Gov. Phil Murphy will keep Republican Todd Caliguire as executive director of the North Jersey Water District Water Supply Commission and is creating a new position for former Assemblyman Tim Eustace (D-Maywood) as deputy executive director at the same $174,000-a-year salary.
The move allowed Murphy to find a soft-landing for Eustace, who wanted out of the Assembly when Democrats decided to give Bob Gordon’s State Senate seat to Joseph Lagana (D-Paramus), without giving him an actual agency to run. Still, some insiders viewed it as odd that Murphy would keep Caliguire, a perennial conservative Republican offices seeker, at the helm.
There is some irony to the new Caliguire-Eustace team. Eustace was one of just two openly gay New Jersey legislators, and now he’s working with Caliguire, who advocated for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage when he sought the Republican nomination for governor in 2005. In one debate, Caliguire said marriage was “an institution created by God” and “a cornerstone of our civilization,” according to a report in The (Bergen) Record. That ought to make for some interesting staff meetings.
The real drama now, sources say, is over the chairmanship of the commission. Former Senate President Carmen Orechio (D-Nutley) was elected chairman on January 24, a month before he passed away at age 91. By tradition, the chairman comes from the party of the governor, despite which party holds a majority of the commissioner seats. Republican Charles Shotmeyer had been chairman under Gov. Chris Christie.
The most likely candidate to replace Orechio is former Sussex County Freeholder Howard Burrell. Burrell was the last Democrat to win in Sussex County when he took a freeholder seat in 1999. He would become the first Black chairman of the heavily political water commission.
The other fight will be over Orechio’s seat, which has been held by a Nutley resident for decades. Murphy is under no legal obligation to appoint someone from Nutley but will face pressure to do exactly that.
Sources say that the person who wants Orechio’s seat is Nutley Commissioner Thomas Evans. Evans is the only Democrat on the local governing body and serves as the Democratic municipal chairman. He is also the father of Authorities Unit director Mary Maples, a senior member of Murphy’s staff.