Newark Mayor Ras Baraka has been named the new chair and president of the New Jersey Urban Mayors Association, the group announced Monday.
Established in 1991, the NJUMA said it has been dedicated to working with state and federal lawmakers and officials to develop appropriate and effective public policy measures that benefit the state’s urban centers and to help lawmakers understand how public policy affects New Jersey’s cities and municipalities.
The John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy of Thomas Edison State University, which has been providing policy analysis and applied research for urban municipalities since its inception, will work with Baraka to continue its work to chart new paths for New Jersey’s urban communities.
In 2021, that means handling all things related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Baraka said.
“We must ensure that our collective transition from COVID-19 leads to a positive transformation that is laser-focused on unraveling systemic injustice for the residents of our urban centers,” he said. “I am truly honored to work with my colleagues across the state to advance our cities in such a time as this.
“The New Jersey Urban Mayors Association is developing a solid plan and strong agenda that includes addressing key issues that will move our cities forward. We look forward to working closely with Gov. (Phil) Murphy and his administration in achieving our collective critical goals and creating a more equitable, prosperous and empowered state for all.”
In addition to Baraka, new officers include:
- Vice president: Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp;
- Northern N.J. vice president: Orange Township Mayor Dwayne D. Warren;
- Central N.J. vice president: Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora;
- Southern N.J. vice president: Camden Mayor Frank Moran;
- President emeritus: Bridgeton Mayor Albert B. Kelly.
Baraka is the fifth mayor to serve in the role.
Kelly, the former NJUMA chair and president, said he is excited to see new leadership.
“It has been a pleasure to pass the leadership reigns to Mayor Baraka as the new president of the NJUMA, and I’m sure his leadership, along with the entire executive team, will continue the legacy of the New Jersey Urban Mayors Association making lasting impacts for the betterment of the state of New Jersey,” he said.
Murphy endorsed Baraka as well.
“Mayor Ras Baraka is a proven leader for the city of Newark and an impassioned advocate for racial and social justice across New Jersey,” he said. “The New Jersey Urban Mayors Association is a critical force in driving transformational social and racial justice policies within our state, and I am confident that Mayor Baraka will continue to uplift the voices of our urban communities in his new role as president. I look forward to continuing our work with the New Jersey Urban Mayors Association with Mayor Baraka at the helm.”
Plainfield’s Mapp said he is hopeful the organization can help all urban areas.
“One of the main advantages to being a part of NJUMA is finding solutions to shared problems,” he said. “Urban cities have challenges that are unique to them, and having a forum where you can discuss, brainstorm and troubleshoot with colleagues who face similar situations is priceless.
“Over the years, Plainfield has benefited from our position at the table with other urban mayors. As part of the executive team, I look forward to amplifying the voice of NJUMA to draw attention to the issues that need addressing and creating a blueprint that can guide other urban communities.”