2006-11-15 / Front Page
Bergen elected Keyport mayor
BY KAREN E. BOWES
Like father, like son.Councilman Robert Bergen will follow in his father's footsteps in becoming Keyport's next mayor. Bergen, whose father, Richard, served as mayor from 1978-85, won the borough's top spot last week, beating out Republican Harry Aumack II by a margin of 104 votes.
Bergen tallied 1,168 votes over Aumack's 1,064. With his fellow Democrats also sweeping the council race, the party will now enjoy complete dominance in Keyport.
As mayor, Bergen said he hopes to initiate more public participation. There will be "more townwide meetings on significant issues," Bergen said on Monday, on issues such as the waterfront and private development, for example.
"I think we have a different agenda," Bergen said.
"We're closing a chapter in Keyport history and opening a new one," Bergen added.
Aumack spoke about his loss.
"We didn't win, that's Keyport," Aumack said. "Keyport's pretty unpredictable."
Aumack believes the national mood set the tone for this year's local elections.
"It may have been trickled down all the way from Washington," Aumack said. "You wouldn't think so but look at what happened with the county. The county lost a Republican seat too."
With such a close election, what factors may have given his opponent the edge?
"I had said from the beginning it would be close and it was," Aumack said. "It's just that we were on the losing side of the close. And Mr. Bergen ran a pretty clever campaign. I have to say, the dog and pony show at the waterfront - that's what it was, a dog and pony show - it was very good. It was very clever. He had contacts. He was able to bring in people from DEP. Put up a fence and a trailer to make it look like something's happening ... but you can't build a bulkhead in Keyport in November, December and January. But it looked good, and a lot of people thought it was progress."
Aumack talked about money too, saying he estimates the Republicans spent about 10 percent compared to the Democrats.
"When you're the in-party you get donations," Aumack said. "On purpose, we didn't go knocking on lawyers' and engineers' doors. We didn't want to be obligated to anyone."
As the incoming mayor, Bergen commented on the ballot's one referendum question, namely: Should the borough allow the continuance of more multi-family housing? Over 71 percent of voters answered no, meaning they were against the practice.
What effect, if any, will this result have on the borough's current practices?
"We cannot actually change anything because the law is what 70 percent of the people want it to be," Bergen said, referring to the borough's current master plan, which does not allow for new multi-family construction.
Still, use variances continue to be granted to developers with plans to build multi-family structures.
"The other night, [the Unified Planning Board] voted to grant another variance for a multi-family housing project, so in terms of the planning board, it doesn't really seem to have changed anything," Bergen said
"We need to get the council more involved in that process so it's not left to the planning board," Bergen said.
Right now, the board is operating "without any set standards," he added, which needs to be corrected.
Bergen has served on the council for 15 years. In recent years, he has acted primarily as the council's financial officer. Bergen is employed as a municipal attorney with the law firm of Gill and Chamas, Woodbridge.