MANCHESTER – The Township Council’s last meeting of the year proved a farewell for several officials.
The December 19 meeting was the last for Mayor Robert Hudak, who narrowly lost the December 16 special runoff election with a difference of 362 votes against challenger Robert Arace.
This marked their third election in two years and concluded with unofficial results having Arace with 5,205 votes to Hudak’s 4,843.
Hudak served as mayor since August 2021, when he was appointed to replace Ken Palmer, who resigned to become a Superior Court judge. In November, Hudak defeated Arace for the right to finish the last year of Palmer’s term.
Hudak did not issue a public statement after the run-off election.
Arace told The Manchester Times after the results were in in that he was “humbled and overwhelmed by the support we received and now the work truly begins.” He noted that it was a challenging campaign “but worth the fight.” He had the support of the Manchester Republicans and Ocean County Republican Chairman George Gilmore.
“We are so overwhelmed and humbled to earn your support and can’t wait to get to work for you,” Arace stated on his social media campaign page.
This also marked the last meeting for Council President Joan Brush who has served on council since 2017. She sought re-election to a second full term but finished third in the runoff race for two seats on the council, receiving 4,808 votes in the special runoff election.
Arace’s running mates, Roxanne Conniff received 5,092 votes and Joseph T. Hankins received 5,089 votes, with Hudak’s running mate Timothy Poss receiving 4,653 votes.
Senior serving Councilman Sam Fusaro who was elected to the council in the 1990s announced during the meeting that he plans to resign from office next month.
He told The Manchester Times on Decemember 20, “I did not put in my resignation, but did tell all at the meeting that I did have a builder finishing my wife and my new house in Toms River. I said I would be resigning my position on council soon, probably the end of this month or early January and left it at that.”
Another familiar face will also be leaving. Township Clerk Sabina Martin has worked for the municipality for about three decades in various roles. In a tearful farewell she said she would be retiring from her position at the end of January.
On the night’s agenda was the appointment of Teri Giercyk, the current deputy clerk, to serve as municipal clerk, effective February 1. The appointment is for three years.
There were no ordinances listed on the evening’s agenda. Mayor Hudak presented a certificate of appreciation to Blanche M. Doran for her service on the Senior Advisory Council from 2014 thru 2022.
During the session Business Administrator Brandon Umba announced that Mayor-elect Arace is seeking volunteers for Board and Committee vacancies. Those interested should visit this link to the information on the Township website manchestertwp.com/manchester-township-is-currently-seeking-volunteers-for-board-vacancies/
PNC Bank Closing
Resident Judy Noonan noted that PNC Bank would be vacating the Stop & Shop where it operates a small branch by the end of the year or early in the new year. She expressed concern that Whiting residents who regularly use that facility for their banking needs will need to travel further for their banking transactions. There was also a question of whether the PNC ATM would remain in the store.
Stop & Shop External Communications Manager Stefanie Shuman told The Manchester Times, “The decision not to renew (PNC’s lease to utilize space in the Whiting based store) was made by PNC as the banking landscape and customer preferences have changed over that time. Stop & Shop has valued our partnership with PNC Bank over the past 19 years.
“PNC made the decision to not leave their ATMs. Stop & Shop will have another provider install ATMs,” Shuman added.
Based on some recent advertisements by Whole Foods Inc. seeking workers in the Whiting area, there were rumors of Stop & Shop having sold its Whiting store to that grocery store firm.
Shuman told The Manchester Times on December 7 that such rumors were “untrue. We are not selling our Whiting, NJ store to Whole Foods.” She also confirmed that the store had not been sold nor were there plans for it to be sold to another grocery store chain.
The PNC Corporate Office was contacted to determine the exact date of the branch’s closure and other details but at press time, no response had been received.