In a move that stunned her council colleagues, Kaye Ernst Monday night announced that she’s resigning and moving to Pennsylvania after little more than a year on the Borough Council.
One of two Republicans on the six-member governing body, Ernst cited personal reasons for her decision, including past mistreatment by unnamed others on the council, taxes that have increased more rapidly than her income, and the needs of her retired parents, with whom she’ll be moving to Lord’s Valley, Pa., in the Poconos.
Ernst said that the political atmosphere at Borough Hall had begun to change for the better since the start of the new year, a turnaround she credited to Mayor Pasquale Menna. Still, she said, her personal circumstances compelled her to sell her house and move out of state.
“You cope with your fate as a matter of choice and not chance,” she said, “and I am making the choice to change my life. I no longer feel that I am able to live the life that I want to in the town that I love so much, and in fact, not in the greatest state in America, which is New Jersey. My parents have offered me their unequivocal love and support throught my life, and it is now my privilege to take care of them.”
Ernst’s resignation is expected to become effective after the next council meeting on Feb 12. Her term was to have run through 2008, but the local GOP will now submit three candidates for consideration by the council to fill her seat through this year. The remainder of the term will be up for grabs in November.
Ernst said she’ll recommend that the local Republican party nominate as her successor Mary Grace Cangemi, who was narrowly defeated for an open council seat by Democrat Michael DuPont in November.
Ernst, 38, ran unsuccessfully for the council in 2003 and 2004, and was elected with John Curley, an incumbent who had switched party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, in 2005, outpolling Louis DiMento and Guy T. Maratta.
Her resignation came during a council session in which the heated passions of last year were tamped down, if not absent, as Menna repeatedly interjected himself as a referee when it appeared an argument might erupt between Curley and either DuPont or RJ Bifani. The three had begun to square off over Curley’s proposal regarding a reduction in parking violation fees.
Ernst, who had told Curley about her plans Monday afternoon, and told no other elected officials, prefaced her remarks by saying that her arrival on the council was a disappointing eye-opener. For weeks after taking office, she said, she would put her coat on the floor behind her chair because no other council members told her there was a coat room.
As a member of the minority party, she said, she’d been frozen out of council business, was yelled at for her ideas, and had been physically assaulted a reference to an incident last August in which Councilwoman Sharon Lee was reported to have slapped Ernst on an arm during a heated discussion. (Lee disputes the assertion.)
“To say my experience here has not been what I expected would be an understatement,” Ernst said. “It should not be unpleasant to the degree it has been.”
Yet, Ernst said, she believes, perhaps naively, that “an era of change has begun” under Menna.
“The days of bullying and screaming are over,” she said. “I feel that an era of higher standards has begun. I credit this to our new mayor, and I offer him my gratitude and my full support.”
Still, she said, she had experienced personal difficulties involving rising taxes, and because of her council duties had ignored her family obligations for too long. “It is for this reason that I resign my council seat,” she said.
Her father, a retired Prudential executive, and her mother, a former teacher at the Mechanic Street, River Street and Oakland Street schools, live in the Shadow Lake development in Middletown.
Afterward, Ernst, who is unmarried and has a 10-year-old racing greyhound named Fiona, said that she had sold her home on West Street. “I’ve been fishing in this pond a long time, and it’s time to move on,” she told redbankgreen.
Menna said he was “genuinely shocked and surprised” by Ernst’s decision, and praised her for having become a “sponge” of the public’s expectations.
“On all our behalf, whether people voted for you or against you, I have to express my deepest appreciation,” Menna told her. “I know your heart has always been in the right place.”
Curley joked that Ernst’s departure “is actually going to cost me a lot of money in two years, because I was hoping to recycle the lawn signs” from their 2005 campaign.
“You’re certainly a passionate, fervent and dedicated individual,” Curley told her. “You spoke out when others did not.”
Lee and Bifani also praised Ernst.
“We’ve had our differences, but I will miss you,” Lee said. “”I know you worked hard.”
Here’s the text of Ernst’s resignation speech:
When people ask me how my Council experience has been so far, I always tell them this story: For my first three months on Council, I folded my coat up and put it on the floor because no one would tell me where the coat rack was. Finally, it was Carol [Vivona, Borough Clerk] who took pity on me and told me. To say that it has not been what I expected would be an understatement. I have been yelled at, smacked, and called names.
I naively believed that we would simply put everything aside and do the job we were elected to do. Unfortunately, I have been excluded, left out, and lied to making accomplishing much of anything impossible. While work is rarely pleasant, it should not be unpleasant or at least not to the degree that it has been for me.
Having said that, and unless I am being once again hopelessly naïve, I feel that there has already been a major change for the better. The days of bullying and screaming are over. I feel an era of higher standards has begun. I credit our new mayor for this, and I offer my gratitude and full support.
Over the past two years I have suffered some serious personal setbacks. Life here in Red Bank has become increasingly difficult for me. Not only personally, but financially. For example, my taxes, both local and State, have increased at a greater percentage than my income. Ergo, Im working harder for less.
No one sits at this table without great personal sacrifice. While I have possibly the greatest, most supportive family in the world, I have ignored my family obligations for far too long.
It is for these reasons, and with great regret, that I hereby resign my Council seat to be effective as of close of business of the next Council meeting if, of course, that meets with the Mayors approval.
You hope that your fate is a matter of choice and not chance, and I am making a choice to change my life. I no longer feel that I am able to live the life I want to in the town that I love so much, but also in the greatest state in America; New Jersey. Therefore, I am moving to the Pocono Mountains. My parents have offered me their unequivocal support and care throughout my life. It will now be my privilege to take care of them. Hopefully, they wont ask me to stuff thousands of envelopes for them.
Within the next few days, Councilman Curley and I, along with the Municipal Republican Chair, will be tendering a list of candidates for my replacement. It is my sincere hope that the Mayor accepts our recommendation that Grace Cangemi be selected to fill this seat. If not but for 14 votes, she would be sitting at this table. Also, we believe that she has the background and experience to do a good job for the people of Red Bank. We believe that Grace is the person to continue the work so ably begun by Assemblywoman [Jennifer] Beck, and quite modestly furthered by short tenure. I sincerely hope that the will of the people, and our recommendation, is approved.
Red Bank has many things that no other town in the world has, and I will miss it. But Red Banks greatest asset is the people of Red Bank, and I will miss each and every one of them. I thank you for your support. It has been an honor and a privilege.