By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
On the dais was Rowland Wilhelm, who somewhat unexpectedly found himself on the election ballot in November following the death of Councilman John Lehnert.
And borough Administrator Mary Howell, right, was at her usual seat in front of the dais, taking notes and answering questions from the audience, even though she gave notice in September that her last day on the job was to be December 31.
Howell doesn’t expect to be in Fair Haven much longer, though.
Mayor Mike Halfacre, who was sworn in for his second term Saturday, said the search for a new administrator has taken longer than expected, but anticipates a hire by the council’s next meeting, on January 24.
Since September, the administration has interviewed nearly a dozen prospective replacements out of about 80 applicants, he said.
“We have found qualified candidates. We have not found candidates that want our terms,” Halfacre said.
Howell, after giving birth to her first child, voluntarily reduced her role to part-time last year to spend more time with her family. That included a pay cut, from $105,000 to $50,000 a year, thereby saving the borough money as Clerk Allyson Cinquegrana picked up the rest of Howell’s duties. In September, Howell announced she wanted to be a full-time mother.
“Kids are only small for so long,” she said. “Work will be here forever.”
Halfacre said Howell agreed to stay with the borough until it hires a replacement.
While Howell is a short-timer, Rowland Wilhelm expects to be a familiar face for at least the next three years.
The Navy veteran was sworn in for a three-year term Saturday, filling the seat left vacant by Lehnert, who took his life in September. Wilhelm, 45, said Lehnert decided just prior to his death not to run for re-election, thereby opening the door for Wilhelm to make his first foray into politics.
“The circumstances are unfortunate,” he said. “Two years ago I would’ve thought myself crazy if I said I was going to be a politician.
“I was following politics. I decided it’s easy to throw barbs, and I wanted to see if I could catch the barbs.”
Wilhelm said among his goals for his term are to keep taxes down while maintaining a high level of service that’s expected in Fair Haven. After one resident, Dan Chernavsky, beat up the council for deciding to outsource its trash collection and switch its emergency dispatch to the county, saying, “we’re losing everything we have that makes Fair Haven special,” Wilhelm said it’s going to be a difficult balancing act to satisfy residents given the new two-percent property tax cap.
“We can cut the hell out of stuff but the taxes are not going down because of the state,” he said. “We’ve just got to cut.”
“I’m not saying I’d totally overturn it, but I’d definitely change its scope,” he said.
Also at the meeting, the council voted to keep Jon Peters as council president.