Toms River mayor, three councilman officially begin work in office
The township of Toms River swore in a new mayor and three new councilman on Friday afternoon at the yearly reorganization meeting.
It was one of the biggest and anticipated races of election season 2019 and the mayoral race alone ended within striking distance.
Republican Councilman Maurice "Mo" Hill defeated Democrat Jonathan Petro to become the new mayor of Toms River succeeding the retiring Tom Kelaher.
Meanwhile, Hill's Republican running mates Kevin Geoghegan, Joshua Kopp and Matthew Lotano had more breathing room in their victories over Democrats Drew Boyle, Karin Sage and Michele Williams.
On Friday afternoon inside town hall all four men were officially sworn into office and their time as elected officials either continued or began in Toms River.
Hill, Geoghegan, Lotano and Kopp were sworn in by retired Toms River Township Clerk and current Historian Mark Mutter before each providing remarks to a pack town hall with their family and friends by their side.
Mayor Hill had been the Ward 3 Councilman and Councilman at Large since 2004 when then Mayor Paul Brush (D) was sworn into office.
Hill joined fellow Republicans on the council that year in Greg McGuckin (who is now an Ocean County Assemblyman), Maria Maruca, Brian Kubiel (retired in 2019), John Sevastakis (no longer on the council), Mike Fiure (no longer on the council) and Carmine Inteso (no longer on the council).
In addition to being a councilman in Toms River, Hill also served 35-years in the United States Navy before retiring in 2005 as a Rear Admiral.
Hill has a plan to serve the residents of Toms River where his family has resided and attends school in a district being crippled by state aid budget cuts.
"I pledge to do my best to represent all of the residents and do what's best for our community," Toms River Mayor Mo Hill said.
Hill then spoke in highlights about the different challenges facing Toms River and how he plans to start addressing them.
"Our schools have suffered for two years of aid cuts and replacing that aid will be difficult and require sacrifices from all of our residents but we cannot let the quality of our children and grandchildren's education suffer. They are our future and we have a vested interest in their success and the success of our school system," Hill said.
Hill said Toms River continues to move ahead with their redevelopment project.
"The plans will be presented to the community for comments before any final decision is made," Hill said. "I would like to establish a committee of local and civic business leaders to aid us in this redevelopment process. We have to get this right, we can't drop the ball."
The Mayor also wants to hear from residents so the town and community can work together more often.
"I want to increase communications throughout he use of social media and institute a 'Meet The Mayor' monthly meeting to hear from the residents both the positive and negative feedback," Hill said.
Geoghegan, Lotano and Kopp join Maria Maruca, Daniel Rodrick, Laurie Huryk and Terrance Turnbach on the Toms River Township Council.
"I look forward to working with Mayor Hill and and everyone that sits here on the dais and am proud to do so," Geoghegan said. "2020 is going to be an exciting year for all of us."
"I believe God gave you two ears and one mouth...you should listen twice as much as you speak," Kopp said. "We spent the last eight months talking and listening to the residents of Toms River and now it's time to work for all of you."
"We will serve our community with your best interest in mind and not for any personal gain but rather to do what's best for our community," Lotano said.
Following the swearing-in ceremony took place, the meeting portion took place where Councilwoman Maria Maruca was voted by the council to become the Toms River Council President for 2020 while Councilman Kevin Geoghegan was voted into the Toms River Council Vice-President role for 2020.