By LINDA MOSS
Montclair has a solid contingent on Gov.-elect Phil Murphy’s transition team, roughly a half-dozen people including at-large Township Councilman Bob Russo and Fourth Ward Councilwoman Renée Baskerville.
The large team is slated to have another meeting tomorrow, Thursday, Russo said. The first gathering of the group, which has been broken down into committees and subcommittees to address various issues, was held Nov. 30 in Trenton.
“It’s a great cross-section of people, it’s a diverse group of people, but most of all experienced and knowledgeable people,” Russo said.
He and fellow Montclair residents Paul Fishman, a former U.S. Attorney, and Larry DeMarzo, a local attorney and former aide to Gov. Richard Codey, are all on Murphy’s law and justice transition committee.
Magda Schaler-Haynes is deputy policy director for the health-care transition committee, while Baskerville, a physician, and Milly Silva, executive vice president of SEIU 1199 United Healthcare Workers East, sit on that committee.
Gayl Shepard, former president of the Montclair Education Association and a special education teacher at Glenfield Middle School, was named to the education committee.
Murphy has close ties to Montclair. He won a huge margin of the votes in the township in the Nov. 7 election, in which he defeated Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno. And Murphy’s campaign manager was Montclair resident Brendan Gill, who is president of the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders.
“And of course our campaign manager for Governor Murphy was Brendan Gill, so Brendan is a conduit for a lot of us to participate in this,” Russo said of the transition.
Russo is part of a subcommittee on consumer protection, an area that he has experience in and is passionate about. The councilman is president of the Consumers League of New Jersey, once served as assistant to the state’s director of consumer affairs, then managed that department’s “lemon-law” or auto-complaint office.
Russo said his goal was to strengthen the state Division of Consumer Affairs, which he said had been weakened under Gov. Chris Christie’s administration. Russo added that when he was in the car-complaint office there were 12 employees working there and now there are just two.
“I’m really outraged that the state doesn’t do enough,” he said.
Russo’s mantra for consumer protection is “enforce and inform.” He said that he wanted more enforcement of the lemon law and more consumer education, because people who know their rights know how to protect themselves.