By DON STINE
Mayor William F. Larkin – Ocean Township’s longest-serving elected official – announced last week that he will be leaving office effective Jan. 1.
“This comes after a tremendous amount of thought and soul-searching. It was a very difficult decision because I have enjoyed all 23.5 years but it is time to move on and let others come in,” he said at the end of last Thursday’s Township Council meeting.
“I am retiring, not resigning,” he said.
The entire five-member council is up for re-election this May and Larkin said he had already made the decision not to run again.
“I have been on six councils and every one of those six councils have always kept the betterment of the community in mind and looked to do the best they possibly could. They have always been conscious of the budget and we have always had great employees,” he said.
He also thanked his family for all of their support.
“It is a big sacrifice for a family and Trudi (his wife) always gave up a lot for me to come to council meetings,” he said.
Larkin said he and his wife now plan to spend winters in warmer climates but will remain township residents.
“You had him on loan and now I have him back,” Trudi said.
At a surprise party for Larkin last week Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini, who has lived in Ocean Township since 1982, said Larkin’s retirement is “bittersweet.”
“Bill is entering the next phase of his life and he is the best of the best. He is always available and has served Ocean Township with honesty, integrity and personal accountability,” she said.
Councilman William J. Garofalo, who has worked with municipal governments throughout the state, said it has been “an honor” to serve with Larkin.
“I have never seen anything run like Ocean Township. Bill’s legacy is that he kept the politics nonpartisan and fair. If every municipality had leadership like yours, things would not be screwed up like it is (in other areas of the state),” he said.
Deputy Mayor Christopher Siciliano agreed, saying Larkin epitomizes nonpartisanship in the township.
“You swooped me up at times when I first came on the council and you have been like a big brother to me,” he said.
Township Administrator Andrew Brannen, who is married and has five children, said he was interviewed for his job by Larkin about seven years ago.
“You told me what a great town this was to bring my family to and it has certainly lived up to that,” he said.
Township Attorney Martin Arbus said that while he and Larkin have been on the governing body together a long time, he is a little resentful.
“I have put on a few pounds over the years but you still look exactly the same. You have always been accessible to the public and this has been a tremendous time- and we will all miss you,” he said.
Larkin, who has been mayor since 2002, originally came onto the governing body in 1991 and is the Township Council’s longest-serving member and mayor.
Former Mayor Richard English appears to be the second-longest serving member of the governing body, serving for 16 years from 1971 to 1987. The third longest-serving member on the governing body was James Garrity Sr., who served for 15 years, with 12 of those as mayor.
The remaining council members will now appoint a new mayor and then fill the vacant seat from candidates seeking the office. There is no requirement that they re-appoint a deputy mayor in the near future and all council members will be up for re-election in May.