Outgoing Atlantic City Mayor Donald A. Guardian was endorsed by the township council Tuesday night to be Toms River’s next business administrator.
Guardian, a Republican who served one term, would replace Paul Shives, who announced earlier this year he would be retiring Jan. 12.
Township spokesperson Stacy Proebstle said there are still some steps before Guardian is officially selected, such as the mayor’s signature, as Toms River Mayor Tom Kelaher has been out of the office with bronchitis, and a contract for Guardian is not yet in place. Township Clerk Allison Carlisle said it is contingent on Shives’ resignation in addition to an approval of a contract for Guardian by the council.
The resolution approved by the council Dec. 26 states Guardian will earn an annual salary of $175,000.
Guardian, who unsuccessfully sought re-election for the Atlantic City mayoral spot this past November, was the city’s first openly gay mayor and was the first Republican mayor since 1990.
Prior to 2013 when he became the city’s mayor, Guardian had served as an executive with the Boy Scouts Of America and for two decades headed the special improvement district for Atlantic City.
Toms River council, at its Dec. 26 meeting, unanimously approved a resolution “consenting to the appointment of Donald A. Guardian as business administrator,” but council members offered no comments publicly on the resolution which was approved as part of the larger consent agenda.
Councilman Brian Kubiel and outgoing Councilman Jeff Carr were not in attendance at the Dec.26 meeting, citing holiday commitments.
Shives will still serve as business administrator past the January reorganization meeting, where three new faces — the first Democrats in more than a decade — will join the council.
Daniel Rodrick, one of the three newcomers, expressed disappointment in the resolution passed Tuesday, saying the incoming council should have had a voice in the decision. He said he was also disappointed the measure was taken at the last meeting of the year, the day after Christmas, without the mayor and two councilmen in attendance.
“(Guardian) leaves Atlantic City with a downgraded double-‘c’ bond rating. Is that what Toms River needs?” Rodrick told Shorebeat at the council meeting.
Shives’ annual salary, at $223,000, became one of the Democratic ticket’s talking points during the 2017 council campaign, with the challengers saying it was a high-priced salary and benefits package.
Shives, who has served as Toms River’s business administrator since 2009 and oversaw township operations through Superstorm Sandy, previously was Stafford’s business administrator.
Toms River Republican Club President Robert Dibiase said that while the club did not take part in the selection process, he was impressed with the choice of Guardian. Guardian is credited with trying to stabilize the resort town’s finances amid an economy that closed several casinos.
“He has done so much, in so many capacities, if you look over his years of service and all he’s been involved in” Dibiase said, saying he had the opportunity to meet with Guardian over the years.