History & Government

About Washington Township

Washington Township is a township in Gloucester County, New Jersey, United States. In the 2010 United States Census, the township's population was 48,559, reflecting an increase of 1,445 (+3.1%) from the 47,114 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 5,154 (+12.3%) from the 41,960 counted in the 1990 Census.


Washington Township was incorporated by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on February 17, 1836, from portions of Deptford Township. The township officially moved to the newly created Camden County on March 13, 1844. Monroe Township was created on March 3, 1859, from part of the township. Most of Washington Township, along with all of Monroe Township, was moved back into Gloucester County on February 28, 1871, with the remaining portions of Washington Township that were still in Camden County being transferred to Gloucester Township. 


Additional transfers to Gloucester Township were made in 1926 and 1931. The township was named for George Washington, one of more than ten communities statewide named for the first president. It is one of five municipalities in the state of New Jersey with the name "Washington Township". Another municipality, Washington Borough, is completely surrounded by Washington Township, Warren County. In 2008, CNN/Money and Money Magazine ranked Washington Township 58th on its list of the 100 Best Cities to Live in the United States.


The oldest community in Washington Township, Grenloch Terrace, was a thriving Lenape Native American village called Tetamekon. Some of the early settlers to the area were the Collins family of Chestnut Ridge Farm, for whom Chestnut Ridge Middle School is named; the Turner family, for whom Turnersville was named; the Hurff family, for whom Hurffville and Hurffville Elementary School are named; the Heritage family, whose family began the Heritage's Dairy Farm Stores, and for whom the community Heritage Valley is named; the Morgan family, who were the first residents of the Olde Stone House, a landmark for residents of the township; and the Bell Family, who arrived in 1899 and for whom Bells Lake Park and Bells Elementary School are named. Sewell is named after General William Joyce Sewell, who was elected to the United States Senate in 1881 and 1895, and served as president of the New Jersey Senate in 1876, 1879 and 1880. 


MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT 

The Optional Municipal Charter Law or Faulkner Act (N.J.S.A 40:69A-1, et seq.) provides New Jersey municipalities with a variety of models of local government. 


The Faulkner Act offers four basic plans (mayor-council, council-manager, small municipality, and mayor-council-administrator) and two procedures by which the voters can adopt one of these plans.  Twenty-one percent of the municipalities in New Jersey, including the six most populous cities including Newark, Jersey City, Camden, Trenton, Paterson and Elizabeth, all govern under the provisions of the Faulkner Act. More than half of all New Jersey residents reside in municipalities with Faulkner Act charters.


In all Faulkner Act municipalities, regardless of the particular form, citizens enjoy the right of initiative and referendum, where proposed ordinances can be introduced directly by the people without action by the local governing body. This right is exercised by preparing a conforming petition signed by 10% of the registered voters who turned out in the last general election in an odd-numbered year. Once the petition is submitted, the local governing body votes to pass the requested ordinance, and if they refuse, it is then submitted directly to the voters.


WHAT DOES INITIATIVE AND REFERENDUM MEAN?

Initiative, referendum, and recall are three powers reserved to enable the voters, by petition, to propose or repeal legislation or to remove an elected official from office. Proponents of an initiative, referendum, or recall effort must apply for an official petition serial number from the Town Clerk. 


FORMS OF GOVERNMENT

There are four forms available to municipalities through the Faulkner Act:

  • The  mayor-council form features a mayor with strong powers. Municipalities under this plan establish three to ten executive departments, headed by a director appointed by the mayor with the consent of the council. *THIS IS WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP
  • The council-manager plan places complete responsibility for municipal affairs in the council. The council appoints a municipal manager who is the chief executive with broad authority. The Faulkner Act does not provide tenure for the municipal manager, who can be removed by a vote of the council.
  • The small municipality plan can be adopted by communities with a population of fewer than 12,000. All legislative powers are vested in the council with the mayor presiding over council sessions and having both voice and vote. The small municipality form is essentially a blend of the features in the traditional borough and township forms of government.
  • The mayor-council-administrator form is largely the borough form with the addition of an appointed professional administrator. Unlike the three other Faulkner Act plans, the mayor–council–administrator offers no optional variations in structure. 

WHAT IS WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP'S MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT PLAN?  


Washington Township follows the "mayor–council" system whereby the mayor is elected by the voters. This "mayor-council" system is further broken down into two main variations: weak-mayor or a strong-mayor variation. 

 

In a weak-mayor system, the mayor has no formal authority outside the council; the mayor cannot directly appoint or remove officials, and lacks veto power over council votes. As such, the mayor's influence is solely based on personality in order to accomplish desired goals. 


The weak-mayor form of government (WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP) is found in towns that do not use the more popular council-manager form used in most municipalities that are not considered large or major cities, and the weak-mayor form of government is frequently seen in small municipalities with few or no full-time municipal employees. 


The strong-mayor form of mayor–council government usually consists of an executive branch, a mayor elected by voters, and a unicameral council as the legislative branch.


In the strong-mayor form the elected mayor is given almost total administrative authority and a clear, wide range of political independence, with the power to appoint and dismiss department heads without council approval and little or no public input. In this system, the strong-mayor prepares and administers the city budget, although that budget often must be approved by the council. Abuses in this form led to the development of the council–manager form of local government and its adoption widely throughout the United States. In some strong-mayor governments, the mayor will appoint a chief administrative officer who will supervise department heads, prepare the budget, and coordinate departments. This officer is sometimes called a city manager.  


In conclusion, Washington Township is a Faulkner Act Municipality, that follows the Mayor-Council form, with Weak-Mayor System with mayor having no authority outside of council. 

Washington Township Municipal Building - WTGOP Supports Open Forum Town Hall Meetings

Washington Township Municipal Building - WTGOP Supports Open Forum Town Hall Meetings