HOWELL – Republican Township Councilman Thomas Russo will serve as Howell’s deputy mayor during 2021.
In the absence of the mayor, the deputy mayor runs the meetings of the Township Council. Russo succeeds Republican Councilwoman Evelyn O’Donnell, who served as deputy mayor during 2020.
Russo and O’Donnell are joined on the council by Democratic Mayor Theresa Berger, Democratic Councilman John Bonevich and Republican Councilwoman Pamela Richmond.
The council held its 2021 reorganization meeting on Jan. 5. After Russo was elected deputy mayor by his fellow members of the governing body, he was sworn in by Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden.
“Thank you to my colleagues for the unanimous support, it does mean a lot. I got to know all of you very well over the last two years and I am looking forward to continuing to work with all of you in doing some great things and working together,” Russo said.
He quoted the film “Miracle,” about the 1980 United States men’s ice hockey team, led by coach Herb Brooks, who was portrayed by Kurt Russell, that won the gold medal in the Lake Placid Winter Olympics.
“This may sound corny, but I was watching ‘Miracle’ and Herb Brooks said, ‘Great moments are born from great opportunity’ and if this past year has taught us anything, there is no shortage of opportunities to do some great things. We had some difficult times, some challenging times, but I believe there are brighter days ahead for Howell and opportunities to do some great things together,” Russo said.
“It is a real honor to be appointed deputy mayor … I am excited to continue my service in my new role. I look forward to continuing my council initiatives as deputy mayor,” he said.
Russo said his initiatives include business recovery and sustainability moving forward; fighting high density development; an internship program with Howell High School that had to take a hiatus due to COVID-19; the promotion of open space policies; assisting local veterans; and leading volunteer efforts to help individuals who have been impacted by COVID.
“However, my main goal right now is to work with the entire governing body to make sure Howell gets through this pandemic with as little negative impact as possible. The health and safety of our residents and the survival of our local and small businesses remain my absolute top priority,” he said.
“I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I love what I am doing right now. Serving in local office allows for more direct contact with the people you serve and I absolutely love that. All I am focused on is being the best deputy mayor I can be, which right now means working together to help lead Howell through this challenging time.
“I am optimistic for 2021. I think Howell and Monmouth County are well positioned for a big comeback. We have some of the most loyal and committed residents who really stepped up during the pandemic; whether it was shopping local and supporting local businesses, or volunteering to assist other residents in need.
“Couple that with dedicated and committed leadership and you have a recipe for success. It won’t be an easy road and we have a way to go, but no doubt we will get there,” Russo said.