The West Board of Education will welcome back a familiar face.
Incumbent Laura Lab appears to have clinched the one open seat on the school board, winning re-election for another three-year term and beating out opponent Mark Meyerowitz.
"I'm very happy that the electorate in West Orange has chosen me to continue to serve on the board of education," said Lab, as she celebrated with her supporters at Essex House Wednesday night. "I really do care a lot about education and I really think it's critical somebody who cares about education is on the board."
Lab won with 59 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results Wednesday night from the Essex County Clerk's office. The township clerk's office unofficially reported Lab won with 2,123 votes, trumping Meyerowitz, who received 1,550 votes. These results are not official and exclude absentee votes.
West Orange Superintendent of Schools Anthony Cavanna said, "it was fantastic" to have Lab continue on the board.
"She's an asset to the school district and her experience on the board will pay off to the children in West Orange," he said.
Mayor Robert Parisi said he was "happy" for Laura. "She's a dedicated public servant," he said.
The school district's proposed $132.4 million operating budget was also approved Wednesday night. School officials appeared relieved and had feared the budget could face further cuts if it was voted down and sent to the township council.
According to unofficial returns from the township clerk, the school budget was approved with 2,111 "yes" votes to 1,656 "no" votes.
"I'm thrilled," said West Orange President Megan Brill. "We saw what the school district needed and we came up with the a budget that came well under cap."
With the budget approved, Lab said she already plans to begin work, "Im back on the job tomorrow."
Cavanna said once the vote is certified by the township clerk, the school district will implement the budget July 1. "We have roofs to fix, boilers to repair, textbooks to buy," he said.
Supporters said Lab's trail of experience is what garnered the majority vote.
"She's been extremely active in education issues for many years in our town," said Tony Edelstein, 48, of West Orange. "She's a tireless worker."
Meyerowitz also congratulated Lab on her apparent win.
"It's a powerful position and she should use her power carefully," he said. "It doesn't just affect the 6,800 kids at the schools, it affects the 40,000 people that live in the entire town."
Meyerowitz, a registered investment advisor, said he plans to continue to build his business and isn't sure if he'll run for public office again. He previously ran twice for state assembly.
Residents flocked to the polling places between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. Wednesday to cast their votes, but school officials say they were disappointed with the low turnout.
"I really wish the West Orange community would understand this is a great thing that we do and that this is a great right that we have," said Brill.
She said voter turnout was low because it was an off year and the mayor is not up for re-election.
Elections officials at the polls reported voter participation was down by 50 percent. The township clerk reported that 12 percent of registered voters cast ballots Wednesday.
[Editor's note: This article was first published April 27 at 10:41 p.m.]