Three run for two seats in Oceanport

Incumbent seeks re-election; two newcomers seek open seat

BY KENNY WALTER Staff Writer

Three candidates are vying for two seats on the Oceanport Borough Council in the Nov. 3 general elections.

Jerry Bertekap Jerry Bertekap The seats are currently held by Councilman William Johnson, a Republican who is running for re-election, and Councilman John W. Ibex, who chose not to run for re-election.

The candidates, in addition to Johnson, are Republican Jerry Bertekap and Democrat Lester T. Cox.

Republicans are now in the majority on the council, which is made up of one other Democrat, Gerald Briscione, and four other Republicans. Mayor Michael Mahon is also a Democrat; however, he is eligible to cast a vote only in order to break a deadlock.

Johnson has been on council for the past two years and has worked for the New York Stock Exchange for the last 26 years.

He is currently involved in the community as an Oceanport soccer coach, a member of Port-au-Peck Volunteer Fire Company and a member of Elks Lodge 742.

Johnson is also chairman of the Planning & Development Committee, a member of the Oceanport Planning Board, vice chairman for finance and administration, and a member of the Health and Human Services Committee.

Lester Tom Cox Lester Tom Cox Johnson said he is running for re-election to continue the work he has done on council over the past two years.

“It has been a pleasure working with the mayor and council for the last two years,” he said. “Even though we do not agree on everything, we always reach a consensus and move on with the business at hand.

“For this reason I would like to continue working together with the team and continue the progress that we’ve started,” he added.

One of the issues Johnson would focus on during a new term is shared services.

“The biggest improvement I would like to see is in the area of shared services,” he said in an email. “Although we have made great strides, as in the last two years sharing some services with neighboring towns, there is always room for improvement.”

Another issue Johnson is focusing on is the upcoming closing of Fort Monmouth.

“The closing of Fort Monmouth is by far the biggest issue facing the borough in the coming years,” he said. “In the short term we have to be vigilant, pressuring our state legislators to make sure we have local control of the Fort Monmouth Implementation Authority.

William Johnson William Johnson “Already we have reduced the number of proposed homes on the Fort Monmouth site from 1,800 to 750,” he added. “This reduction is extremely significant so as to impact the borough as little as possible.”

In addition to Fort Monmouth’s development impact on the borough, Johnson is concerned with the environmental impact.

“Making sure the site is environmentally clean and safe” is a priority, he said.

Other issues Johnson is concerned with are Monmouth Park and keeping taxes low. “The economic viability of Monmouth Park racetrack is number two on the priority list,” he said. “We need to do anything we can as a local governing body to keep our largest taxpayer and employer fiscally sound.

“Of course, trying to maintain stable property taxes is a constant battle,” he added.

Johnson’s running mate is fellow Republican Bertekap, who ran for office previously.

Bertekap, who is currently working for Meridian Health and Raritan Bay Medical Center, said he is running to preserve the things he loves about the borough.

“I care a lot about Oceanport,” he said in an e-mail. “I have been participating in the local government, and I want to see our town remain the same and go along the same path.”

Bertekap is currently involved in the borough as president of the Oceanport Hook and Ladder Fire Company, sergeant of the first aid squad, a member of the Planning Board and a member of the Office of Emergency Management.

He also sits on the Emergency Services Advisory Committee for Fort Monmouth and served as fire chief in 2007.

Bertekap says his relationships throughout the borough make him qualified to hold office.

“I know a lot of the people and what they want in our town, what we love about our town,” he said. “I think I have a good grip on the way our town runs.

“I want to see our town continue along the same path,” he added.

For Bertekap, the biggest issue facing Oceanport in the coming years is Fort Monmouth.

“The biggest thing is definitely Fort Monmouth,” he said. “That’s what originally brought me into politics, to make sure Oceanport stayed the same and the development of Fort Monmouth went in a way that would protect our town.”

Bertekap said the next step in dealing with the fort is devising a plan for the future use of the site.

“The next big challenge coming up is going to be developing of that plan,” he said. “I had a lot of impact going into that plan.”

Bertekap said it is important that Oceanport have input in shaping a reuse plan for the fort.

“It is going to be very important that Oceanport keeps our voice out front,” he said, “I think making sure we are at every one of those meetings and our voices are always heard.”

Bertekap cited other issues the borough is facing.

“I would like to continue to keep our waterways clean,” he said, “keeping parks and open spaces where they are.

“I’d like to see the grants keep coming and improvements keep coming,” he added. “I’d also like to see the taxes stay stable.”

A retired telecommunications engineer, Cox said his primary reason for running is to give back to his community.

“I want to give something back to the community where I have lived for 22 years,” he said.

Cox’s local memberships include Oceanport’s Water Watch Committee, Environmental Commission and Sustainable Oceanport.

Cox credits his long history in finance and engineering as reasons why he is qualified to hold public office.

“My qualifications include my engineering and finance degrees and experience, and my long-time interest in and concern for environmental issues,” he said.

Like the other candidates, Cox is concerned with the future of Fort Monmouth.

“I’m concerned about what environmental problems the federal government may be covering up, both figuratively and literally,” he said. “We need to keep after them and work with the [federal] Environmental Protection Agency and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to make sure environmental problems are not dumped on [the borough] and surrounding towns to remedy.”

Cox cited other concerns in his e-mail.

“Our major issues are, of course, high property taxes, the closure of Fort Monmouth, the long-term viability of Monmouth Park racetrack, and a continued and increased emphasis on improving the environment and quality of life,” he said.

While Johnson is exploring shared services, Cox is against some of the possible shared services.

“One major issue is maintaining our quality of life by retaining our borough police dispatchers and Police Department,” he said. “There are rumors that the mayor and council want these merged with another town, but this would not reduce property taxes significantly but would reduce service levels for our citizens.”

Polling places will be open in the borough from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 3.

Contact Kenny Walter at

kwalter@gmnews.com.