Armstrong looks forward to first term as mayor

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ABSECON – The city’s first new mayor since the late 1980s said he would praise his predecessor and quickly begin performing his duties during City Council’s annual reorganization meeting Thursday, Jan. 3.

Mayor-elect John Armstrong, 64, defeated 2012 Council President Jerry Falivene in the November election to earn the right to follow Mayor Peter Elco, who is retiring after 24 years of service to the community.

The reorganization meeting is the first of the New Year. At the meeting, which was scheduled to take place after this newspaper’s deadline, City Council was expected to swear in its new members, select a council president and appoint its consultants for the upcoming year.

Armstrong forwarded a copy of the remarks he hoped to make at the meeting to The Current for publication this week.

“I am honored to assume the office of mayor of the city of Absecon and to take up where my predecessor, Pete Elco, has left off after 24 years of distinguished and dedicated service,” Armstrong said in his written comments. “We are all grateful to Pete for his many contributions to this community.”

Armstrong thanked his wife, Val, who he called “God’s greatest gift to me,” for her unwavering support during a unique and frustrating campaign process.

“With all of the political discord in this country today, I have found through my campaigning for office that most folks still believe that government can be a force for good and that public service is an honorable calling,” he said.

“I will always remember those encounters in people’s living rooms discussing their hopes and fears. They are why I am here tonight. I will continue that conversation with the people of Absecon now as mayor.”

One of the first things Armstrong said he hopes to accomplish is the formation of a nonpartisan advisory council comprised of about 20 people from different parts of the community.

“We will meet bimonthly to discuss issues and concerns,” Armstrong said. “The council president will have a standing invitation to those meetings.”

Armstrong said he will also establish a weekly schedule for anyone to come to the Municipal Complex to talk to him about city business.

“I will use these and other means to speak to residents and taxpayers about local issues impacting their lives,” he said.

Armstrong said he looks forward to working with the council and realizes that under Absecon’s form of government, the mayor does not have a vote on local legislation.

“But the people of Absecon did not elect me to serve as bystander in chief,” he said. “I have a voice and I intend to use it. I will share my ideas with council initially through its various committees, and I will be receptive to the ideas of others.”

He pledged to be straightforward in his approach and to be courteous and respectful.

“In return, I will demand the same from others. We will disagree at times, but there is no need to be disagreeable,” he said.

Armstrong said he realizes Absecon’s residents are still struggling through hard economic times that are difficult enough to be described as a “depression.”

“With unemployment currently at 13 percent in Atlantic County and climbing, with many other people simply having given up looking for work, and part-time employment now becoming the norm in the casino industry, we must face up to the fact that locally we are experiencing an economic depression,” he said.

Families are responding by cutting back on expenses, and government must follow, he said.

“We must find ways to maintain a high quality of service at minimal taxpayer expense, by prioritizing our needs and reconsidering how we distribute our resources,” Armstrong said.

“In Absecon, we must stabilize our neighborhoods and revitalize our businesses while retaining the traditions of this community so that our seniors can afford to remain here and young families are encouraged to grow here,” he continued. “We must find ways to accomplish these things without raising taxes, and in fact by cutting them where we can.”

Armstrong said he believes Absecon’s government and its residents are ready for the challenge.

“Together, we will come through this difficult trial – as better people living in a more caring and vibrant community,” he said.


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