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Michael Puzio, center, takes the oath of office as mayor of Rockaway on November 20, 2018.

Rockaway mayor resigns

Special election for unexpired term will be held this year

By David Wildstein, January 12 2022 11:53 am

Rockaway Township Mayor Michael Puzio has unexpectedly resigned to take a job with a pharmaceutical company causing a special elections for the second time in the last four years.

Council President Joe Jackson will become acting mayor on Januarywhen Puzio’s resignation becomes effective.

The Republican county committee will have 30 days to submit the names of three mayoral candidates to the township council, which has a Republican majority.  The council may either pick one of those names or kick it back to the county committee.

Councilwoman Rachael Brookes, the GOP municipal chair, declined to comment.  So did officials in the township clerk and administrator’s offices.

Puzio’s term is not up until 2023, so Rockaway will have a special primary and general elections in 2022 to fill the remaining 13 months of his term.

The Rockaway mayoral position had been the subject of considerable controversies and lawsuits in recent years.

Following the death of Mayor Michael Dachisen in August 2018, Council President Jeremy Jedynak became acting mayor.  The county committee voted to submit Puzio, former Councilman Paul Minenna, and Adam Salberg as mayoral candidates.  They defeated three other candidates: Kent Baez, Robin Shaw and Jon Saucers.  The council, where a different GOP faction was in control, chose Minenna.

But two weeks later Superior Court Judge Stuart Minkowitz invalidated the vote, clearing the way for Adam Salberg to replace Paul Minenna as the interim mayor.  Minkowitz ruled that the council had not properly noticed the meeting.

Minkowitz also ruled that the council could not seat John Inglesino, a former mayor, as the township attorney.

Since the primary had passed, the council picked Puzio as their nominee in a November 2018 special election.  He defeated Minenna by two votes, 20-18.

Local Democrats declined to nominate a candidate for mayor against Puzio, who has endorsed Democrat Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) for Congress against Republican Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris Plains).

In 2019, Puzio faced a primary challenge from Councilman Tucker Kelley.  He won with 65% of the vote.

If Jackson becomes mayor, Republicans will need to fill his at-large council seat.

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