Citing health concerns, work duties, Calogero resigns from Township Council in Jackson

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JACKSON – Barry Calogero will resign from the Township Council in Jackson, effective May 13. He announced his departure from the governing body during a special meeting on May 5.

Calogero, who works as the state executive director for U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency in New Jersey, said his job has been fulfilling, but he knew it would impact his future in politics.

“When I took the (USDA) position in 2017, shortly after being re-elected to the Township Council, I knew I would need to balance the political role of an elected official with the nonpartisan role of a federal employee. I also knew then that a political future beyond this term in office would be impossible,” he said.

Calogero said he is also living with Parkinson’s disease, which is a brain disorder that leads to shaking, stiffness and difficulty with walking, balance and coordination.

“Serving as a councilman has also become more and more difficult as I struggle with the effects of having Parkinson’s disease during the past several years. When I add my time as a councilman to my seven years volunteering on the Zoning Board of Adjustment, I have spent nearly 15 years of public service to this great town,” he said.

“This decision is not a sudden one. I have been pondering it for several months, however, after much discussion with my wife and children, I have decided it is time to focus more on my personal life and health.

“As I reflect on my eight years of public service as an elected official, I can say with absolute honesty that every decision I have made and every vote I have cast was based on my morals and ethics for the best interest of all of the residents of Jackson,” Calogero said.

He said he could not review all the decisions he made and of which he is proud, but said the issue that receives the most attention are those regarding development.

Calogero said the issue of development is where some people attempted to take a fundamental difference of opinion about land use and turned it into “disgusting accusations and weaponizing phrases that are too sickening to mention.”

“I  believe the courts are wrong on their approach to our affordable housing mandates, I believe changes in land use sought by greedy builders should be rejected, and I believe those who want to turn Jackson into an over-developed, terribly planned town need to be called out.

“I was not elected by a judge. I was not elected by a builder. I was not elected by the one sitting councilman who insists we have no choice but to approve over-development. I was elected twice by the people of this town to speak out for them and the future of our community.

“A combined 28,000 voters entrusted me with that honor and for me to have voted against my conscience and their best interest on those issues would have been a violation of their trust,” Calogero said.

He said taking criticism is part of becoming an elected official and he said he is proud to have pushed back during his time as a councilman.

“I believe every decision I have made, opposing over-development, pushing the council to fight the courts and their unrealistic (affordable housing) mandates and standing up for our taxpayers may not have been popular, but they were made to benefit each and every resident.

“Yes, part of being an elected official means you have to withstand the lies, nastiness and slander that comes from the dark side of social media and keyboard cowards from within and beyond our boundaries,” Calogero said.

“We must stand up for what is right, even if it is unpopular. We must always speak out against injustice. We must always speak truth when other people lie. Do not chase votes, do not chase headlines and do not put any decision ahead of your morals,” he said.

Calogero thanked residents and quoted President Ronald Reagan, who said, “There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.”

Councilman Ken Bressi and Councilman Martin Flemming thanked Calogero for his service and wished him well in his future endeavors.

Councilman Andrew Kern said Calogero is an honest, honorable, decent man, and a wonderful friend who worked hard for the people of Jackson.

“Councilman Calogero has been an inspiration to me, fighting the effects of his conditions and continuing to do what he did for others, putting other people first,” Kern said.

Mayor Michael Reina said to Calogero, “Thank you, you have been a voice of reason. You stood on your principles, held your ground. Some view it as right, wrong, indifferent. You are a true person, a gentleman, treated everyone with respect … For that I say thank you, we are held to a higher standard. We are vulnerable to criticisms, you stood above all that.”

Residents who are interested in being appointed to the vacancy on the Township Council may forward their resume to the municipal clerk’s office no later than May 15.

Jackson has a nonpartisan form of government. Republicans, Democrats and individuals with no political party affiliation may apply for the appointment, which will run through Dec. 31.