By John Burton
LITTLE SILVER – As the Sept. 13 deadline for the printing of the November general election ballot loomed, the Monmouth County Republican chairman selected Dr. Rick Scott to run in place of Councilman Jonathan Bitman, who died on Sept. 4.
Scott, 56, of Point Road, who is married and has three children, has lived in the borough for 20 years. He is an orthopedic surgeon and has served on the borough planning board for three years, according to Mayor Robert C. Neff Jr.
John O.Bennett III, county Republican chair, who is also the borough attorney, said earlier in the week that he would confer with the municipal chair to select a replacement to meet the Sept. 13 window to be placed on the ballot. “I expect there will be a consensus,” on his selection, Bennett said.
According to a statement issued by Neff, Bennett discussed the selection of Scott with the two other GOP council candidates. They agreed with Bennett’s pick.
“The circumstances surrounding this opportunity are certainly difficult, but I am excited about the challenge and am looking forward to getting the message out,” said Scott in a prepared statement.
Scott is replacing Bitman, 52, who had been battling pancreatic cancer. He had been on the borough council since 2003.
Scott will be seeking a full three-year term, running with incumbent David Gilmour, current council president who is also running for a full term.
Also on the Republican ticket is incumbent Donald Galante. Galante, who had previously served on the council, was appointed in 2011 to fill the vacancy created when Neff became mayor. Galante is running for the one-year left on Neff’s council term.
Also running for a council seat is Daniel Levine, an Independent candidate, who was elected to a three-year term in 2008 and ran against Neff for mayor last year.
No Democrats filed to run.
The council still has to name a replacement for Bitman for the remainder of this year. Under state statute the county committee has 15 days from the time the vacancy was created to submit three candidates to the governing body. The council
then has 15 days to make its selection, according to Rick DeNoia, the Republican municipal chair.
The county committee held a meeting on Sunday, Sept. 9, to offer the names, according to DeNoia.
The council at its Sept. 10 meeting decided to not take action, in deference to the Bitman family, Bennett said.
The council will vote at its Sept. 24 meeting to fill that vacancy, Bennett said.
It would not be too large of leap to assume that Scott would be selected by a majority of the five-member council, giving him something of a political leg up, as a sitting member.
The current council makeup is 4-1 with Republicans holding the majority and with one Democrat.