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RED BANK: ZIPPRICH WON’T SEEK NEW TERM

ballard-zipprich-121422-500x375-3039431Councilman Ed Zipprich, right, with Councilman Michael Ballard in December. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

hot-topic_03-220x138-9108919Five-term incumbent Red Bank Councilmember Ed Zipprich won’t run for a seat in the new form of government he opposed, according to a news report.

In recent years, Zipprich has been a lightning rod for controversy as the the Democratic party, which dominates borough politics, split into warring tribes under his leadership.

ed-zipprich-103022-2-500x375-8260184Zipprich with parks and rec director Oscar Salinas at the 2022 Halloween Parade, above, and at the Mayor’s Ball in 2015, below. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

ed-zipprich-050115-220x165-1973834In an announcement first reported Sunday by Tap Into Red Bank, Zipprich said he won’t run in the May 9 election, in which voters will choose a mayor and six council members.

He cited a number of personal challenges, including a “2019 cancer battle, followed by a nearly lethal pulmonary embolism the same year,” and the recent death of his mother, for helping him to “realize that life truly is short.

“I now want to dedicate myself to enjoying my husband, our daughter and son in-law, our families, friends and our lives,” Zipprich wrote. “I’m very grateful to the voters of Red Bank for their stalwart support and plan to remain an active, politically engaged civilian.”

Zipprich was elected to the council in 2008, one year after he came up short in a special election. He went on to win four more three-year terms.

His present term, which he won in 2020, was to have run through 2023, but voter approval of a November, 2022 referendum to change the form of government this year means that all elected positions will be open in the special election.

Zipprich, who succeeded former mayor Ed McKenna as chairman of the local Democratic organization, had opposed the referendum, which also authorized nonpartisan elections, making it easier to candidates to get on the ballot without party vetting.

Last July Councilwoman Kate Triggiano wrested control of the Democratic party from Zipprich. From early on in her 2018 arrival on the council, Triggiano and Zipprich have been locked in battle, with factions forming around each and the balance of power shifting from one to the other.

Among the issues over which the sides have clashed: the power of the borough administrator; the fate of the Redevelopment Agency; repairs to the Senior Center; alleged meddling in a trash contract; and the selection of Angela Mirandi to fill a vacant seat a year ago.

During the 2022 Charter Study Commission hearings, Zipprich fought to preserve the “borough” form of government in place since 1908 and its council committee system, which opponents said was rife with opportunities for meddling by politicians.

A 2018 ordinance that boosted the authority of the borough administrator resulted in “a government with an executive operating officer who called all the shots and ultimately dictated to the council what needed to be voted on, what pieces of legislation were being put forward, and in essence, the council became a rubber-stamped congress,” Zipprich told the commission last March.

He also opposed nonpartisan elections, which the commission later recommended, and voters overwhelmingly approved in November.

Zipprich also clashed with Monmouth County Democratic Chairman David G. Brown II, who publicly blasted him for “egregious behavior” when Zipprich tried to derail the candidacy of political newcomer Billy Portman after his upset victory in the June, 2022 Democratic primary.

Zipprich “has not put the Democratic Party first – he continues to put his personal agenda first,” Brown said at the time.

Zipprich appeared to acknowledge the controversies in his statement.

“In my five terms on Council I’ve been both praised and attacked, but never once have I veered from my pledge to the voters of Red Bank: to dedicate my service to keeping Red Bank the great little town we all love to call home,” he wrote.

Zipprich now leads an alliance of Angela Mirandi, Michael Ballard, Jacqueline Sturdivant and new member John Jackson, leaving  Triggiano marginalized on council matters requiring a vote. As mayor, Triggiano ally Portman has no vote, except to break ties.

So far, two incumbents – Triggiano and Portman –  have announced their plans to run. They’re part of the self-styled “Red Bank’s Ready” slate, announced February 5, that also includes Kristina Bonatakis, David Cassidy, Nancy Facey-Blackwood, Ben Forest and Laura Jannone.

Cedar Street resident Sue Viscomi was the only other resident to submit candidacy petitions as of Friday, according to Clerk Laura Reinertsen.

To get on the ballot, candidates must submit a minimum 78 petitions signed by registered borough voters by March 6.

Among his achievements as council member, Zipprich cited his work to create the Washington Street Historic District, save the T. Thomas Fortune House from likely demolition and restore the Red Bank train station.

“He was instrumental in the preservation of the Red Bank Senior Center and worked to obtain full federal funding under the Obama Administration’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to rebuild Red Bank’s water treatment plant,” his announcement said. “He is currently working hard to ensure that lead service water lines are replaced throughout the town by tapping into federal funds now available under the Biden Administration’s Inflation Reduction Act.”

“As Red Bank’s first openly gay council member, Zipprich has long championed the rights of the LGBTQ community at the local, state and national levels,” it said.

Regarding his work as party chairman, Zipprich said he “created the most diverse committee in town history and was the first to appoint two women to the committee after the statute changed to allow district leader seats to be occupied by people of the same sex.”

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