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Feb 01, 2017

Colts Neck Township Reorganization Meeting

By Nicholas Deckmejian

On Saturday, January 4, Colts Neck saw its first winter storm of the year. The snow started early and hit the area with a fury of flurries that persisted late into the evening, painting rooftops and tree branches white while burying roads inch by inch. Yet, while outside the storm was raging, folks from the community were defrosting inside Colts Neck’s courthouse as the township held its annual reorganization meeting.

Outgoing Mayor Thomas Orgo welcomed residents, local dignitaries, township officials, and other community members who braved the wintry weather to take part in 2017’s reorganization. He reflected on the previous year, mentioning the search to find someone who can replace Ed Thompson on the township committee and touching on the legal battles against COAH and civilian housing on Earle. He noted that the past year brought 159 resolutions and 23 ordinances, how the county helped with his initiatives to clean up and restore the appeal of town hall, cut back trees on some roads that desperately needed it, paved six miles of roads, and will soon be working on paving the path around town hall. The outgoing mayor thanked everyone who “worked very hard to make my job easier this year. I thank you truly, and enjoyed being your mayor and hope everyone feels good as I do about Colts Neck.”

Pastor Chris Durkin of Colts Neck Community Church gave an invocation and thanked everyone who helps make the town great, focusing on the outgoing mayor and saying, “Thank you, Mr. Mayor, for your service. We look forward to seeing you and Slope Brook Farms later tonight, plowing us out,” getting a few chuckles from the crowd.

After the invocation, Edward C. Eastman Jr. was sworn in as committeeman and joked about how he has to keep getting sworn in “one year at a time,” then told the crowd the different committees he serves on, such as the Board of Health, Environmental Committee, and Affordable Housing. He also serves on the Drug and Alcohol Alliance and encouraged folks to participate in the group, saying, “Drug and alcohol problems are not something just in inner cities” and explaining that “the meetings are filled with people with stories to tell.” Committeeman Eastman also serves on the Recreation and County State Government Committees.

As soon as Committeeman Eastman wrapped up his statements, Senator Jennifer Beck came walking through the door with perfect timing, as she was immediately called upon to help swear in Russell Macnow as committeeman, who then returned to his seat to take part in the nominations for mayor. He was the only one to be nominated and was elected unanimously, and sworn in again by Senator Beck.

Newly elected Mayor Macnow gave some remarks that mostly focused on the efforts of his predecessor, Thomas Orgo. “Tom alluded to it in his remarks,” he said, “but people don’t realize the work he did for the town this year.” He used the cleanup of town hall as an example, saying, “It looks like a beautiful hometown…picturesque…all thanks to you, Mayor Orgo.” Later in the meeting, Mayor Macnow echoed Mr. Orgo’s statements on future legal battles with Earle and COAH, saying he and the committee will “work hard to keep Colts Neck the way it should be.” The mayor also made the point that “people think that because it’s a small town, it’s easy to run. It’s not so easy” and gave special mention to Beth Kara and Kathleen Capristo for their tireless efforts to keep the township moving forward.

The committee than opened nominations for deputy mayor, and JP Bartolomeo was voted in unanimously. Accompanied by his family, Deputy Mayor Bartolomeo thanked everyone for coming out in the snow, and also gave special attention to Beth Kara and Kathleen Capristo, crediting them for making the town run smoothly. “Most importantly,” the deputy mayor added, “I want to thank Mayor Tom Orgo one more time for an excellent job this year in steering this wonderful town of Colts Neck.” He then recognized his family in attendance, asking each of his three boys to raise their hands, acknowledging his father, and finally his wife, saying, “I am this way because of the woman that I chose.”

Freeholder Tom Arnone gave a few words about Colts Neck, thanking the committee for having him and congratulating Mr. Orgo’s past year as mayor. He commented on Mike Fitzgerald leaving the township committee to serve on the county level, noting, “He will take us on an avenue we truly need. His leadership will be an asset to the county.”      The freeholder praised Colts Neck for using the county’s shared services programs and held up the township as a prime example of how best to take advantage of a relationship with the county and make big projects more affordable, lessening the burden on taxpayers. “Monmouth County is going to have another great year in 2017,” he said, “and it is because of towns like Colts Neck.”

Towards the end of the meeting, outgoing deputy mayor Michael Fitzgerald had a chance to give some farewell words. “It’s the last time you have to listen to me,” he said, joking that it most likely wouldn’t be. He expressed his gratitude towards his family, thanking his wife for enduring the last few busy years, and thanked his children for putting up with interrupted meals, assuring them that he’d have more time to be present with them. Mr. Fitzgerald told the crowd that he’d be moving on to serve on the Monmouth County Council, saying how he felt honored to take this opportunity and has faith that he can achieve some great things.  He also revealed that he had three basic tenants in life: “Say what you mean, do what you say, and don’t reward bad behavior,” but that he felt the need to add a fourth. “Leave it better than you found it. I hope today, after seven years, all of you…most of you… well, maybe some of you will agree I’m leaving Colts Neck better than I found it.” Senator Beck than presented the outgoing deputy mayor with a resolution, thanking him for his service on behalf of the county.

Mayor Macnow also had a few parting words to say in response to Mr. Fitzgerald’s farewell. Holding back tears, the mayor reflected on the years the two worked together and the relationship they forged. On behalf of the township committee, he presented Mr. Fitzgerald with a proclamation in appreciation for all he has done for the township.

Reverend Scott D. Brown of Colts Neck Reformed Church then gave a benediction, followed by the group installation of appointed volunteers and members.  Folks gathered at the front of the room, putting one hand on each other’s backs to create a human chain, linking them to all be sworn in together by Sen John O. Bennet III, Esq.