HOLMDEL – A charter study commission’s recommendation to institute a new form of government in Holmdel will be the subject of a special election on July 26.
The decision to accept or to reject the commission’s recommendation will rest with Holmdel’s residents, who will vote “yes” or “no” on a referendum question. A simple majority will decide the referendum question.
The members of Holmdel’s charter study commission – Kin Gee, William Kastning, Janet Berk, Gerald Buffalino and Zachary Gilstein – conducted a series of public hearings earlier this year and held their final meeting on May 12.
That night the commission members voted unanimously on two items: one, to file their report with the municipal clerk, and two, to schedule the special election for July 26.
The charter study commission’s recommendations are the following:
• Change from the current Township Committee form of government and adopt the Township Council-Manager form of government;
• Five Township Council members (including a mayor) will be elected at large and not by wards; this would be similar to the current Township Committee form of government;
• The mayor will preside over Township Council meetings, vote with other council members – similar to the current Township Committee – but the mayor will be directly elected by voters and not appointed by the members of the governing body as is currently the case;
• Township Council members, including the mayor, will be elected to serve a four-year term on a staggered basis every two years;
• A professional manager will be appointed by the Township Council members. The manager will run the day-to-day administration of Holmdel in accordance with the will and intent of the council — very similar to the current township administrator;
• The manager can be removed by a simple majority (three votes) of the Township Council, unlike the current two-thirds requirement (four votes) to remove the administrator;
• Elections for the Township Council will be held on a nonpartisan basis, similar to current elections for members of the Holmdel Township Schools Board of Education. If they wish, candidates can campaign and make known their political party affiliation;
• Under the Township Council-Manager form of government, Holmdel residents will have the opportunity to introduce a local ordinance or to reject an ordinance that has been adopted by the council through a petition process known as Initiative and Referendum.
If a majority of residents vote “no” on July 26, Holmdel will retain its Township Committee form of government and partisan elections.
Six residents who are already on the general election ballot will seek two three-year terms on the governing body on Nov. 8: Republicans Kimberley LaMountain and Brian Foster; Democrats Barbara Singer and Rahul Diddi; and independents Prakash Santhana, who is currently serving on the Township Committee, and Rajesh Mohan.
If a majority of residents vote “yes” on July 26, Holmdel will switch to a new nonpartisan form of municipal government beginning in January.
A new filing deadline will be established for residents who want to run for mayor and the other four seats on the new Township Council, said Gee, who chaired the charter study commission. Those individuals will not run under the banner of a political party.
The person who is elected mayor on Nov. 8 will serve a four-year term from Jan. 1, 2023 through Dec. 31, 2026. The mayor will be a member of the new Township Council.
The other four individuals who are elected on Nov. 8 will comprise the remainder of the new governing body with the new mayor.
By random draw, one of those four individuals will serve a four-year council term and the remaining three individuals will serve two-year council terms, Gee said.
In 2024, the three council seats that were initially two-year terms will be on the ballot as four-year terms.
In 2026, the mayor’s seat and the one council seat that was randomly drawn as a four-year term will be on the ballot as four-year terms.
Holmdel currently operates under the Township Committee form of government. There are five members of the committee, all of whom are elected at large and any of whom may be identified by their affiliation with a political party (i.e., Democrat or Republican).
Independent candidates may also seek municipal office under the current form of government.
Holmdel’s mayor is not directly elected by voters. Instead, each January, the five members of the Township Committee elect one individual who sits on the governing body to serve as mayor for the year. The mayor runs the Township Committee meetings.
Under the proposed form of government, voters would directly elect the mayor, who would serve a four-year term.