City Hall was packed with family, friends, local and regional leaders Wednesday evening, Jan. 4 for the swearing-in ceremony of Brigantine's four ward council members, each of whom was elected to serve a four-year term.
First Ward Councilwoman Karen Bew and 4th Ward Councilman Rick DeLucry won re-election in November and will be joined on council this year by newly elected 2nd Ward Councilman Mike Riordan and 3rd Ward Councilman Dennis Haney. The four-year terms of Mayor Phil Guenther and councilmen-at-large Vince Sera and Andy Simpson will be up for re-election in 2018.
Politicians and others in attendance for the induction included Atlantic County Republican Committee Chairman Keith Davis; former Brigantine Councilmen John Murray and Steve Bonanni; Jean Frugoli, wife of late Councilman Jim Frugoli; Atlantic County Sheriff Frank Balles; Atlantic County Freeholders John Risley and Alex Marino; Ventnor City Commissioner Lance Landgraf; Galloway Councilman Tony DiPietro; former Brigantine city engineer Matt Doran; former Planning Board Chairwoman Rose Roberts; and retired Fire Chief Alan Weidner.
Bew, Riordan and Haney were all sworn in by Guenther. DeLucry was sworn in by City Clerk Lynn Sweeney.
Bew's husband, Gordon, was by her side along with their daughters Melissa and Stacy, their husbands John and Matt, respectively, and five grandchildren.
“It's been an honor working with other members of City Council and meeting so many new people,” Bew said after her induction. She said that while going door to door in the fall during the election campaign, it became clear to her that many families are still suffering from the aftereffects of Superstorm Sandy, as well as the economic downturn in Atlantic City.
“Our ward is in bad shape,” she said. “There are many projects that have stalled in the midst of being razed and reconstructed because of lack of funding. Next week Ed Stinson and I are planning to drive around, block by block, and come up with a plan to help families and contractors clean up these eyesores to the satisfaction of their neighbors.”
Bew also said that creating a constantly updated calendar on the city website is a top priority, as well as reversing the "negative rhetoric" that she said has been "poison" to the city for the past several years.
"We have so many feel-good activities and organizations on our island, from our religious community, our veterans organizations, our civic groups and city services, our pristine beaches and championship-caliber golf course, a farmers market every weekend of the summer that's staffed by a great group of volunteers, and a community center staffed with activities morning, noon and night," she said.
“I am confident that through working with this group of gentlemen we can continue to move Brigantine forward in a positive direction.”
Riordan was accompanied by his wife, Carol, and their daughter Julia. Their son John was at a high school function in Cherry Hill and arrived later. Riordan moved to Brigantine in 1993. He said he has loved living on the island and saw the hardships caused by Superstorm Sandy as partial motivation for wanting to join council.
“When Sandy hit in 2012, the devastation was unbelievable, and I saw so many good people and families leaving the island,” he said. “But over the past couple of years we saw a lot of change in the right direction, and I ran for council because I wanted to be a part of this team and part of the continued progress moving forward … There are so many great leaders that are sitting here tonight and I'm just so proud to be a part of it. It's just a good time to be here in Brigantine.”
Haney was joined by his wife Mindy and their sons Eric and Dennis Jr.
“I grew up in Philadelphia and moved to Brigantine in 1980,” said Haney. “We have so much unity here. It's a wonderful place, and what I want to do is be there for anybody, not matter who they might be, whether a year-round or summer resident. If you have a concern I will work hard toward getting a solution. I will always give you my best effort to get you the answers you're looking for. I'll be easy to reach and accessible.”
DeLucy is a lifelong Brigantine resident who was elected to City Council in 2011 when a sitting council member had to vacate a post. An attorney with the Cooper Levenson Law Firm in Atlantic City, he and his wife Bobbi have two sons, Mickey and Steven.
“After five years with me, you know what you're getting,” said DeLucry. “I'm looking forward to working with the new members of city council, and since my speech is the only thing holding up the post-induction reception at Andre's, I'll leave it at that.”
Some thoughts were expressed by incumbents following the induction ceremony.
“I'm very excited for our new members who are coming in and for our members who are continuing along with us,” said Sera. “One of the things that makes a government great is that ability to blend together the old and the new; the new ideas and the old ideas that come together that help this city and help this governing body move forward.”
“After 27 years of doing this, I continue to learn, and I learn from every new council member who joins us,” said Guenther, who was first elected to City Council in 1990 and became mayor in 1992. “I learn from every event I attend, and I know all of you are the same way ... You each bring a unique background and a willingness to share your talents with this council and with our community.
“It's a tremendous commitment,” added Guenther. “I'm very grateful to all of you who are willing to make that commitment, and realize what you're getting into in terms of the time and all the good that will come with your efforts … Without those efforts, we know that we cannot move forward.”