The flags in Teaneck are flying at half-staff today as the town attempts to cope with the untimely and sudden passing of Mayor Lizette Parker, lost this weekend to respiratory issues at age 44.
The mayor’s death comes just over two weeks before the May 10 municipal elections in the township. In Teaneck, elected councilmembers select from among their ranks who will be mayor and deputy mayor rather than running campaigns to specifically fill those positions.
Currently, Deputy Mayor Elie Katz is serving as acting mayor. He said he believes he will fill that role until the July 1 reorganization meeting when the newly elected council will gather to select a mayor and deputy mayor to serve for the next two years.
According to Katz, however, the sudden, “tragic” nature of Mayor Parker’s death has left some uncertainty regarding how her seat will be filled. He said he is currently working with an attorney in order to determine how the council will move forward. Katz said that it is highly unlikely that the May 10 election will result in the top four vote-getters being elected to the council.
“I am fairly certain given such a close time to the election that it is going to be a special election in November,” Katz said. “Right now, it is not a priority. The priority right now is making sure we are there as a council and as a community and as friends to support the Parker family.”
Katz also said even in the event of a November special election, the bi-annual July reorganization meeting will continue as planned. After the potential November election, the newly elected councilmember would join the council under the leadership of the mayor and deputy mayor selected this July.
Arrangements for Mayor Parker are being handled by Volk Leber Funeral Home in Teaneck. While services are likely to be held at some point this week, details are still being determined. According to Katz, it is only after those services are conducted that the council will move forward.
“I think after the services for the Mayor, we will start focusing more on that aspect,” Katz said. “The township, and the council are all really focused on supporting the family and their needs and being respectful and sensitive of their grieving.”
Initially, three council seats were on the line with seven candidates in the running. Michael Pagan, Chondra Young, Jacob Herenstein and Stephen Gruber are challenging incumbents Mohammed Hameeduddin, Mark Schwartz, and Henry Pruitt as they aim to retain their seats.
Parker was first named mayor in 2014. She was the first female African American mayor in Bergen County. She is survived by her husband Anthony, her daughter Alyssa, her mother Dolores and her brother Timothy.
“Lizette Parker was a humble and dedicated public official who devoted her life to helping other people. I was honored to call her my Mayor and proud to call her my friend,” Katz said. “During her short tenure as Mayor Lizette accomplished and brought more progress to benefit Teaneck residents than many past Mayors combined. She was an excellent role model and wonderful advocate for our youth and the council is committed to continue the good work that she started.”