After the city council selected her to fill the seat vacated by disgraced mayor Jose “Joey” Torres, retired city clerk Jane Williams-Warren on Monday afternoon said she is looking forward to meeting with department directors and other city officials to run the municipal government for the next eight months.
“I’m up for the job,” said Williams-Warren, 70. “I never imagined I’d be in this position.” She was watching the city council meeting on Friday night while the council was deliberating on a pick.
Williams-Warren was just as surprised as the almost 200 people who attended Friday’s meeting mostly to support councilwoman Ruby Cotton, who automatically became mayor after Torres vacated the seat.
“I was still surprised. I know there were many names submitted. I really was not soliciting,” she said. She was contacted on Wednesday by a councilman who she declined to identify.
Vote to pick Williams-Warren
Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, nominated Williams-Warren. He was joined by councilmen Michael Jackson, Shahin Khalique, William McKoy, and Mendez. She was selected in a 5-4 vote.
Some of Cotton’s supporters were sure their candidate would win the day given the large show of support. Many were stunned and shocked when Williams-Warren was selected. Cotton disliked the way her colleagues put two African-American women against each other in the selection process.
“I just don’t like the fact that two black women were put against each other,” said Cotton on Friday following the vote. “Her name did not come up until tonight. To do it this way just isn’t right.”
Cotton is the first African-American woman mayor of Paterson. The first female mayor of Paterson was Anna-Lisa Dopirak, who filled in after the death of mayor Frank X. Graves.
Williams-Warren’s name did come up. On Thursday, the retired clerk spoke to Cotton. Williams-Warren told Cotton she was approached by the council and was being considered for the job.
“She called me to tell me they had asked her,” said Cotton on Monday evening. She said Williams-Warren never stated she would take the job.
“I had to think about it for a while,” said Williams-Warren.
Both women also spoke on Saturday morning. Another conversation, about 20 minutes, followed after the service at the New AME Zion Church on Lawrence Street on Sunday.
“It was a good meeting,” said Cotton. “I love Jane. When I first came on the council in 2012 she showed me a lot. I have the most respect for Jane.”
Williams-Warren was the go-to person for both new and old council members until her retirement in 2014. She served the city for 48 years, 24 of those as chief clerk. She was also the first African-American to serve as the president of the Municipal Clerks’ Association of New Jersey.
The retired clerk receives $97,500 in state pension. She will reportedly forgo her pension while serving as mayor to avoid double dipping. As acting mayor until June 30th, 2018, Williams-Warren will receive $119,000 in salary.
Won’t seek office through election
Williams-Warren will take office on Oct. 10, 2017. When asked if she has any plans to run to keep the seat she replied, “I’m not seeking any office.”
She met with business administrator Nellie Pou and spoke to police director Jerry Speziale. She is looking to speak to other division and department heads prior to making any announcements of changes.
“I’m not a politician,” said Williams-Warren. “I don’t want to start advocating I’m going to do different things until I understand what I can do. We have a lot of things that have to be addressed.”
In an almost 20-minute interview, Williams-Warren appeared to suggest she will take aim at the quality of life issues in the city.
“I didn’t seek this out. I was approached. I want to do the best job I can,” said Williams-Warren. She was born and raised in Paterson. Her grandparents came to the Silk City from Sumter, South Carolina, she said.
Williams-Warren is hoping in the eight months given to her to make a small difference to better the lives of Patersonians, she said. She will have to work with Cotton, who is the president of the City Council.
Cotton remains mayor until Oct. 10. In what struck many as strange, Cotton’s picture was taken down from the municipal government’s website homepage on Monday and replaced with that of Williams-Warren.