CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE _ Republican Freeholder Len Desiderio, with his big trademark smile and plenty of quips for a packed house, was sworn in to his fifth term in office at the board’s reorganization meeting Thursday.
Desiderio, who is also the long-time and popular mayor of Sea Isle City, arrived with a large contingent from that city. He took the oath with his father Leonard, mother Carmel, wife Carmela, and daughter Carmela by his side. Superior Court Judge J. Christopher Gibson administered the oath.
Desiderio’s father drew laughs from the audience when he stood up and urged them to applaud. Desiderio drew his own laughs with his remarks, including one on the advantages of the bridge to Avalon being out.
“I say think of the good stuff: Avalon’s not coming to attack and (Avalon Mayor Martin Pagliughi’s wife) Lynda is not going to come visit me,” he said.
He made it clear it was a joke as he commended Pagliughi for all her work on behalf of the Republican Party.
Desiderio took office in 2002 when he completed the unexpired term of now state Senator Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May Cumberland, Atlantic. He was reelected to three-year terms in 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2012.
“It’s important in these tough, difficult times that elected officials remember they work for the people,” said Desiderio. “It’s not for their egos, it’s for the people. My parents always told me it’s important to do the right thing.”
The meeting took place with only four members on the Board of Chosen Freeholders. Sue Sheppard won the election for county surrogate in November, becoming the first female surrogate in the county’s history, and she resigned in December.
Freeholder Director Jerry Thornton said GOP committee members from all 16 towns in the county will do a secret-ballot vote on Jan. 30 to select a replacement. Former Lower Township Deputy Mayor Stig Blomkvest and Marie Hayes of Ocean City, a retired captain of Cape May County detectives, are running for the seat.
Thornton, who is not endorsing either candidate, said the winner will run with him for reelection in the November election.
Thornton said in the interim he and Freeholder Will Morey will take over Sheppard’s departments. The reorganization also included Thornton winning another term as board director and Desiderio being named vice-director.
The reorganization began with Deacon Liam C. O’ Clisham of Sea Isle City giving the invocation, asking God to help the board “achieve public policy worthy of this heaven-touched county.” Sea Isle City VFW Post 1963 posted the colors while Joseph Harris of Disabled American Veterans led the pledge. The Ocean City Choir sang the Star Spangled Banner.
Thornton also used the meeting to sum up 2012. He said progress was made on the jail renovation, a $17 million project, and with new libraries in Wildwood Crest and Stone Harbor. He said the Cape May County Veterans’ Cemetery is being refurbished.
“Some vets complained and we’re addressing that,” Thornton.
He said the county also created a wellness program for employees and progress was made on getting improvements at the Cape May Airport. Thornton said he was proud of the response to Hurricane Sandy and the relief efforts from the county to areas harder hit to the north.