CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — In an overflowing meeting room at Township Hall on Wednesday, Jan. 2, Timothy Donohue returned to the mayor’s seat just after Theron “Ike” Gandy took the oath of office as the newest member of Township Committee.
Gandy’s election in November tipped the balance back to the Republicans on the three-member panel. Michael Clark, now the lone Democrat on the governing body, joined to make unanimous the vote naming Donohue mayor.
But he did not join a vote to terminate the contract with township Business Administrator Elizabeth Terenik a year and a half into a three-year contract. Clark did not comment on the move, but voted no on the resolution, then joined Donohue and Gandy for the next vote to name longtime Township Clerk Kimberly Krauss as the new business administrator, saying she would do a good job. Krauss will also continue to serve as clerk.
The meeting began with the township police color guard bringing the flag to the front of the standing-room-only crowd. As with every meeting, this one began with the Pledge of Allegiance, with the special addition of “The Star Spangled Banner” sung by Alan Rendzak.
While some municipal meetings regularly open with a prayer, Middle Township typically does not. In this instance, Donohue gave an invocation in which he prayed for guidance and understanding for committee members and for the community, asking for unity while adding some levity.
“Help us to witness your love by continuing to love our neighbor, especially the ones that had the other guy’s yard sign on their lawn,” he said.
In comments later in the meeting, Donohue praised former Committeeman Jeff DeVico, the Democratic incumbent Gandy unseated in November, speaking of his long public service and dedication. He also praised Terenik, thanking her for her work for Middle Township.
Donohue said the decision to change administrators was not an easy one.
He expressed confidence in Krauss’ ability, saying no one understands the workings of the community better, while announcing further changes to the administration, including having the administrator work from the first floor of Township Hall, where he said she will be more accessible to the public.
According to Donohue, the cost of the raise for Krauss for the additional duties and of the severance package for Terenik will not exceed what the township had expected to spend in 2019, adding that he predicted considerable savings in 2020.
In a more extensive prepared statement, which Donohue did not read at the meeting, he described the change as the most important decision of the first days and weeks of his administration, and a change in the day-to-day direction and leadership for the town.
In the statement, he cited previous Township Administrator Connie Mahon, who was hired in 2013 and left for a job in Wildwood Crest in 2016, after Clark and DeVico declined to consider extending her contract. Donohue wrote that he publicly advocated that Krauss be considered for the administrator’s job at that point.
Both Donohue and Clark said they have worked well together over the past six years and expect to continue to work for Middle Township going forward.
“We care about this town, and we promise the three of us together to continue to do good work,” Donohue said.
Superior Court Judge Michael J. Donohue administered the oath of office to both Gandy and to the mayor, his brother. Also at the meeting was another brother, Ed Donohue, well known as the former police chief of Lower Township. He retired in 2011.
Donohue’s wife, Carole, and their daughter Juliana were also at the event, while Gandy was joined by his wife, Maren, and their son Ty.
Donohue previously served two years as mayor before Clark was named to the position three years ago. Also returning to a seat at the front of the meeting room was former township attorney Marcus Karavan, hired to replace Frank Corrado as municipal solicitor under a contract not to exceed $175,000.
When taking his seat at the dais, Gandy thanked his family and his supporters after what he described as an arduous campaign. Among several others, he thanked Donohue and former Township Committeeman Dan Lockwood.
“Although I’m starting my political career, I don’t consider myself a politician. I’m a working-class guy who just wants to do better for myself and my town and my family,” Gandy said. “We’re going to do the best we can for the taxpayers here in Middle Township.”
Clark did not say much at the meeting, which he described as “Ike’s day,” but said it was a pleasure to serve as mayor for the past three years and he looks forward to working with the other committee members.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he said.