NORTHFIELD — Less than an hour removed from taking two vacant City Council seats in Tuesday’s election, Republicans James O’Neill and Lisa Brown clearly laid out their game plan — and demands — for the future.
Even though their terms do not officially begin until January, they want to have a say in city business immediately.
“We are going to call on the city to not make any personnel decisions or agree to any new contracts until we are sworn in,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill, 44, the owner of a Linwood-based medical-software company, defeated 44-year-old attorney Ben Podolnick 781-448 in Ward Two while Brown, a 46-year-old homemaker, defeated Linda Harrison, a 61-year-old retired teacher, 640-432 in Ward One.
It marked the second win for the pair of political newcomers and members of the upstart New Northfield Republican Club since June, when they ousted Regular Republican Club incumbents Brian Smith and Cindy Kern in a contentious primary election.
“I think it means people are looking for a return to old-fashioned government,” O’Neill said. “And we want to get back to the basics and to clean up the election process.”
“As corny as it sounds, it’s going to be government ‘for the people, by the people’ with us,” Brown said.
Even though there was a rift among the city’s Republicans leading up to the primary, Brown and O’Neill said they will work with anyone on council, regardless of party affiliation.
“As long as the goal is fiscal responsibility,” Brown said.
City Council President Tim Carew, a member of the Regular Republican Club, said he expects the city’s government to continue working smoothly after the New Year.
“We are not going to agree on everything, but we are certainly going to work together. That’s what makes a council a council,” said Carew, adding that representatives from both Republican factions “broke bread” at a Republican event at the Linwood Country Club on election night. “They did what they thought was necessary to get elected. Now they are there, and we have to believe they have the best interests of Northfield at heart.”
But despite the claims of camaraderie, Brown and O’Neill said they plan to draft their own municipal budget together each year to present to the rest of council so they can make sure tax dollars are being spent the best ways possible.
Carew said certain normal business “has to transpire between now and the end of the year,” and that he could not answer questions directly to related to contracts, because some are currently in negotiations.
And Brown and O’Neill said they not only plan to fulfill their campaign promise to donate all of their salaries to local charities — O’Neill plans to split his annual salary between Northfield education, athletic and women’s programs, while Brown has not yet decided where her money will go — but that they also plan to challenge the rest of the governing body to do the same.
Carew said it is premature to discuss the issue with any certainty other than to say, “It is very generous for them to be making those donations.”
Contact Robert Spahr: