JACKSON – Elections, development, and more – the year 2022 proved interesting for the township. A unique and active election was held in the race for mayor and two council seats and progress was made with transforming the Rova Farms property into recreational land.
Mayor Michael Reina said during the first meeting of 2022: “As we start a new calendar year as Jackson Township government, I couldn’t be more proud of the five gentlemen who sit up here on the dais.” Without their cooperation, the mayor said he wouldn’t be able to operate.
As the year went on, though, he found himself running against one of them for mayor. Council President Martin Flemming faced off against Reina in a heated election.
A debate over the nomination process occurred within the Jackson Republican organization which led to two GOP slates vying for positions in the November election.
The Reina team ultimately won the election. He retained his spot and brought two people with him to join the council: Scott Sargent and Jennifer Kuhn. As a result, Sargent resigned his seat on the Board of Education that he was serving on.
That wasn’t the only changes that would be seen on the Council during 2022. After 12th District Assemblyman Ron Dancer died in mid-July, the search was on for his replacement. Councilman Alex Sauickie was among three candidates and was ultimately appointed in a special election of the Republican Party in August.
He resigned his council position in September to assume his new role.
His council seat was filled by Samara O’Neill. She would go on to run with Councilman Andrew Kern as part of Flemming’s team. Thus, O’Neill’s tenure was short and Kern lost his spot. Flemming continues to be on the council.
The new year began with a familiar face absent from the dais as the township’s clerk, Janice Kisty, retired at the end of 2021. Diane C. Festino took her place as clerk on January 1. Also sworn in was Mary Moss as the new deputy clerk. Festino left the position later in the year and Moss was sworn in as the newest Township Clerk in autumn.
January 2022 also saw new members of the Jackson School Board. Giuseppe Palmeri, Tina Kass and Erica Osmond were sworn in for three-year terms and Alison Barocas for a one-year term.
Each served on the Board for the first time having defeated incumbents who were running and one who chose not to seek reelection. Barocas won a full term in the November BOE election.
Board member Michael Walsh was nominated and later approved to serve as the year’s Board of Education president. Tara Rivera was later nominated and by majority vote, approved to serve as Board Vice President. The two switched position from 2021.
In March, a national issue touched the area in nearby Plumsted Township when area residents and many outside Ocean County brought their views about vaccine mandates and mostly defunct mask mandates to a large gathering at the New Egypt Speedway.
The event was in conjunction with the People’s Convoy which was patterned after the trucker’s convoy in Canada that opposed their government’s mandate for all commercial truck drivers to be vaccinated.
Gary Dill who owns the trucking firm of G&M Dill and Sons Trucking and Farms Inc. based in Whiting had several of his trucks parked inside the Speedway track area as part of the convoy along with several of his drivers.
“We wanted to support this. I’ve been doing this my entire life and we wanted to be here with them. Things need to change,” Dill said. He hoped to talk to other truckers and see what can be done to change some of the regulations that have been imposed on them some of which go beyond those from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Around that same time Colliers Engineering Senior Project Manager Gerald DeFelicis provided a review of Jackson’s open space properties to the governing body during a council meeting.
A lot of open space was preserved by the Ocean County Natural Land Trust, using a county tax. Much of it preserves watersheds in Jackson, DeFelicis said.
Public events proved popular as always in Jackson with the second Food Truck and Fireworks event held during the summer at Johnson Memorial Park. Sadly, this year’s Jackson Day was rained out.
Rova Day was held in the fall and spotlighted plans for that open space property purchased by the township in 2019. It featured speeches and a musical program and drew a large crowd.
Crowds also came out in December for the annual Christmas Tree Lighting event, Toyland at the Senior Center and the Menorah Lighting Ceremony.