MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — For the first time in memory, the three-member Middle Township Committee is entirely Republican, with the swearing-in of new Committeeman James Norris on Monday.
Norris beat out incumbent Democrat Mike Clark in November, completing a slow change in a township Democrats ruled for decades. What began more than 10 years ago, when Dan Lockwood won a seat on the board in 2009, continued with the election of Tim Donohue in 2011, giving the GOP the majority in Middle after a generation of Democratic majorities.
At the reorganization meeting Monday, the committee unanimously returned Donohue to the mayor’s seat.
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Committee members promised to work to avoid a tax increase as they begin the budget process for 2020.
The mood was celebratory, with the meeting unfolding with extra ceremony before a meeting room packed with family members, supporters and elected officials from throughout the area, including the two assemblymen-elect set to take office Jan. 14 in Trenton, Lower Township Mayor Erik Simonsen and Ocean City Councilman Antwan McClellan.
An honor guard of township police officers brought in the American flag for the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by an invocation presented by the Rev. Joseph Wallace, pastor of Notre Dame De La Mer Roman Catholic parish in the Wildwoods.
Superior Court Judge Michael Donohue, the mayor’s brother, administered the oath of office to Norris, who was joined by his wife, Kasia, who held the Bible.
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The two married in October, in the midst of his political campaign. On Monday, and in previous interviews, Norris thanked her for handling the wedding planning while he campaigned for office. He also thanked his family and friends for their work and the money donated to his campaign.
Norris, 28, served two years on the township Board of Education before running for Township Committee.
“I have dreamed of this moment since I first announced my candidacy,” Norris said. “It is almost exactly as I dreamed it. The only difference is in my dreams I was about 30 pounds lighter than I am right now. I blame that on the holidays.”
Donohue said the Township Committee has accomplished a lot in the past year, with more on the horizon, citing projects underway in Rio Grande and the reconstruction of the Avalon Manor fishing pier, as well as a county project revitalizing the former Kmart shopping plaza near Routes 9 and 47, along with an agreement to bring water service to the Del Haven section of the township.
He also praised Kimberly Krauss, the township clerk who was also named township administrator last year, part of a restructuring undertaken at Township Hall. He described the decision of 12 months ago as the most important the committee made.
“This reorganization has saved the town tens of thousands of dollars. There were some that doubted it; there was a lot of criticism a year ago. But the process has resulted in better municipal government,” Donohue said.