Freeholder Curley Mulls Independent Run; Scharfenberger Joins Board

February 12, 2018
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Gerry Scharfenberger, left, is pictured with Monmouth County Freeholder Director Tom Arnone at a ribbon-cutting in Middletown in January 2017. Scharfenberger was appointed last weekend to fill a vacancy on the Freeholder Board left by Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso after her election in November.

By Jay Cook |

Monmouth County Freeholder John P. Curley is contemplating a re-election run later this year but may do so without an ‘R’ next to his name for the first time since his days in Red Bank.

Curley did not receive Republican support to run on this year’s party line for the Monmouth County Freeholder seat he currently holds, a decision made during the county’s Republican committee convention at iPlay America in Freehold last Saturday. Republicans instead tapped Hazlet Deputy Mayor Sue Kiley, a two-term elected official, for the nomination.

Curley said he was not even introduced as a possible candidate at the convention. And in the wake, Curley told The Two River Times, “I’m looking at my options, looking also at a potential independent run.” Curley, who currently sits as a Republican on the Freeholder board, said he would also have to look at his financial sources.

County GOP chairman Shaun Golden, who also serves in an elected office as Monmouth County Sheriff, sent a letter to Republicans in December asking them not to support Curley in the upcoming election. Curley was censured by the Freeholder board in December after a report by a retired Superior Court judge allegedly found he sexually harassed county employees through “salacious and vulgar statements,” a resolution of the censure read.

But Curley has vowed to stand his ground and support the same principles he always has.

“I never played into the so-called ‘Club Monmouth’ and I don’t answer to political bosses. I vote my conscience,” he said. “That’s the way I’ve always been, even when I was a councilman in Red Bank and obviously as a freeholder.”

“Club Monmouth” was the moniker given to Republicans in the wake of the Operation Bid Rig investigation where federal authorities investigated rampant political patronage between businessmen and elected officials over the past decade.

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Early in his political career Curley ran as a Democrat in Red Bank before switching to the Republican party in the early-2000s.

***BOLDMiddletown and Hazlet Represented***

After state Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso (R-13) left the Freeholder board last month to take her position in Trenton, the GOP also elected one of their own to fill her vacancy – former Middletown mayor and committeeman Gerry Scharfenberger.

Scharfenberger, a 14-year elected official in Middletown, stepped down from the township’s governing body on Saturday after he was unanimously picked and subsequently sworn in to the Freeholder board.

“I’m at a point now where it was probably now or never,” Scharfenberger told The Two River Times. “With the chance to serve on the county board, I can still do a lot of good things for Middletown, but also do things on a regional level, too.”

Because he is filling a vacated seat, Scharfenberger’s term ends after 2018. He said he and Kiley would be running mates for the 2018 freeholder election. The Two River Times reported last month that Scharfenberger and Kiley would be the GOP’s odds-on favorites for the 2018 election.

After being elected for the first time in 2004, Scharfenberger served as mayor six times and deputy mayor twice, he said. He currently works for the state as director for the Office of Planning Advocacy and is executive director of the New Jersey Business Action Center, as well as being an anthropology professor at Monmouth University.

Scharfenberger said some specific achievements stand out during his tenure in Middletown. Most notably, overseeing the opening of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s second freestanding outpatient center in New Jersey; moving township dispatch calls to county supervision last year; and the preservation of both the Chris’ Marina property along the Swimming River and the Coe Property in the Chapel Hill section of town – both of which are now dedicated open space.

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“I’m hoping to have the same success I had in Middletown at the county level,” he said, while adding he’s confident in the current committee moving forward.

Kiley, his running mate this year, is viewed as a rising star in the local Republican party. A two-term elected official, she is currently Hazlet’s deputy mayor and served as mayor in 2017. If she wins the election, Kiley said she would be the first Hazlet representative on the Freeholder board.

“Hazlet is my first priority, and just being at the county just increases my ability to help my own town,” she said.

“I’ve always said I will do whatever is best for my town and my party,” she added.

Kiley oversaw a zero percent tax increase over the past two years in Hazlet and also touted the opening of a township Disabled American Veterans (DAV) office for veterans’ services in Town Hall.

***BOLDThe Democrats***

While their convention isn’t until March 3, Monmouth County Democrats are starting to game plan for 2018. Holmdel resident and frequent Democratic candidate Lawrence Luttrell confirmed to The Two River Times that he intends to run for the Freeholder board this year.

Luttrell ran unsuccessfully for freeholder in 2013 and 2014, and also lost a bid for township committee in Holmdel last year.

During his previous county campaigns, Luttrell said he pushed for selling the two county-owned nursing homes. That eventually happened in 2016, but he alleged taxpayers didn’t see that $32 million price tag return to them.

“You have people struggling to pay their taxes and you have to choose between buying food or paying your taxes,” Luttrell said this week.

Luttrell said he is unaware of who will be his potential running mate, which will be determined in March.


This article was first published in the Feb. 8-15, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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