By Charles Layton
Mary Beth Jahn told the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association on Saturday that she should be re-elected to a third term on the Township Committee because of her hard work for constituents.
“I am someone who is more dynamic, I go to more functions, I respond to more emails, more constituent problems,” she said.
The audience of approximately 50 Ocean Grovers seemed to agree. In comments from the floor, they responded with an outpouring of support, including specific examples of Jahn’s quick responses to their particular problems.
“I’ve never had a public official respond to me the way you do,” Susan Taylor said. “For one thing, it’s instantaneous.”
Ray DeFaria gave Jahn credit for the quick response by police following the theft of a treasured family heirloom, a wedding ring. He said Jahn took a personal, hands-on interest in the theft, and the ring was recovered.
Joan Cruz suggested that, although the Home Owners Association is a non-partisan group, individual members should write letters to local newspapers supporting Jahn.
Jahn is engaged in a tough fight in the June 5 Democratic primary. She is one of three candidates competing for two seats on the Township Committee — a race that has split the Neptune Democratic Party bitterly. (For background, go here and here and here.) The Neptune Democrats have not endorsed Jahn; the Monmouth County Democratic Party has endorsed her.
Saturday’s meeting had been billed as a “candidates’ forum,” but the other two candidates in the primary race, Dr. Michael Brantley and Nicholas Williams, declined to appear. The audience expressed some resentment that these candidates were unwilling to speak to their organization, although their refusals were somewhat understandable given the degree of Jahn’s support among the membership. Not a single person had a negative word to say against her.
Jahn declined several opportunities to criticize Brantley and Williams because they were not present and “it wouldn’t be fair.” Instead, she emphasized some of her own history as a committeewoman. She cited her opposition to condo development at the North End, her support for a strong police force (she has twice served as police commissioner) and her work as the Township Committee’s liaison to the Township’s finance department.
She said the reason she has taken the lead on the issue of derelict buildings in Ocean Grove is that Mayor Randy Bishop had been criticized by one particularly intractable owner, Marshall Koplitz, as having a conflict of interest because he lives in Ocean Grove and owns a bed and breakfast here.
Asked by people in the audience why she and Neptune party officials had parted ways, Jahn repeated her assertion that the split was mainly over her refusal to back James Manning Jr., a former Neptune mayor, for the position of business administrator. Many party leaders have sided with Manning, whom Jahn says she considers unqualified for the post.
Another member of the Township Committee, Eric Houghtaling, spoke briefly in support of Jahn, calling her “a vital asset to the township.” Another Township Committee member, Kevin McMillan, is working for Jahn’s two opponents. Mayor Bishop, on the other hand, is backing Jahn. Neither Bishop nor McMillan were at Saturday’s meeting.