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RED BANK: DEMOCRATS CLOSE OUT ERA

mike-dupont-121615-2-500x362-6701024Councilman Mike DuPont at his final council meeting Wednesday night. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

hot-topic_03-220x138-2130637A 25-year run of Democratic rule in Red Bank entered its final phase at a low-key borough council meeting Wednesday night.

Councilman Mike DuPont delivered his swan song after three terms, having been defeated by a Republican, Mike Whelan, who wasn’t yet born when the Democrats attained their current majority in 1990.

DuPont lost to Whelan, 971 to 968, in a low-turnout election that  that went into recount.

In his parting remarks, DuPont thanked a number of borough employees, including chief financial officer Eugenia Poulos, with whom he helped craft a series of budgets, including this year’s, which held the line on taxes for the first time in memory.

DuPont, who previously served a long stint on the zoning board, described himself to the audience as “someone who leaves you not sadly — I need to go home — but with great appreciation for the opportunity to serve.”

DuPont was first elected in 2006 on a ticket with Art Murphy, then an incumbent councilman, and Pasquale Menna, a longtime councilman who won the mayor’s seat he has held since then.

Whelan and running mate Mark Taylor are scheduled to take office at the annual borough government reorganization meeting scheduled for noon on Saturday, January 2. They’ll join fellow Republicans Cindy Burnham and Linda Schwabenbauer and Democrats Kathy Horgan and Ed Zipprich on the dais.

Republicans will have control of the council, four votes to two, their first majority since 1989. As mayor, Menna votes on council matters only in the event of a tie.

Also departing was interim Councilwoman Sharon Lee, appointed to fill the vacancy created by Murphy’s resignation in August. Lee had previously served three terms on the council, before losing to Burnham in 2013. Her return marked the first time women constituted a council majority in the borough’s 107-year history.

Both DuPont and Menna left Wednesday’s meeting early, but not before the council approved yet another extension of a moratorium on fees paid by developers for parking shortfalls, a measure that has been credited as enabling the downtown’s comeback from the global debt crisis of 2008.

The moratorium was adopted in August, 2010, and has been repeatedly renewed, this time for 90 days. DuPont was alone among council members in pushing for another full-year renewal, an idea endorsed by Red Bank RiverCenter executive director Jim Scavone, who said it may have been the single most important factor in the business district’s bounceback from the recession.

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