Hamilton Mayor Jeff Martin and his running mates were sworn in Wednesday, officially giving Democrats complete control of the state’s ninth-largest town.
The swearings-in mark the end of an era in a town that, just a two years ago, was controlled completely by Mercer Republicans who are becoming something of an endangered species.
Martin, who was succeeded as Hamilton Council president by Councilman Richard Tighe, is the first Democrat to win the town’s mayorship since 2003, and the town’s council hasn’t seen a fully-Democratic cohort in decades.
“Today, Hamilton is presented with many challenges, but with each challenge comes a new opportunity,” Martin said. “Together, on this day, we have the chance to unite and move Hamilton forward, to correct the errors of the past while working to ensure they are never repeated.”
The candidacies of Martin’s running mates, Councilman Pat Papero and Nancy Phillips, took something of a backseat to a toxic, and sometimes deeply personal, race between Martin and former Mayor Kelly Yaede.
Yaede’s tenure was marked by disunity among Republicans.
As the incumbent, Yaede lost the backing of the Mercer County Republican party to David Henderson, a longtime opponent of hers, despite securing the support of local Republicans.
Yaede and her campaign manager faced criminal charges over their alleged release of Henderson’s expunged criminal record, and the former mayor made stinging personal attacks against Martin’s Military record.
Martin served in the U.S. Air Force.
After deciding not to seek re-election, former Councilwoman Ileana Schirmer, a Republican, announced in late October that Yaede did not deserve re-election, though she stopped short of endorsing the Democratic candidate.
The Yaede era is over now, and while her name seldom came up in the handful of speeches given at Wednesday’s reorganization meeting, her name was clear in the subtext.
“Each New Year’s Day is an opportunity to start a new chapter, a chance to clean the slate and move forward,” Martin said. “In so many ways, that is exactly what Hamilton’s doing.”
Martin was sworn in by State Sen. Troy Singleton, a close personal friend.
Papero, who was sworn in by Mercer County Sheriff John Kemler, was elected to serve as the council’s vice president.
Phillips was sworn in by Assemblyman Dan Benson, who lives in Hamilton and was once considered as a possible candidate to oust Yaede.
“Thank you to everyone who is here this afternoon to begin this new decade, this new year, with us and celebrate the new beginning for a new future for Hamilton Township I’m truly humbled and honored to be entering into the service to all of you and all the residents of Hamilton,” Phillips told the crowd of roughly 500.