In a 6-1 vote last Saturday night, the Teaneck Township Council voted in its first Orthodox Jewish and also its youngest mayor, 31-year-old local businessman Elie Katz.
Every two years, the town council selects a mayor from its own ranks. The council used secret ballots to elect Katz, who won his third term as councilman in May, at the council’s reorganization meeting July 1. The meeting was held after sunset to accommodate the council’s several Orthodox Jews.
Elie Katz, 31, is also Teaneck’s youngest ever mayor
The mayor presides over council meetings and appoints members to Teaneck’s library and planning boards.
In a phone conversation with The Jewish Standard on Monday, Katz said he would focus on bringing revenue to Teaneck to alleviate tax burdens placed on residents.
"We’re going to be aggressive about looking around for smart development not overdevelopment," he said.
For instance, Katz wants businesses with heavy sewage usage to pay higher taxes so that residential sewage taxes can be lowered. The township currently pays $3 million a year for the removal of sewage, he said.
Although Katz is not the first Jewish mayor of Teaneck, he said that he is the town’s first Orthodox mayor. But the lifelong resident hopes that people will look beyond his religion and focus on his past as a volunteer and longtime member of the town’s business community, and on his future actions.
"I’m hopeful that as an active member of the community, that people recognize that I have a tremendous amount of experience that should supercede peoples’ judgment of my religious beliefs," he said.
At 16, Katz joined Teaneck’s volunteer fire department. At ‘1 he was a member of the Teaneck Police crime stoppers. He is chair of the town’s youth advisory board and a member of the Teaneck Municipal Alliance Against Substance Abuse.
His political career began at age ‘3 when he ran for an empty council seat that had opened up in midterm. He won the seat, becoming the youngest councilman in Teaneck history. From ‘000-’00’, he held the position of deputy mayor.
My interest is in the residents of Teaneck and the town I love," he said, noting that he has no aspirations for higher political office. "The only reason I decided to run again and be the mayor is I felt I could have some input and make a difference in a time when there’s a lot of difficulty in the town."
Adam Gussen, one of the four council members elected in May, said that he is amazed that Katz was able to capture 60 percent of the vote in the election. "Elie had a tremendous mandate from the voters," he said. "His previous nine years on the council is a testament to how far and wide he’s respected in the community."
In the race of 17 candidates, Katz won re-election and three other newcomers including Gussen were elected to the council.
Gussen is positive that Katz is the right choice for the job of mayor. "I expect great things from him," Gussen said. "I think Elie Katz is going to be a tremendous mayor for Teaneck."