In the 1971 General Election, Branchburg voters elected a five member Township Committee. This was mandated by State statute due to the increase in population beyond 4,000 as shown by the 1970 census.
All five members of the Township Committee are elected at large for staggered three year terms (unless an unexpired term is open). The duties involve a combination of legislative, executive and administrative functions, such as enacting ordinances and seeing to the enforcement thereof, appointing personnel, appointing board/commission members, managing financial affairs, etc.
The Mayor is elected by the Township Committee from among its members for a one-year term. The Mayor’s major responsibilities, in addition to those as a voting member of the Township Committee, are to preside over the meetings and to sign checks and contracts. The Mayor is in effect, the Chairman of a Committee, as the statute provides, and “shall be known as the Mayor of such Township, but shall have no additional authority by virtue of such designation except as may be otherwise provided by law applicable to the Township. All actions taken must be the actions of the Township Committee.”
The Township Clerk, as appointed by the Township Committee, serves as the secretary to the governing body and to the municipal corporation. The Municipal Clerk’s duties are defined by State Statute (NJSA 40A:9-133), and also include serving as the administrative official for elections, responsible for issuing licenses permits, handling complaints, serving as records management coordinator, and acts as a liaison between the public and members of the Township Committee. The Municipal Clerk is also a primary source of information for matters relating to the local government.
In 1979 the Township Committee created the office of Township Administrator, whose duties are defined by ordinance and include exercising all executive and administrative functions of the Township government, appoint and remove Township officers and employees for whom no other method of appointment or removal is provided by State law or Township Ordinance, advise and direct the activities of department heads and other officers and employees, implement all policies formulated by the Township Committee, assist the Township Committee in preparation of the annual budget, etc.
Currently, the Township Committee meets twice a month. By statute, the Mayor (or his/her designee) and one other member of the Township Committee must also serve on the Planning Board. Each Township Committee member acts a liaison to various the Boards and Commissions and emergency services. These assignments are usually changed each year so each Township Committee member has an overview of several functions during a term in office.
In November 1989, the voters elected a Charter Commission to study the form of government. During the nine months that followed that election, the Charter Commission investigated the current form of government, conducted public hearings and held public interviews with past and present Township officials. They compared it with other available forms of government to determine whether or not, in their opinion, the government of the Township could be strengthened, made more clearly responsive or accountable to the people, or whether its operation could become more economical or efficient under a changed form of government.
The Charter Commission unanimously recommended the present and future needs of Branchburg would be best served by a change to the “Mayor-Council Plan” as defined in the “Faulkner Act”.
A referendum question and interpretive statement was placed on the ballot to accept or reject the Commission’s recommendation at the General Election, November 6, 1990. The question was defeated by the public and Branchburg has retained its original form of government.