Img_4979Councilman and freeholder-wannabe John Curley.

Several times during the bimonthly Red Bank council meeting on Monday, Mayor Pasquale Menna wryly referred to Councilman John Curley — his Republican opponent in the 2006 mayoral race — as “the future Monmouth County Freeholder.”

It can often seem that there’s no love lost between the Democrats and the council’s senior GOP representative; in fact, Menna has a far more cordial relationship with Curley than former Mayor Ed McKenna did. But Menna insists that he’s dead serious about Curley’s chances. In fact, he says he thinks a Curley victory is inevitable.

“He’s going to win,” Menna tells redbankgreen. “He’s going to be the next freeholder.”


“Because he’s going to be campaigning 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he says, alluding to Curley’s reputation for relentless shoe-leather canvassing. “And frankly, I’m not sure what his opponents will be like.”

Curley is paired on the GOP ticket with incumbent Lillian Burry as the Republicans try to maintain their 3-2 majority in Freehold. They’ll face Democrats Amy Mallet of Fair Haven and Glenn Mason of Hazlet.

redbankgreen spoke with Curley recently to get his thoughts on grabbing for the next rung of the political ladder.

You’ve been elected as a Democratic councilman and re-elected as a Republican, and now you’ve decided not to run for council again, even though you’re in a pretty solid position here. So you’re your taking a bit of political risk. If you lose, you’re out entirely.

Yes. I’m taking the full gamut. I want to move onto the county. I feel I can do some wonderful things there. Our platforms as Republicans in Red Bank have previously been defeated, and I feel that perhaps I can do some wonderful things with 53 municipalities rather than just one.

I’ll certainly always be supportive of Red Bank as a freeholder — I’ll do anything I can do to bring in money and support to Red Bank.

Is there a sense of disappointment then about your time on the council?

Well, I think there are many wonderful things that we were able to do, and that Red Bank would be drastically different had I not been there. There’d be a helipad in the middle of the Navesink River. I challenged that, went out, knocked on doors and got the [McKenna] administration to back off. I went and changed the time of at least one council meeting; I went door-to-door with Judy Hatahaway, got signatures and pounded away to get it to a 7:30 start [as opposed to 5:30p] so more people could be involved. I was he one who went out and knocked on 1,600 doors to stop the solid-waste transfer station from being built in town. I challenged a lot of the development projects and forced them to go for fewer variances and make their projects smaller.

I just think we’ve made a drastic difference. I’ve watched the budget very closely over the years, even though going back a couple of years ago when I ran for mayor I was accused of this, that and the other thing. Which was not true.

Still, you must feel stymied.

I feel stymied, yes, in the sense that I called for running Red Bank like a business. I felt that this had turned into a small city and we needed to operate Red Bank in a business sense and in fact run it like a city, where people are responsive. You can overbuild a town to such a degree that you overrun your infrastructure, not just roads and sewers, but the services. You fall short in public works, you fall short in police, you fall short in first aid. So yes, there is a certain level of ‘stymied-ness,’ if I can say.

What was it that convinced you to take this risk?

Well, I think Monmouth County’s a great place to live. I’m a fourth-generation county resident. The Republican party is what has built the county. And I wanted to go an unite the Republican party and move to reform — get new people, new faces. In essence, a new generation of people.

Does that mean that you’re identifying more as a Republican than you have in the past, when you said your party affiliation was more a flag of convenience?

No. ‘Flag of convenience’ — I probably misused that term. I’ve come to know what it’s like and why the country is the way it is today, and I’m very proud of that background. Because my dad used to pull me around to all the Republican events. I met Gov. Cahill, and I remember Freeholder Director Joe Irwin, who used to be called ‘Mr. Monmouth County.’ There were so many wonderful people, and to me they were giants. And to me, this was an opportunity that I always wanted to do, to get involved in county government.

I paid my dues here. I love our town. I wish we had done some things differently, and I still do, to maintain our tax rate and that our debt service doesn’t get any higher. That’s of worry to me.

This is a year in which at the council level, the best the Republicans can do is to hold onto the two seats they’ve got. So it’s yours to lose, essentially. Do you think the party’s in good shape?

I do. We have some fine people running. Grace Cangemi has given herself this past year —she’s a consummate professional, intelligent, articulate. John Tyler is a very dedicated person. He’s a guy who walks his neighborhood, he wants to see change, he want to see quality of life for the people that live in the community.

On Jan. 1, you could be sitting at home watching bowl games instead of going to the borough council reorganization or taking the oath of office in Freehold.

That’s a possibility. I’m very fine with that. You can’t guide your life by elections. You can go out and express yourself, and if the people are not interested in that viewpoint, they’re obviously not going to vote for you.

Mayor Menna is convinced you’re a slam-dunk winner for freeholder.

Well, I don’t know what poll the mayor uses, but I certainly welcome his thoughts and hope he’s right. But I know I have to work very, very hard with 53 municipalities to campaign in. I’m hoping to hit all 53 in one way or another.

By not running for council, you’ve made it easy for Ed McKenna, who said he wanted to get rid of the two “bums” on the council, meaning you and Grace Cangemi.

Well, I’m sorry that Mayor McKenna thinks I’m a bum. I’m sure there are plenty of other people who think that, too. But God bless him. I wish him all the best.

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