FAIR HAVEN — By a 5-0 vote last Monday, the governing body appointed Councilman Benjamin J. Lucarelli to fill the unexpired term of former Mayor Michael Halfacre, who left municipal office to accept an appointment as Director of the State Alcoholic Beverage Control Division under Governor Chris Christie.
Lucarelli was one of three candidates seeking the mayoral appointment, along with fellow Councilman Jonathan Peters and former councilman Andrew Trocchia.
At the special meeting Monday, Peters announced that due to work obligations he would not continue his pursuit of the mayoral appointment and threw his support behind Lucarelli.
Lucarelli, who operates a commercial real estate and property management firm in Red Bank, was named to fill a council vacancy in Jan. 2009, winning a full three-year term that November.
Following his swearing in as mayor, Lucarelli thanked Peters, who has more council experience, saying Peters “was very magnanimous” in offering his support. Peters thanked the other council members for their support as well.
“Our biggest challenge will be to maintain momentum,” established in the borough under the previous mayor, which resulted in reduction of the municipal tax rate and other improvements.
After the brief meeting, Lucarelli said that “the agenda will be to maintain our cost cutting, cost saving measures.”
Issues the council will have to address in the future, he said, concern purchasing property on DeNormandie Avenue for a recreational use and re-evaluating the borough’s tree preservation ordinance, two issues that have been debated in the past.
Lucarelli and Peters, like the other four council members, and Halfacre are Republicans. But the two council members have found themselves holding differing views on the tree ordinance.
“I’m a libertarian at heart,” said Lucarelli, explaining that he believes property owners should have wide latitude on what they wish to do with their property.
Peters, who has served on the council for seven years, holds a contrasting view. “I’m adamant. I believe we should protect those trees.”
The council plans to review the tree ordinance, possibly in late spring, and make a decision whether or not to repeal it and establish a new ordinance.
Lucarelli will serve as mayor until the end of the year. He said that he plans to run for election in November to serve out the remaining two years of the current four-year term.