Eatontown council fills open seat with appointment of Caruso; one vacancy remains

Members of the Eatontown Borough Council have appointed Christine Caruso to fill a vacancy on the governing body.

During a council meeting on Sept. 11, Borough Clerk Julie Martin administered the oath of office to Caruso, before the new council member took her seat on the dais with the council.

The vacancy on the council existed because Democratic Councilwoman Jennifer Sherrod resigned from the governing body in August. Her term was scheduled to expire in December 2020. Caruso will serve the remainder of Sherrod’s term.

Because Sherrod is a Democrat, the Eatontown Democratic County Committee was charged with providing the names of potential replacements to the council. The names the committee provided to the council were Caruso, Renata Bodner and James David.

Democrat Patti May Kelly, who had been serving as the council president for 2019, also resigned from her position on the governing body in August.

As of Sept. 12, no names had been provided to the council by the Eatontown Democratic County Committee as possible successors for Kelly, according to municipal officials.

In their letters of resignation, Sherrod and Kelly cited what they called an unhealthy atmosphere at council meetings. They said arguments among council members led to their departure from the governing body.

During the Sept. 11 meeting, Martin administered the oath of office Councilman Al Baginsky, who will serve as council president for the remainder of the year.

Caruso has lived in Eatontown for seven years. She ran as an independent candidate in the 2018 election, but did not win a seat on the council at that time.

In an interview after the meeting, Caruso said, “I have a pretty extensive finance background. I spent half my career working in finance and half working in government. Most recently, I was the deputy director for the Division of Local Government Services.

“I am very focused on economic development. I also have worked with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. I worked for six years as the controller and the (chief financial officer) at the Mercer County Improvement Authority, where we did a lot of redevelopment work.

“My passion is really economic development and trying to build ratables in Eatontown without the extreme overdevelopment we are seeing, and doing it in a smart way, as well as being financially and fiscally prudent with the budget.

“… Seeing what the current council members have done over the last few months, I think (council members) have tackled some very challenging issues … I’m really humbled to be part of that team and am excited to work with them,” Caruso said.