South Orange Village Trustee Karen Hartshorn Hilton was re-elected to her second term on Tuesday, with former Cleveland Browns wide receiver Braynard “Bobby” Brown and environmental activist William Haskins winning open seats.
They defeated Neil Chambers, an architect who thinks the local school board has moved too slowly to return to in-person learning.
The three winners ran on the South Orange 2021 ticket.
Brown was the top vote-getter with 1,029 votes, followed by Hilton (1,008) and Haskins (991). Chambers received just 183 votes.
Incumbents Walter Clarke and Steve Schnall did not see re-election. Both are completing their second four-year term.
Hilton had founded Emerge New Jersey, a non-profit organization formed to train Democratic women running for public office. She began her public service career as a budget analyst for the Massachusetts state legislature.
Brown, who ran in 2019 and lost by 351 votes, is an attorney and former NFL player. He played college football at Notre Dame and appeared in six games for the Cleveland Browns in 2000.
After his football career ended, he returned to Notre Dame for his law degree and later received an MBA from Yale. He chairs the South Orange Community Police Collaborative.
Haskins has spent the last three years as chairman of the South Orange Environmental Commission and Green Team.
The 2021 election was less hard-hitting than it was two years ago, when Village President Sheena Collum won her second term with 76% of the vote against Deborah Ford Davis, a Village Trustee and the clerk of the Essex County Board of Freeholders.
Trustees Bob Zuckerman, Summer Jones and Donna Coallier won three open seats in 2019; they and Collum are up for re-election in 2023.
Hilton had been the top vote-getter in the 2017 municipal election, finishing 150 votes ahead of Nureed Saeed. Schnall edged out Saeed by just 20 votes.
The South Orange Village Board of Trustees has been the launching spot for some political careers, although not over the last seven decades.
Walter McCoy, who served three non-consecutive terms between 1893 and 1910, represented part of Essex County in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1911 to 1915.
John J. Francis, who served as an Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court from 1957 until 1972, was elected Village Trustee in 1942. He had run unsuccessfully for State Assembly two years earlier – he was the top vote-getter on a losing Democratic slate of a dozen Essex Assembly seats in 1940; one of his running mates was future House Judiciary Committee Chairman Peter Rodino. Francis lost a congressional race in 1944 by a 52%-46% margin against Republican Rep. Frank Sundstrom (R-East Orange).