John Ekdahl, right, with former Red Bank Mayor Ed McKenna at the groundbreaking last September for an addition to the Count Basie Center for the Arts, where they serve on an advisory board. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
By JOHN T. WARD
After 14 years at the helm of Rumson’s municipal government, John Ekdahl retired as mayor last week.
Ekdahl and his wife, Lolly, at the Red Bank Mayor’s Ball in 2016, and with Governor Chris Christie in Sea Bright in 2012 in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
Stepping down with a year-and-a-half remaining in his current term, Ekdahl, 72, closed out a career in government that began with his appointment to the borough council in 1995 and his election, in 2003, to succeed Charles ‘Chillie’ Callman as mayor.
Ekdahl’s current term was to have run through 2019, but he found the lure of a new vacation home in Ponte Vedra, Florida — located in the same neighborhood as his son and his family, and near the 17th hole of a golf course — hard to resist, he told redbankgreen.
Having spent about six weeks there, off and on, this past winter, Ekdahl said he anticipated spending more time in Florida, and “it just wasn’t fair to stay” as mayor in Rumson.
A borough resident for 61 years, Ekdahl cited the challenge of getting the town back on its feet after Hurricane Sandy in October, 2012 as the greatest of his time in office.
“We were without power for three weeks, with $8 million worth of damage to our infrastructure,” he said. “God knows how many truckloads of tree limbs we hauled away. It took us six months to get back to normalcy.”
He also noted the hiring of municipal government novice Tom Rogers as the town’s administrator early in his mayoral term, and overseeing the development of a new $8.5 million municipal complex, on-budget and on-schedule, among the high points of his tenure.
A regular in downtown Red Bank, where he continues to work in the securities industry, Ekdahl also served until recently on the boards of directors of the Count Basie Center for the Arts and the Community YMCA; he now serves on an advisory board at the Basie. Ekdahl also served on the Fort Hancock 21st Century Federal Advisory Committee, from which he has stepped down.
At its May 22 meeting, the council appointed its president, borough native Joe Hemphill, to serve as mayor for the duration of 2018, and Councilwoman Laura Atwell to succeed Hemphill as council president.
A mayoral election is expected to be added to a November ballot that also features three council seats: those now held by Hemphill, John Conklin and Mark Rubin.