The makeup of the Brick Township Council, once traditionally Democratic, is now officially all-Republican after the New Year’s Day organization meeting.
“We’re not Republicans or Democrats here,” said Councilman Anthony Matthews, who was tapped to serve as council president this year. “We are representatives of the people. I feel like I’m the manager of an allstar team. We do not hide, we do not run. We make ourselves accessible to the people of Brick Township.”
Republican Mayor Stephen C. Acropolis was sworn in to his first full four-year term as mayor, flanked by his mother, wife, children, grandchildren and other members of his large family.
“How about the ones on the bus outside,” Councilman Joseph Sangiovanni joked before state Sen. Andrew W. Ciesla administered the oath to Acropolis.
“To be re-elected is like being born again,” Acropolis said. “I renew my commitment to you, the people of Brick Township. It seems like only yesterday I was sitting in the basement of this building going through a nominating process for council. I still remember my first reorganization meeting in 1994. Our position of trust is not one to be taken lightly or for granted. It is always about performance. If you don’t perform, you’ll be out in the blink of an eye.”
Acropolis was first elected mayor in November 2007 to fill the unexpired term of former longtime Democratic Mayor Joseph C. Scarpelli. Scarpelli resigned in December 2006 and pleaded guilty to accepting bribes one month later. He was released from federal prison in May after serving a 15-month term.
Ciesla also swore in Councilmen Joseph Sangiovanni and Daniel Toth to their second full terms and newcomer Dominick Brando to his first term on the council.
“I’ve been waiting 58 days for New Year’s Day,” Brando said when roll was called. “I’m here.”
Council members voted unanimously to select Matthews to serve as council president, and Toth to serve as council vice president.
“Councilman Toth has been not only a friend and hard worker, he makes our lives a little easier,” Matthews said. “I don’t think there’s enough lassos in Brick Township to slow him down. There is no one who researches a topic like Councilman Toth. I think his middle name is Google.”
Acropolis noted the council’s accomplishments over the past several years. Since the Republican majority on the Township Council took over in 2005, the Traders Cove site is now a township park and marina, traf- fic has eased at the Chambers Bridge Road and Route 70 intersection due to traffic pattern changes, progress has been made on the cleanup of the French’s Landfill site, and a “historic” shared services agreement with Toms River was put in place, he said.
“We will continue to make government smaller,” Acropolis said. “Brick Township is ahead of the curve with regards to shared services.”
But the work is far from over, he said.
“I pretty much wear my emotions and my opinions on my sleeve,” Acropolis said. “We don’t pull any punches here. The number one goal is to continue to bring Brick Township together as a town. One community. People helping people.”
Acropolis choked up briefly when he thanked his family for their support over the years.
“Can you imagine what my children have gone through since 1994?” he said. “I just have a special place in my heart for my family, who have always been there. I’ve always said public service should just be about that, public service, not self-service. I am humbled and honored to be your mayor.”
Matthews thanked Acropolis for “hanging in there” during difficult times.
“I say this with the utmost respect,” he told Acropolis. “You are a crazy man. You choose to stay here and decided to lead this community through tough times.”
Matthews also presented Sangiovanni with a plaque for his year as council president.
“We as a team went through a lot,” Sangiovanni said. “We did a lot more than we ever thought we could get done in one year. It wasn’t all smiles and it wasn’t always laughter.”
Sangiovanni noted the layoffs of 42 township workers just a year ago, to close a nearly $4 million budget deficit predicted for the 2009 municipal budget.
“We had some tough decisions,” he said. “Nobody likes layoffs. But tough decisions call for tough leaders. We cut the budget by $3 million. Unheard of. Nobody ever cut the budget in Brick Township.”
Longtime Democratic Councilwoman Kathy Russell, who lost a bid for a fourth term in November, did not attend the meeting.