By Donald Wittkowski
John Divney, who has been a member of City Council since Sea Isle City changed to a Mayor-Council form of government in 2007, has decided not to seek re-election.
The three-term incumbent confirmed Friday he will not be a candidate in the May municipal election. His term expires June 30.
“I think it’s time to give somebody else a shot,” he said in an interview. “I think change is good in all government, especially in local politics.”
Three of the five Council seats will be up for grabs in May. Incumbents Mary Tighe and Jack Gibson are seeking re-election and will be joined on their ticket by J.B. Feeley, the former chairman of the Cape May County Board of Elections and a Sea Isle resident for more than 40 years.
Council members serve four-year terms and are chosen at-large in the nonpartisan election. Divney, a Republican, was one of the five original Council members who were elected when Sea Isle switched from a commission-style form of government to the Mayor-Council format in 2007.
Divney recalled that 23 candidates ran in the hectic first election during the change to the Mayor-Council form of government. In his next two elections, he ran unopposed.
“I guess I can stand up on a soapbox and say, ‘I’m fantastic,’” he said while joking of the reason why he didn’t face opposition during those races.
Divney, 76, who has lived in Sea Isle as a full-time resident since 2003, said his wife initially encouraged him to run for office.
“My wife said to me, ‘If you’re going to complain, get involved,’” he said.
In looking back on his 10 years in office, he said he believes City Council’s biggest accomplishment during that time was working with Mayor Leonard Desiderio’s administration to modernize Sea Isle’s formerly antiquated water and sewer system.
Another major achievement was the transformation of the John F. Kennedy Boulevard entrance into town into a more inviting gateway, including the development of Excursion Park, the hub for the city’s family-friendly entertainment events, he said.
“I think we did a lot of good things in the last 10 years,” he said. “It’s not just me as an individual. I’m only one. It takes all five members of Council to get things done.”
Lately, as Council’s representative on the Planning Board, Divney has been pushing to fast-track key parts of the city’s updated master plan. Final approval of the master plan has been delayed by ongoing negotiations between the city and the state over Sea Isle’s affordable housing obligations.
Divney has expressed concerns that proposed projects for flood control, beach access, recreation and parking could get bogged down during those negotiations. For months, he has been lobbying his fellow Council and Planning Board members to immediately move ahead with those projects instead of waiting for the city to wrap up a final agreement with the state on the affordable housing requirements.
Sea Isle’s master plan, which has been updated for the first time in 10 years, is a sweeping blueprint to oversee growth, economic development, housing construction, parking, transportation and other critical issues affecting the beach town.
The entire 58-page document can’t be formally adopted by the Planning Board until Sea Isle finalizes an agreement to comply with the state’s affordable housing requirements. Once an agreement is reached, the affordable housing obligations will be incorporated in the master plan.
Divney will have to relinquish his Planning Board seat when he leaves Council. Although he has only four months left on his Council term, he said he will continue “speaking my views.”
“I’m going to be active until the day I leave,” he said.