Assemblyman Ron Dancer Mourned

In 2017: Jackson Chamber of Commerce president Virgil Hollender, left, was joined by Senator Sam Thompson, center, and Assemblyman Ron Dancer, right, at the 50th anniversary party for the chamber. (Photo by Micromedia)

  PLUMSTED – He could bring order to a room with just a few quiet words and a smile. He could make a statement with a couple of sentences and you knew exactly where he stood on a position. Assemblyman Ron S. Dancer was statesman, husband, father and a man of faith. That is how the former township mayor will be remembered.

  Dancer died after a long illness at the age of 73 on July 23. He will be remembered for his successful tenure as in the state assembly from Ocean County for nearly two decades.

  He was a conservative Republican who had earned much respect and admiration from colleagues both Republican and Democrat.

  His political career started in 1989 when the horse breeder and trainer ran in a special election convention for State Assembly in what was, at the time, the 9th District. This was after Assemblyman John Hendrickson 9R-Eagleswood) resigned to take a position at the Department of Community Affairs.

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  Seven candidates initially sought that Assembly seat, including Jackson Mayor Melvin Cottrell, John P. Kelly, who was an Eaglewood township committeeman who would become an Ocean County Freeholder currently called Ocean County Commissioner.

  The race narrowed down to Dancer and Lacey Mayor Christopher Connors, the son of 9th district State Sen. Leonard Connors (R-Surf City).  Connors who is now a state senator, won that race by 18 votes, 98-80, a 50.6% to 49.4% margin.

Ron Dancer (Photo courtesy New Jersey Assembly)

  Dancer may have lost that race but within four months’ time, he found himself as mayor of Plumsted Township, a position he would hold for 21 years. From January 1, 1990 until 2011. Under Plumsted’s form of government, the Committee could select another member of the governing body to serve as mayor but that never happened.

  Dancer worked very well with the Committee which included fellow Republicans Joseph Przywara who served as his deputy mayor for many years, Committeemen Ken Francis and Mike Rogers (both deceased) and Committeewoman Bonnie Quesnel along with long time township clerk Dorothy Hendrickson.

  The official became known as the patriarch of Plumsted and on the rare occasion that an angry resident would come up to the podium to speak during the public comment period, Mayor Dancer would smile and say, “we don’t do that here, there is no reason to shout, we’re here to listen to you.”

  While a seat in the assembly would elude him for years, Dancer would go on to win a special election to the State Assembly on his third try in 2002 following the Cottrell’s death.

  He nearly captured the assembly seat in 1991 after legislative redistricting eliminated the Essex-based 30th district and moved it to South Jersey to create a new seat for Ocean-Burlington-Monmouth counties.

  Along with Dancer, other Ocean County candidates who came forward to run for the seats, including former Assemblyman and Lakewood Mayor Bob Singer, former Jackson Township Committeeman, Peter Carlson, Cottrell.

  Ocean County GOP Chairman Joseph Buckalew and Burlington County GOP Chairman Glenn Paulsen made an agreement for the Senate seat to go to John E. Dimon, a 75-year-old former Burlington County Republican Chairman who served as GOP State Chairman from 1970 to 1973.   Ocean County would get the two Assembly seats, and the party picked Singer and Cottrell over Dancer.

  After Dimon died in 1993, Singer was chosen to replace him.  Bordentown Mayor Joseph Malone who became a close friend of Dancer’s ran for Singer’s Assembly seat, keeping one of the 30th district seats in Burlington. 

  Last month, Malone sat in Dancer’s chair and cast Assembly votes while Dancer, who was too ill to go the floor, sat in his car in the statehouse garage.

  Many State and County officials were quick to respond to the news of Dancer’s passing. Fourth District Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) said, “Ron Dancer was a tireless public servant who served his country in the Army before becoming a highly respected and enormously popular mayor of Plumsted and assemblyman for the 12th Legislative District.”

  “A great friend to many and true civic leader, Ron was as gracious and considerate as he was hard working and effective. I cannot think of anyone who loved Plumsted and personified the township more than Ron Dancer,” Smith added.

  The congressman said, “his trade-mark energetic leadership as a state legislator is marked by many issues, he took head-on, especially advocating for the equestrian community, protecting veterans’ concerns on the Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and defending the unborn on pro-life matters before the Assembly. He was a one-of-a-kind public servant whom I always greatly admired, and I am proud to have known him and called him my good friend.”

 “Marie’s and my thoughts and prayers are with his wife Brenda and his loved ones as we celebrate his life of service and mourn his passing,” Smith added.

  During his nearly 20 years in the Assembly, Dancer served as deputy minority leader and assistant minority leader.  He serves on the Agriculture and Food Security, Military and Veterans’ Affairs, and Tourism, Gaming and the Arts committees.

  Governor Phil Murphy signed Dancer’s bill earlier this month that expanded the number of military families that qualified for a Gold Star ID card to include domestic and civil union partners and children.

  As a law maker, Dancer had introduced bills preventing sex offenders from living near their victims, providing security programs for houses of worship, tax incentives for “shop local” programs., and the prohibition of welfare checks being issues to dead people

  Dancer spent his career advocating for lower taxes, reduced government spending, and in support of the horse racing, farming and fish and wildlife industries.

  He was well-known in Ocean County as a horse breeder.  His late father, Stanley F. Dancer, was an internationally acclaimed harness racing driver and horse trainer who won three horse racing Triple Crowns.  He spent 22 years as a professional horse trainer and driver with the Stanley Dancer Horse Racing Stables.

  Dancer served in the U.S. Army from 1969 to 1971. He was active in his church and before becoming mayor served as chairman of the Plumsted Planning Board and on the Ocean County Planning Board, Agricultural Development Board, and Board of Social Services.  He also worked for the Ocean County Adjuster.

  The official is survived by his wife of 54 years, Brenda, two children and three grandchildren.

  Governor Murphy announced Saturday that flags will fly at half-staff at state buildings in honor of Dancer.