By Art Gallagher
Oceanport Administrator John Bennett is applying to keep the job that he announced his retirement from in October.
Bennett’s retirement is effective December 31. When I met him at Oceanport’s temporary Borough Hall today, there was no signs of him slowing down. He was working with a borough employee on the town’s debt amortization schedule when I arrived. Over lunch he was excited about the future of Oceanport and proud of what he’s accomplished in his two years as administrator. He was also well aware the that town needs to heal the divisions…that he is in the center of….that resulted in Mayor Michael Mahon going from being unopposed for reelection last month to being defeated by write-in candidate Jay Coffey. “I promised I would give 110% until my last day,” for former Senate President and Acting Governor said.
Bennett is hopeful that his last day will come after December 31. “I love being an administrator,” he said, “I wish I had done this earlier in my career. I submitted my application for the job.”
He also loves Oceanport. He bought a home in the borough last April and where one of his daughters is closing on a home there this month. He said he turned down two offers to be the administrator elsewhere…one in Monmouth County and one in Ocean County..earlier this year before the controversy over his contract, his legal work in other towns and disagreements with members of the Council over Fort Monmouth led the uproar that eventually drove Mahon out of office.
“I didn’t want to be an issue in the campaign,” he said in explaining why he announced his retirement in October from a job he loves. “If Mike (Mahon) had won, I anticipated staying on. ”
20 people have applied for his job so far. He anticipates another 20 applications before the December 18 deadline to apply. He is hopeful that Coffey and the Council will keep him on temporarily, and come to the conclusion that he is the best candidate.
“I don’t see how they can choose a replacement in the 13 days from the 18th to the 31st. Maybe if after a couple of months they will decided I am the best one for the job.” He said he would only stay if there a consensus on his employment. “The town has to heal. Whether the administrator is me or someone else, there should be agreement on the Council.”
Bennett is not sure what he will do if he is not asked to stay in Oceanport. “I want to work as long as I am able.” He could go back to practicing law or apply for an administrator job in another small town, should one open up.
He says he is sure that he will not reenter the political arena. Asked he would run for Monmouth County Chairman again, Bennett laughed and said, “I’m done with politics. Shaun Golden won fair and square. We have our differences but he’s been good to Oceanport (with shared services agreements) and kept his word.”