BELMAR, NJ — Matthew Doherty took his final bow last night as Belmar mayor, extending his gratitude and appreciation to the community that he has led for the past seven years.
More than 300 people filled the council chambers for Doherty’s send-off on April 10, which was marked by a look back on his mayoralty — the most significant being the days, months and years after Superstorm Sandy devastated Belmar and so many other Jersey Shore towns in October 2012.
“It was the mayor’s leadership during Sandy that really made a difference for the entire community,” said Councilman Thomas Brennan. “It’s an outstanding example of what leadership is supposed to look like and the way you communicated with people and making sure people were going to be taken care of and everything was going to be OK.”
For the next hour, Brennan’s comments were echoed by dozens of others who came to the microphone to congratulate Doherty on his new role as executive director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, as well as thank him for his service to Belmar.
Borough employees past and present were represented, including members of the public works and police departments who approached the podium in groups and individually to acknowledge the mayor’s support, particularly during Superstorm Sandy.
“The most proud I’ve been in my life is after Sandy, the way you, Bill Young (former borough administrator) and Colleen Connolly (current borough administrator) led us through what I considered dark times,” said Public Works Director Michael Campbell. “I don’t believe it would have happened without your leadership.”
Belmar’s recovery in the aftermath of Sandy was a common theme in remarks by residents and others, including Margo Walsh of the Jersey Shore Partnership, who characterized Doherty as “always a fighter for your town and a great spokesperson after Sandy (with) an all hands on deck persona.”
“You have been a rock for the Jersey Shore, ensuring our beaches survived, homes were restored and tourism flourished,” she said.
One of the most poignant moments came when members of the Circle of Friends-Helping Young Adults with Downs Syndrome thanked Doherty for letting the group have the opportunity to make Belmar their home.
“Our young adults have had a wonderful experience because you have given them the opportunity to participate in our town,” said Carol Cupoli, the group’s co-founder. “You’ve allowed our adults to become advocates for themselves … We thank you for all the smiles you have put on their faces.”
After a brief slide presentation of snapshots from Superstorm Sandy to happier times during Doherty’s tenure as mayor, his 13-year-old daughter, Hannah, expressed how proud she was of her father. “I’m really proud of you — first for being a wonderful mayor and soon to be a great person in Atlantic City,” she said, fighting back tears. “I love you like crazy and Belmar will always love you like crazy.”
When it came time for Doherty to address the audience, he offered plaudits to Belmar employees and departments, and thanked those in attendance, particularly his family, asking rhetorically, “How blessed am I?”
He also took some liberty in adapting an Irish adage. “If you’re enough lucky to live in Belmar, you’re lucky enough,” he said, adding, “From the bottom of my heart, I am grateful and thankful for the opportunity of being mayor. I am 44 years old now, sort of in the middle of my career, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the most rewarding and memorable time will be being your mayor here in Belmar.”
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