By Donald Wittkowski
Councilman William Kehner, whose experience in Sea Isle City politics dates to the late 1970s, was appointed president of the five-member governing body Tuesday during its annual reorganization.
Kehner, 68, a Republican currently in his third term on City Council, previously served as president two other times. Prior to joining Council in 2007, he had served on Sea Isle’s former city commission style of government from 1977 to 1981.
Council members select their president, a post traditionally held for 12 months. The president conducts the meetings, oversees the agenda and acts as chief spokesperson for Council.
Kehner made it clear he has no plans to use the position as a political platform or to elevate his stature.
“I feel I’m just the chief spokesman for the taxpayer and the public. I’m here to represent them, not to promote myself,” he said in an interview after the meeting.
Kehner replaces Jack Gibson, who served as president in the past 12 months and now becomes vice president, a position that traditionally rotates among Council members every three months.
In parting remarks Tuesday during his last meeting as president, Gibson thanked his fellow Council members and other city officials for their support over the past 12 months.
“I was proud to serve this year,” Gibson said.
Minutes before he was unanimously named president, Kehner praised Gibson and expressed hope that his successor “can serve in his footsteps.”
As the vote started for president, Kehner appeared surprised that he was nominated. When it came time to vote for himself, Kehner said, “I guess yes” and smiled.
After the meeting, Kehner explained that he wasn’t absolutely sure he would be named president until he was officially nominated.
Kehner now plans to speak with Mayor Leonard Desiderio’s administration about key issues facing the city before setting his priorities as the new president.
“I want to sit down with the administration to see which way they are leaning and to see if what I’m thinking about will work out,” he said.
Kehner, a retired roadway maintenance worker for the Garden State Parkway, has longtime family ties to Sea Isle. He was first here as a child in the late 1940s and became a full-time resident in 1971.
His father, A. Joseph Kehner, first came to Sea Isle in 1920. His grandmother, Marie Gordon, was in Sea Isle’s 1900 census, he said.
Kehner and his wife, Cheryl, have been married for 35 years and renewed their vows on May 30 during a City Hall ceremony presided over by the mayor.
In other Council matters Tuesday, City Business Administrator George Savastano reported that beach tag sales so far this year are $1.062 million, about $22,000 higher compared to the same time in 2015. Beach tag sales are a key indicator of the city’s tourism market during the peak summer season.
Savastano also reported that water has been pooling in several spots on the city’s replenished beaches. The beaches are being regraded to create swales to allow the water to flow back into the ocean, he explained.
“It happens with these beach replenishments,” Savastano said of the pools of water. “Beaches are dynamic.”
The beaches have become much wider since they were replenished recently by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Savastano said the pools of water are primarily on the beaches along the streets running in the 50s and 60s.