TOMS RIVER – Regular meetings of the Ocean County Commissioners routinely run short – albeit not necessarily sweet. Last month’s gathering was the exception on both accords as officials spent time lauding two long-time public servants.
Both Carl Block and Stephen Scaturro ended decades of government work.
Stephen Scaturro became Ocean County’s Director of Consumer Affairs sixteen years ago. Meanwhile, Scaturro’s lifelong commitment to serving his country and its people started before he even hit his eighteenth birthday.
At just 17 years old, Scaturro joined the United States Army. He later became a founding member of the Brick Township Police Department in 1966. Scaturro ultimately served as the head of the detective bureau.
“Stephen Scaturro served 27 years as a legislative aid to Senators Andrew Ciesla and James Holzapfel,” read Clerk of the Board of Commissioners Michelle I. Gunther from a proclamation prepared in Scaturro’s honor. “(He is) a veteran of both the United States Army and the United States Air Force.”
Scaturro also devoted time to community service and assumed various leadership roles. He was once the President of the Brick Township Chamber of Commerce. Scaturro not only served as President of the Brick Township Rotary Club but was also named the Rotarian of the Year in 1997.
As the head of the Ocean County Director of Community Affairs, Scaturro received credit for transforming the department from a small county agency to the leading consumer affairs office in the state.
“He has worked closely with local police departments, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, and the State Attorney General on numerous anti-fraud initiatives,” Gunther read. “And worked with the Ocean County Office of Senior Services to protect the county’s 200,000 older adults.”
Scaturro’s role in Consumer Affairs included what was referred to as “tireless work” to protect the economy in Ocean County. He divided his focus between mom-and-pop businesses and recognized the importance of tourism in helping seasonal companies prosper.
A member of the state motor vehicle commission, Scaturro previously served as the vice president of the New Jersey County and Municipal Affairs agencies. Scaturro continues as the Vice President of the Ocean County Vocational Technical Schools Board of Education.
“Steve showed great leadership and served as an example not only for residents of Ocean County as consumers,” said Commissioner Joseph H. Vicari. “But also, for helping small businesses.”
According to Vicari, New Jersey’s attorney general recognized Scaturro for changing how Consumer Affairs agencies operate and used Ocean County as a model.
Each of the Ocean County Commissioners took time to express gratitude to Scaturro for his service and wish him well on his retirement. Scaturro returned the thanks with some short remarks and recalled the department’s role in the worst of times, including Superstorm Sandy and the pandemic.
“Last year, we have over 9,000 cases that were processed through Consumer Affairs,” Scaturro said. “Consumer Affairs is a department where we have weights and measures. In the very beginning, we had constriction inspections, where we were responsible for every township in the county.”
Scaturro called out several people by name, ending with the people closest to his heart. In thanking his family for their support, Scaturro revealed that he and his wife Ruthanne have six children, eleven grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren on the way.
Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners John “Jack” Kelly shared some of the history that began Carl Block’s service to Ocean County 35 years ago.
“Carl was appointed first as the Ocean County Deputy Clerk in 1987,” said Kelly. “Then in 2003, and again in 2008, Carl was elected as the County Clerk.”
In 2010, Kelly and then-Freeholder John Bartlett met with Block to ask him to consider leaving his elected position to take on the role of Ocean County Administrator. Block initially expressed his misgivings and ultimately took on what Kelly described as the “most powerful position in county government.”
“As our administrator, Carl oversaw numerous projects, including the construction of a new county jail,” Kelly shared. “Many new parks, upgrading the county’s technology department, and most recently working on the new social services building and now the new courthouse annex.”
According to Kelly, Block worked closely with Julie Tarrant, Chief Financial Officer, on budgetary concerns that impact county tax rates.
“Carl truly excelled during Superstorm Sandy when he led our professional staff in dealing with the aftermath of the county’s worst disaster,” said Kelly. “He helped provide relief to all of our 33 communities, but especially to the shore towns, which were most impacted by the devastating storm.”
Kelly also credited Block for his work during the COVID epidemic as county officials collaborated with the Board of Health to set up vaccination sites.
Before his roles in county government, Block served as Stafford Township’s mayor for 26 years.
After Gunther read the formal proclamation honoring Block, several officials and members of the public spoke about Block’s public service. Ocean County Clerk Scott M. Colabella came with veteran employees from his office who had fond recollections of working with Block.
Colabella pointed out that he, Kelly, and Block had all worked in the county clerk’s office at some point. Ocean County Surrogate Jeffrey Moran also took time to reminisce about working with Block, as did the other county commissioners.
Kelly, generally a stickler in holding people to five-minute comment limitations, made an exception when it came to giving both public servants a proper sendoff.
Block recalled that when he worked at Shop Rite and Foodtown, he did his job well. However, his work as a mayor, clerk, and administrator meant the most to him. Block’s personal goal was to improve things for people.
In each of the positions he held, Block said that any accolades he received also reflected the work of the people who worked for him, supported him and helped him.
Block went through an extensive list of names of people who assisted him during his various leadership roles in governmental service. His remarks included assurances that his successor Michael J. Fiure would do well. Block also expressed confidence that Tristin J. Collins appeared to have the “acumen and ability” to replace Fiure as Assistant County Administrator.
The last two Ocean County Commissioners meetings included discussions regarding Block and Scaturro’s replacements. Many advocated for Block to stay in his role for an extended period, while some questioned Collins’ credentials.
The Commissioners appointed Scaturro’s Deputy Director Ed McBride to head up Consumer Affairs. However, in a prior meeting, members of the public asked why the position was opened to outside applicants. The Asbury Park Press reported that state Assemblyman John Catalano expressed an interest in the position.