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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Oct 02, 2017

Digging Up the Past on Middletown Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger

By Lori Draz


Discovering dirt on politicians is nothing new, but when we looked into Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger’s history, we found he has been hip deep in dirt many times.

Now, now – it’s not what you think. Middletown’s mayor is beloved by many for his devotion to the town he loves, but many don’t know that Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger is a Ph.D. and that prior to his political life, the mayor had a long career as a professional archaeologist. His work took him to many fascinating sites, including Secaucus Potters Field, Monmouth Battlefield, Sandy Hook Proving Grounds, and Luyster House. He was also a well-sought-after lecturer and has held lectures across the United States and Canada on archeology and historic colonial churches, historic cemeteries, early Dutch farmsteads, and military sites. He holds a master’s degree from Hunter College and received his doctorate in 2005 from the CUNY Graduate Center, with a dual focus on historical archaeology and cultural landscape studies.

It is impressive and equally appropriate that this man should serve as mayor of one of the oldest settlements in the state and the nation. Middletown was settled in 1664 and continues as a vibrant growing community while still being deeply respectful of its place in history. This sprawling township’s motto of “Many Neighborhoods, One Middletown” requires a lot of careful attention, and Mayor Scharfenberger is a tireless presence at all the many events and organizations. With a keen eye on its past, the mayor is also keenly focused on its future. Some of the key programs instituted during his tenure as mayor include the state’s first municipal Veterans’ Affairs Committee, the Middletown Economic Development Committee, bimonthly mayor’s office hours, and the attraction of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to a vacant Lucent property, to name a few.

The mayor is also the Director of the Office for Planning Advocacy (OPA) for the State of New Jersey. In that role, he oversees the operation of the OPA and develops and recommends policies and priorities designed to implement state planning policies, programs, and practices. As director of the OPA, Dr. Scharfenberger has spoken at numerous events sponsored by such respected planning organizations as the New Jersey Planning Officials, County Planning Association, New Jersey League of Municipalities, NJAPA, NJASLA, and Sustainable Raritan River conferences. He currently is a member of the adjunct faculty of Monmouth University in West Long Branch.

Mayor Scharfenberger has been serving on the Middletown Township Committee since 2005. He is currently a member of the Middletown Township Committee (first elected in 2004), where he has served as mayor in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2016, and 2017 and deputy mayor in 2009 and 2006. He has been a member of the Landmarks Commission since 1996 and was appointed chairman in 2012, and currently serves on the Middletown Township Open Space Committee and the Municipal Alliance for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Abuse. He also serves on the Monmouth County Greenhouse Gas Reduction Committee. Additionally, he served as the township committee’s liaison to the Bayshore Dredge Committee in 2006, on the Zoning Board of Adjustment in 2003 and 2004, and on Governor-elect Chris Christie’s transition team.

And among his proudest accomplishments is that he has lived in Middletown for more than 23 years with his wife, Geraldine, and their two children.

It’s almost hard to imagine that this one man can be in so many places, but all who know him know that his tireless pace is just part of how he lives each day. Congratulations on an amazing career so far, and on all the many achievements yet to come.