John Ducey, whose multiple landslide victories helped solidified his legacy as one of the most successful mayors in Brick Township history, has stepped down from his post.
Ducey’s impending departure had been known for about a month after Gov. Phil Murphy nominated him to become a Superior Court judge, however the timeline was fast-tracked due to state’s ongoing judicial shortage. Ducey received an endorsement from the state Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, and the full senate was expected to approve of the appointment Monday afternoon. Ducey, after he is presumably approved for the judgeship, would be seated in Toms River and replace Judge Michael T. Collins.
Joanne Bergin, the township administrator, will serve as acting mayor for one day. At a township council meeting scheduled for Tuesday night, the Democratic county committee will put forth three candidates to fill Ducey’s term for the rest of the year. The council will then choose one of the three, and that person will be sworn in immediately, said Council President Heather deJong.
A mayoral election will occur in November. State Assemblyman John Catalano, who previously served on the Brick Township council, is expected to be the Republican party’s nominee for the race. Democrats have been tight-lipped as to who they will be appointing Tuesday, and whether that person will seek a full term.
Ducey, an immensely popular Democrat in a majority-Republican town, left town hall for the final time as the township’s mayor at 1 p.m., with a salute from the township’s volunteer fire companies as he made his way down the ramp. Retired and active employees, family members and well-wishers stood by as Councilwoman Lisa Crate presented Ducey with a key to the city. Ducey, at times, choked back tears recalling his tenure at town hall, and credited Bergin with many of the successes of his administration.
Ducey thanked the staff at town hall for implementing a strategy of “customer service” and problem-solving for residents.
“It just means so much that you were there,” he said. “And you’ll still be there in the future, but it makes my life so much easier as mayor when you have such great employees.”
Ducey was also presented with another parting gift – the sign that marked his parking space in the employee lot.
“Hopefully my love for Brick Township has shown through for the past 12 years,” an emotional Ducey said. “I loved every minute of being able to serve you as mayor of the greatest town in New Jersey. Thank you to the voters for giving me the oppoirtunity to be the mayor of this great town and to try to get things done, and always do it every single day, in the right way. We always did what we thought was right.”
Ducey said his strategy while mayor was to think about “families, people, and how you can help people.”
After the full senate votes on Ducey’s nomination Tuesday, he will serve an initial term of seven years as a Superior Court judge before becoming eligible for career tenure. But he vowed never to forget his time leading his hometown.
“It’s what I always wanted to do, and hopefully that came through,” he said. “Brick Township will be in fine shape from here. I’m going to miss it – I’m going to miss everything about it.”
Editor’s Note: The Brick Township council meeting at which a new mayor will be appointed is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28.