Toms River School Board Member Defends New County Job

Lisa Natale-Contessa (Campaign Photo)

  TOMS RIVER – Critics have said that a school board member who was recently hired to a county job was a political hire, but Lisa Contessa said politics had nothing to do with it.

  The website RiseUpOceanCounty, which has been called anti-Semitic for how it covers development in Orthodox Jewish areas, has had a different focus lately: the battle among Republicans in Ocean County.

  In an article that was mostly an attack on GOP leader George Gilmore, Contessa was mentioned in a group of people who are getting jobs through his patronage. They said she is a “self-described homemaker” and “likely Toms River mayoral candidate.” They accuse the Ocean County Utilities Authority of arranging for the position of executive assistant for her. It was claimed that it was a $95,000 position.

  The previous person who held that position, Kathleen Balassone, retired. According to documents, her annual salary was $86,149.34, plus health benefits. Contessa’s is $77,000.01, plus health benefits.

  “Gilmore used one of the few areas in County government where he does have influence, the Ocean County Utilities Authority, to arrange for Contessa’s new job,” Rise Up stated. 

  The Toms River Times reached out to Contessa for her response.

  “This is just political shenanigans arising out of a fight amongst Republicans in Toms River, which is very unfortunate,” Contessa said. “In my opinion, there is no story here but in my defense I would say that first of all I’m not a ‘homemaker.’ I have a Master’s Degree in Business Administration and 25+ years of work experience in the corporate sector. I have worked in radio, where I was an Executive Assistant to the Production Manager throughout college and graduate school. I worked many years in manufacturing in various roles and…there is my time in banking and finance at OceanFirst. So, I have a lot of experience for the position that I am currently in.

  “I took a hiatus from the work force for a little over 5 years to focus on my family. I left of my own volition from OceanFirst Bank, on excellent terms, due to several tragedies that occurred in my personal life,” she said. “I lost my brother and both parents, all unexpectedly, within a very short period of time from one another. My position at OceanFirst as (Vice President of Marketing) was quite stressful and my children needed me. I would have re-entered the workforce sooner, but then the pandemic hit and thankfully I was able to home school and help both my children through this difficult time.

  “The position of Executive Assistant here was not handed to me as I went through a very rigorous interview process along with many other applicants. I became aware of the position because it was advertised publicly and I believe I am the most qualified of all the applicants, otherwise I would not have been hired and I am grateful for the opportunity I’ve been afforded here,” she said.

  “I am not sure what my position here has to do with George Gilmore as he’s not associated with the OCUA. He doesn’t work here and he is not on the Board,” she added.

  “The mudslinging articles are very unfortunate but because I am a Toms River School Board member, which is an elected position. I am aware of the political tactics and attacks and am not really concerned. I am who I am, I support those I believe in and I stand by my conservative values, so I guess the ‘haters’ are going to do what they do and spew lies from their basement keyboards,” she said.