It may have taken longer than originally anticipated, but Toshiba Foster is finally a member of Town Council.
Foster, of Willow Street, was sworn in Thursday night by the council at a special meeting where she and DeKalb Place resident Eduardo Garchitorena were interviewed to fill the unexpired term of Democrat Anthony Cattano, who died Sept. 4.
The term expires Dec. 31, 2013. The two candidates—along with a third who dropped out prior to Thursday—were selected by the Morristown Democratic Committee, which is chaired by Mayor Tim Dougherty's wife, Mary.
Foster last year ran an unsuccessful primary campaign for the Second Ward council seat occupied by Raline Smith-Reid. Only a few votes separated the two candidates, resulting in several challenges that were eventually dismissed nearly two months after the primary elections.
Unlike Smith-Reid's Second Ward council seat, Cattano was an "at-large" council member, representing the entire town.
Garchitorena, 48, a resident since 1970 originally from Argentina, said while they were there to replace the longtime council member, volunteer and local businessman, "they are big shoes to fill.
"It's unfortunate the reason why we're here," Garchitorena said. "Anthony Cattano was very loved in the community."
Despite an interest in serving the town as a councilman—and as the first Hispanic-American on the dais in a town with a sizeable Hispanic population—Garchitorena decided to withdraw his name from contention following a tie among the six voting councilmembers. Smith-Reid, Council President Michelle Dupree Harris and Alison Deeb voted for Garchitorena, while Stefan Armington, Kevin Gsell and Council Vice President Rebecca Feldman supported Foster.
Foster and Garchitorena then met with the mayor, who was able to vote in the event of a tie.
"It was a hard choice," Garchitorena said. "It was a tough spot for all. But, she ran [last year]. I have known her for a long time. Who knows, I may run against her next year."
"It didn't surprise me there was a tie," Dougherty said. "I watched a great process take place to reach this determination. The decision came from them."
Feldman said, while the winner has been in the Morristown political sphere for a while—running for council and as a member of the Planning Board—Garchitorena is still new to politics, with a bright future ahead.
"The best is yet to come," she said. "I think Toshiba has some tangible, specific projects she is ready to work on right now."
Those include working to find balance between the work, commerce and residential components of downtown, partnering with local businesses for youth programs, finance education workshops for both children and adults as well as a continued effort to provide affordable housing—a subject Foster knows well, having qualified for affordable housing through Habitat for Humanity in 2010.
While the first Hispanic-American has not yet joined the council, it now has a greater majority of women, five, with three African-American women in Foster, Smith-Reid and Dupree Harris, the council president noted.
"I'm honored at the opportunity to walk in the shoes of someone like Anthony Cattano," Foster said.
The new councilmember's first Town Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 9 at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall.