By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
VENTNOR – Former Temporary Acting City Administrator Maria Mento Thursday evening, Feb. 23 transitioned to a new role in city government. New Jersey Senator Vince Polistina administered the oath of office for Mento to fill the commission seat vacated by former Mayor Beth Holtzman until the next general election in November.
“Every organization you go to, you start out working, you get to the top of the organization and then you go on the board of the organization,” Polistina said, eliciting chuckles from those present to support Mento.
Mento previously served as chair of the Atlantic Cape Community College Board of Trustees and retired from the Atlantic County Utilities Authority where she worked for 25 years, starting as a budget analyst and eventually serving as executive vice president and chief financial officer. Before that, she worked in Atlantic County government for 10 years.
Following her retirement from the ACUA, Mento was appointed temporary acting city administrator through a professional services contract with Jersey Professional Management two months after the Imagine Ventnor team took office in May 2016.
During Thursday’s meeting, she was also appointed to serve as Commissioner of Revenue and Finance, a role Holtzman held during her tenure on the board. Holtzman stepped down after selling her Ventnor Heights home and moving to Galloway Township.
Mento will have the distinct pleasure of running in two elections over the next 17 months, first in the Nov. 7 general election to maintain the seat until the next regular non-partisan election in May 2024. She plans to campaign for reelection in May on the Imagine Ventnor team.
Although Acting Mayor Lance Landgraf was also scheduled to be sworn-in as mayor, he was unable to attend the meeting in person due to illness but he presided over the meeting remotely. Landgraf will be sworn in as mayor at the next Board of Commissioners meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday, March 6. He will continue to serve as Commissioner of Public Works, Parks and Public Property.
Mento thanked Holtzman, Landgraf and Commissioner Tim Kriebel, who was appointed to continue as Commissioner of Public Safety and Public Affairs, for the opportunity to “continue this journey with you.”
“You’ve done a lot of great things, and I’m looking forward to continuing that with you,” Mento said, acknowledging municipal staff for the great job they do for the city.
“I’m looking forward to continuing in a different capacity, moving the city forward,” she said.
Thomas E. Ciccarone was appointed to fill the temporary acting administrator role until Nov. 7. Like Mento, Ciccarone will serve under JPM’s professional services contract.
Holtzman, who attended the meeting via Zoom, said she wanted to be there for Mento, whom she called her “non-biological sister.”
“Maria became over the years, like my sister,” Holtzman said.
They disagreed like sisters on issues, Holtzman said, “but we always came to a resolution. To have her take my open seat gives my heart a lot of comfort.”
In other business, the board approved roles for the commissioners serving on the Planning Board. Kriebel will be a Class III member, while Landgraf will be a Class I member. The board also appointed resident Jessica Norkis to fill the remaining unexpired term of Don Siglin who stepped down from the board. Norkis will serve two year term as Class IV alternate until the end of 2023.
The board also discussed revising the city’s special events fee schedule to include a new category for larger events or camps. The additional fee schedule will include an 80-20 revenue split for events that do not fit in with the current fee schedule. An ordinance revising the fee schedule will be introduced at an upcoming meeting, Kriebel said.
Landgraf also announced that Ventnor Plaza shopping center owner Mark Greco has signed an agreement with Starbucks to build a store on a pad site at the plaza.
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