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Perry will serve as Middletown mayor; Hibell selected as deputy mayor

MIDDLETOWN – Committeeman Tony Perry has been elected by his fellow members of the Township Committee to serve as Middletown’s mayor for a third consecutive year.

Perry was elected mayor during the committee’s 2021 reorganization meeting on Jan. 3. The meeting was held at the municipal building and was broadcast live to the community.

Municipal officials said this marks the first time in more than 45 years that a committee member has served as mayor for three years in a row. Thomas J. Lynch served as mayor from 1972-74.

Committeeman Rick Hibell was elected deputy mayor for 2021, which will be his first time serving in that role.

Under the Township Committee form of government, residents do not directly elect a mayor. Each January, the five members of the committee elect one member to serve as mayor and one member to serve as deputy mayor for the year. The mayor runs the meetings of the municipal government.

The first order of business during Middletown’s reorganization meeting saw Patricia Snell and Ryan Clarke sworn in to begin serving three-year terms. Snell has served on the committee for two-and-a-half years; Clarke is beginning his first term.

They were sworn in by Anthony Fiore, who left the committee in December after serving on the governing body for 12 years.

Perry, Hibell, Snell and Clarke are joined by Kevin Settembrino on the governing body. All five are Republicans.

When all five members of the committee had been seated, Perry was nominated to serve as mayor and elected in a 5-0 vote. The mayor’s oath of office was administered by Thomas A. Arnone, a member of the Monmouth County Board of County Commissioners (formerly the Board of Freeholders).

During his mayor’s address, Perry said he was “humbled to have once again been chosen by my colleagues to serve as mayor.” He welcomed Clarke, who previously served as the township’s fire chief, to the governing body.

“Middletown is in great hands with this committee. Our battle against COVID-19 continues. It did not stop us from doing what we planned to do in 2020 and it will not stop us from doing what we are planning to do in 2021.”

Perry said in 2021, among other initiatives, the township will donate property in the Ideal Beach section of the community to Habitat for Humanity, which will construct an affordable home there at no cost to taxpayers.

He said officials are prepared to close on property in the Campbell’s Junction section of the community where an affordable housing project for veterans will be constructed.

Perry thanked residents who, on Election Day, voted to approve an increase in Middletown’s open space tax rate. He said the additional funds the higher open space tax rate is expected to generate will assist officials in their efforts to acquire and preserve open space parcels in the community.

The mayor said “our new town hall is taking shape and construction will continue on the building.” He said it is possible some municipal departments could move in to the new building later this year.

“Fiscal discipline will remain a top priority of this governing body. I am up here to make sure this community remains a great place to live for all of our families. I am honored to once again serve as mayor of this great town,” Perry said.

Hibell was appointed to the Township Committee in 2018. He has served as a member of the Planning Board and is a second generation fire chief and a life member of the Middletown Township Fire Department, according to information provided by the township.

Following his election as deputy mayor, Hibell said 2020 “was a tough year for everyone, (but) we are going to come through this (pandemic).” He said municipal officials would continue to assist residents and business owners during a recovery from the ongoing health crisis.

Hibell saluted and thanked Middletown’s emergency response volunteers who answered 5,000 calls for assistance during 2020.

Clarke, Snell and Settembrino also made remarks during the reorganization meeting and thanked Middletown’s police officers and employees for their efforts during a year that challenged residents, business owners and the local government, and for their anticipated efforts moving forward in 2021.

Clarke said he became a volunteer firefighter in 1997 and said his time as a firefighter opened doors for him and “all of that has helped prepare me … for this great opportunity.”

Snell said she was “truly humbled for the faith and confidence residents have shown in me … to keep this town of 70,000 people safe and prosperous.”

“We look forward to a return to normalcy in 2021,” Settembrino said.

According to a press release from the township, other accomplishments by the governing body in 2020 included completing turf fields at Nut Swamp Elementary School and Normandy Park, moving forward with the Belford Redevelopment Plan, and providing environmental leadership for the state through its Recycling Education Campaign.

During the reorganization meeting, the committee members reappointed Brian M. Nelson to serve as township attorney. Nelson has served as township attorney since 2009.

The governing body appointed Vlad Berson, Roseann Eteson and Settembrino to one-year terms on the Planning Board; Jay Banasiak to a two-year term on the Planning Board; and Steven Schweizer to a four-year term on the Planning Board.

Committee members appointed Roberta Sheridan to a two-year term as an alternate on the Zoning Board of Adjustment; James Bruncati to a two-year term as an alternate on the zoning board; and Martin Truscott to a four-year term on the zoning board.

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