Longtime Fair Lawn council members and current Deputy Mayors Joe Tedeschi and Steve Weinstein received a warm send-off from the town Tuesday at their final meeting as sitting councilmen.
Neither Tedeschi nor Weinstein, both Democrats, sought re-election to council this November, deciding instead to retire from politics.
After making an appearance at the borough's town hall holiday lighting and caroling ceremony, Tedeschi and Weinstein headed upstairs for their last night on the dais, where they were treated to some friendly roasting by colleagues and friends.
Town crier Tim Yuskaitis, dressed in colonial garb and accompanied by his daughter Jenna, opened Tuesday's meeting with a proclamation thanking both councilmen on their service to the borough (see video).
"There was hardly ever any controversy with any of Joe's opinions or decisions," Yuskaitis read from a scroll amid hearty laughter. "And we certainly know he listened to just about everyone in this town. Who else would have been crazy enough to create the position of town crier?"
"Steve Weinstein," Yuskaitis continued, "helped lead this town through some very difficult times with dignity, determination and unwavering vision for the future of this community. And of course, I'll never forget his vote for my position. When everyone else said 'Oh Yea,' he said, 'Oy Vey.'"
Following the proclamation, Mayor Lisa Swain bestowed both of her colleagues with plaques for their service, and each said a few words.
Tedeschi was brief, offering thanks and saying simply, “As long as everything you do is for the benefit of the people of the town, you can never be wrong. You might not be popular, but you will not be wrong.”
True to form, Weinstein was more verbose.
"Five minute rule mayor, five minte rule," Councilman Ed Trawinski teased Weinstein as he was beginning his speech.
In his speech (see video), Weinstein went on to thank borough employees, municipal board volunteers and fellow council members.
"We've often said, Jeanne [Baratta] and I, that this has truly become a family," Weinstein said of his fellow councilors. "Sometimes the in-laws are the outlaws, but most of the time, I would say 98 percent of the time, we got along...and we worked for the residents of Fair Lawn."
Weinstein closed his speech by thanking his family.
"Obviously without you guys, I wouldn't be up here," he began. "My parents - I wasn't your son the doctor, but your son the mayor wasn't so bad."
After Tedeschi and Weinstein spoke, each of the other sitting councilmembers shared a few words (i.e. parting shots) about their departing colleagues.
"I recall sitting here in Joe’s case in or about 1999 when he retired and said he was done," Trawinski began. "He obviously didn’t get it right because like poltergeist he was back for about 8 years or so."
Trawinski then continued more graciously.
"But Joe," he said. "I agree with Steve and Jeanne’s assessment...We are family. Sometimes very dysfunctional, and sometimes we fight like brothers and sisters fight. But I’ve never questioned, Joe, your motives in doing what you think is in the best interest of the people of Fair Lawn. I will miss your service. I will miss our healthy debate on topics. And I extend my heartfelt sympathies to [your wife] Diane because, God knows, she’s got you back now."
When Baratta addressed Tedeschi, with whom she often disagreed, she kept up the gentle ribbing.
"I was going to say, 'Joe, don’t let the door…' But I’m not going to say it," Baratta teased, later riffing "We always say that Joe and I have a love/hate relationship. He loves me and…"
The audience broke out in laughter, to which Tedeschi responded, "I can’t believe that you have used that line half-a-dozen times and every time you do it people laugh.”
"It's working," Baratta countered, then added. "All kidding aside, I will miss you, Joe, and I wish you the best in everything you do."
When it came time to address Weinstein, Trawsinki called him, "a part of his family," and said he was happy for Weinstein's wife, Linda, who will now have more time to spend with him.
"I’m not sure your kids are happy about it," Trawinski joked, "because I’ve heard some stories about you teaching them how to drive."
Trawinski said most people don't realize that despite their political differences, both he and Weinstein are united on the issue of economic development in Bergen County and in Fair Lawn, in particular.
"I hope to continue to champion the cause that you led the fight for with the continuation of the Economic Development Corporation," Trawinski finished.
When Baratta reached Weinstein, she harkened back to her analogy of the council as a family.
"We are a family," she said. "When you read the paper, you always read the bad stuff, and the turbulence and all that. But like everyone’s said, most of the time we really do get along. We joke with each other, we argue with each other, we disagree, but at the end of the day, we’re one council and we always seem to have each other’s backs when things happen."
Mayor Swain concluded the acknowledgements of the outgoing councilmen, saying:
"It really has been an honor and a pleasure to serve with Joe and Steve, they have been incredible council members. Always looking out for the residents of Fair Lawn coming up with new ideas and new ways to serve the people. I really thank you both for your service and I’m looking over at the two new people who are going to be serving Fair Lawn, Kurt Peluso and John Cosgrove, and I know that Fair lawn will be in good hands."