With an assist from Councilwoman Susan Sorensen, Betsy Koch, right, takes her seat for the first time as a council member during a meeting held at the Knollwood School, where she’s a teacher. Members of the student council were also on the dais. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)


Less than a three weeks after a narrow loss at the polls, Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Koch won unanimous appointment to the Fair Haven council Monday.

She replaces Councilman Rowland Wilhelm, who stepped down with two years remaining on his third three-year term.

Knollwood students at Monday’s ‘Marchese meeting,’ named for the councilman who initiated the school meeting tradition. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

Koch, who ran as a Republican, came in third in a four-way race for two council seats in the November 7 election, garnering 1,166 votes, according to the final figures released by the Monmouth County Clerk. Democratic incumbent Chris Rodriguez tallied 1,227 votes, and Koch’s running mate, incumbent Susan Sorensen, notched 1,174. Rodriguez’s running mate, Jessica Patel, was fourth, with 1,090 votes.

Also nominated to fill Wilhelm’s seat through 2018 were Erin Magovern and former councilman James Banahan.

Koch’s formal selection and swearing-in took place during an annual afternoon council session held at the Knollwood School, where she’s been a teacher for 23 years. All four of her children went through the school, she told redbankgreen.

“It’s overwhelming,” she said of the appointment. “Losing, and then having the opportunity to come back to council to replace Rowland Wilhelm is an honor. And to have the privilege of accepting this nomination in front of my students is an amazing experience.”

She said the events of recent weeks could serve as an example to students that “things work out —  you can lose and still win.”

Her selection had additional meaning as well, she said.  Her late husband, Jerome Koch, was serving as a councilman at the time of his death from a bicycling accident in November, 2014.

“I feel that I am kind of following in his footsteps. It’s an honor,” she said.

The meeting, informally referred to as the Marchese meeting after Councilman Bob Marchese, who initiated the tradition several years ago, gave the school’s eighth-graders and social studies classes from the sixth and seventh grades an opportunity to see local government in action.