MILLSTONE – Two departing members of the Township Committee in Millstone Township have been recognized for their years of public service to the community.
Dec. 15 marked the final meeting for committee members Nancy Grbelja and Gary Dorfman. Neither municipal official sought re-election in 2021. They will be succeeded by incoming Township Committee members Eric Davis and Tara Zabrosky.
Grbelja joined the governing body in 2004 and was its longest-serving member at the time she ended her final term. Grbelja served as mayor nine times, including eight consecutive years from 2006-13, and was the first woman in the township’s history to serve as mayor.
Under Millstone’s form of government, the mayor is not directly elected by residents. Each January, the five members of the Township Committee elect one member of the governing body to serve as mayor for the year.
Dorfman, who served as mayor in 2021, joined the governing body in 2010 and was the second longest serving member. Dorfman also served as mayor in 2018.
Committeeman Chris Morris, who joined the governing body in 2021, spoke about his experiences with Grbelja and Dorfman and their accomplishments.
“Nancy will leave a legacy of dedication to open space, farmland preservation and environmental stewardship,” Morris said. “She was intimately involved with multiple acquisitions of (Monmouth) County properties, which would include Witches Hollow Road, the Millstone Park land, the Thomas Baird Homestead and the current middle school in the adjoining open space.
“I have never worked with somebody who had so much passion and energy,” he continued. “It’s clear that the things we love about this town, Nancy was directly involved in.”
Of Dorfman, Morris said, “It was probably the most fun working with him and the rest of the ad hoc team on creating new programs in Millstone Park. He has been a constant, vigilant steward to the township who always watched the bottom line and focused primarily on keeping our tax rate low.
“I can’t tell you how many times when we have discussions, Gary immediately goes to finances to make sure we are fiscally responsible and it’s clear that effort over the past 12 years has helped our residents.
“I can honestly say I have been proud to work with both of you (Grbelja and Dorfman) this past year. On behalf of the residents of Millstone Township, I want to thank you both for your many years of devotion and service,” Morris said.
Reflecting on her public service, Grbelja said, “Maintaining the rural character of the township, the 10-acre zoning, the preservation, and pushing for preservation with pressures from outside communities created controversy both internally and externally. I don’t believe for a minute that land preservation or historic preservation has been an easy task. It’s been very difficult.
“I am extremely proud of what I have been able to bring forward in Millstone,” she said. “The land preservation, especially the park system we have, the farmland preservation program we have, the trail system, the historic properties, the Barnegat Bay Preserve and Millstone Park.
“The series of documents we developed during a time that was very busy in Millstone Township. The township’s character and quality of life was crafted over the years by a group of like-minded people who believed in each other and had one vision,” she said.
Grbelja credited Planning Board/affordable housing attorney Michael Steib, Township Engineer Matt Shafai, Township Planner Rich Coppola and Township Attorney Duane Davison with helping to establish Millstone’s quality of life.
“Each of them had an integral part in working with the Township Committee in making sure we could develop a plan that serves as the foundation of what we have today and makes this the great community it is,” she said.
Grbelja also thanked township volunteers and officials, including Dorfman, Friends of Millstone Township Historic Registered Properties founding member Pat Butch, former Committeeman Fiore Masci and Monmouth County Commissioner Lillian Burry.
“These friendships have made my life richer and will last forever,” she said. “When you have people like this working side-by-side with you, you can only be successful.
“Even though this may be my last meeting here, I’m not going anywhere and I will still be around making sure our town maintains its character and its rural nature as best as we can. I will be fighting the warehouses and doing what I can to make sure our community survives with the vision we set forward,” Grbelja said.
As he prepared to conclude his service, Dorfman said, “I never imagined I would be here at the end of my 12th year. I became involved within the community when I first moved into town and felt the local municipal government was not really serving the interests of myself, a typical resident at that time.
“I leave 12 years later with a 180-degree different feeling about what our township government now provides. I am very happy that as I leave, it will be in the hands of people who are like-minded,” he said.