recent three-year term.

 

"You have been an upstanding councilwoman," said Mrs. Clayton. "You have not missed a single meeting, you are dedicated and willing to work, and I wish we could have an extra seat up here for you."

 

Mrs. Verga was then honored by a standing ovation from the rest of the governing body and residents present, which appeared to move her nearly to tears as she said thank you and motioned with her hands for everyone to sit back down.

 

Mayor Jones noted that both Mrs. Verga and Mrs. Clark have "always been there for the people of Beachwood," and said he had "tremendous respect and admiration" for both of them, while at the same time welcoming Mr. Zakar and Mr. LaCrosse, who were both present at the meeting.

 

"I look forward to working with both of you," he stated.

 

Mr. LaCrosse, long a vocal and unrelenting critic of the mayor's, spoke during the open public session portion of the meeting first to add his praise for Mrs. Verga and her campaign.

 

"Bonnie, you have had a 100 percent attendance record, and I have been at most of those meetings, and I have to say, you have presented yourself and carried yourself in a most professional manner," he said. "The way you and your running mate handled yourselves was exemplary, [and] you have done for the borough of Beachwood a fine job and deserve all of our respect and gratitude."

 

"I hope that come January when I take my seat and Mr. Zakar takes his seat that you will continue to serve the borough in some fashion and come to meetings and give your input and general knowledge," the councilman-elect continued. "It's truly appreciated."

 

"Jerry, you don't have to worry, I'll keep my eye on you," joked Mrs. Verga in response.

 

Mr. LaCrosse, looking far more relaxed during Wednesday's meeting than in his near-perfect attendance at council meetings as a resident for at least the past year and a half, said that he looked forward to his return to the dais.

 

"It's going to feel good to get back up there and work with this governing body," he stated. "I think they've done a tremendous job."

 

"You'd better not refuse to answer our questions - you don't like it when they refuse to answer your questions," said resident David Lipton, who referred to the multiple times that Mr. LaCrosse challenged Mayor Jones during the open public portion of council meetings about various issues that the mayor then refused to respond to, oftentimes stating that they were either personal and did not apply to public borough government matters or that he could not due to pending lawsuits between he and Mr. LaCrosse.

 

Mr. LaCrosse brushed the comment off, stating that a number of things in the past few years were upsetting, but that he's "glad that's behind us."

 

Having directed most of his praise and comments to the council members of the governing body up to that point, Mr. LaCrosse then turned and directly addressed the mayor.

 

"And for you, Mr. Jones, I'm back," he said, before turning and returning to his seat.

 

Mr. Zakar, who did not speak publicly during the meeting, stated in an e-mailed response to the Riverside Signal's request for his reaction and comments on the election that he was "humbled by the support Jerry and I received during the election process, and accept with great pride the checkmark for us in the win column this past Tuesday."

 

"This is the time to reflect on all the significant attributes Beachwood has to offer and the opportunities that are expected of me moving forward," he continued. "I am proud to serve and I'm committed to the residents of Beachwood and as a new to-be team member of the council. I plan to focus on the many goals and objectives for the borough with my fellow council members and will adhere to my mantra of 'Commitment, Continuity, Consistency and Credibility.'"

 

Mrs. Jansen, while pleased with the election process this year, noted that she was bothered by the new Republican uniformity of the council.

 

"There should be a little difference when it comes to parties - it shouldn't always be all one party," she said. "It's good to have a difference of opinion to get things done."

 

Beginning in January, Mayor Jones will be the sole remaining Democratic party member of the governing body. His term is set to expire on December 31st, 2011.

 

The next meeting of the borough council will be held on Monday, November 15th at 7 pm in borough hall on Pinewald Road. This meeting was rescheduled to that date; borough council meetings are otherwise held on the first and third Wednesdays of each month except during the council's summer schedule.