TOMS RIVER – Leading the council this year are two men who are in those leadership seats for the first time.
Councilman Al Manforti, last year’s council vice president, was selected to be this year’s president, a first since the Ward 4 councilman took office in 2012. He served as vice president for 2016.
“I look forward to continuing with the same decisive leadership this year and I would like to thank my fellow council members for having the confidence to select me as president,” said Manforti, whose ward represents the downtown area.
The council vice president is Kevin Geoghegan, appointed to fill a vacant council seat at the start of 2016, and now serving an unexpired term for the Ward 2 seat. Both leadership spots were unanimous votes for Manforti and Geoghegan.
“I won’t keep you here but echo Al’s comments and say let’s get to work,” said Geoghegan.
Geoghegan was also selected to serve as the council member on the planning board.
Both officials expressed thanks, with optimism for the year ahead, and pledged to lead the council fairly and with the support of their fellow council members.
On the agenda for 2017 is the adoption of the updated master plan, a task that takes place every 10 years. Toms River has been holding master plan meetings throughout the last year to gather input on its demographics, parks assets, neighborhood development and land use/zoning. Comments at those meetings have focused on that rampant growth along the Route 9 corridor of the northern portion of the township, near Lakewood.
Also in the year ahead is the Army Corps of Engineers dune replenishment and beach widening project, with a bid likely awarded this month after years of securing easements from beachfront landowners and ties up in court.
In his comments, Councilman George E. Wittmann Jr. said in addition to those initiatives, the year ahead also faces some budget challenges, as in previous years Toms River has had the help of federal and state aid from Sandy relief to stabilize the budget and those funds will not likely be available.
Manforti took the oath of office surrounded by family and thanked them for their support through often the long hours that the job entails. Manforti and Geoghegan were sworn in by state Assemblyman Greg McGuckin, himself a former longtime Toms River councilman.
The all-Republican council and mayor pledged cooperation among themselves and in working with administration. Moving from the president seat, Councilman Brian Kubiel thanked his colleagues and welcomed the new council leadership to their annual positions.
The annual reorganization meeting held January 3 in town hall took care of the regular, year-beginning chores and appointments, but also had the distinction of helping to mark the 250th anniversary of the township. Officials said more events were coming to help celebrate this, including adding the anniversary logo to beach badges sold this year.
Appointments included Joseph Kempker and Gus Kakavas to seats on the Board of Adjustment. Nels Luthman, Richard Tutela and Matthew Yezzi were appointed as alternate members of the zoning board. Charles Valvano was reappointed to the Toms River Municipal Utilities Authority.