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Wildwood marks annual State of the City with new council

Last Monday night’s meeting of the Wildwood City Council marked the beginning of a new chapter. At least that’s the hope of many of the city’s leaders, including Mayor Jim Bowlin.

Bowlin delivered his annual state of the city address during the meeting. In his remarks, Bowlin called on his fellow city leaders to “move forward recognizing that results can be achieved only through working together as a team.” 

Recently elected and re-elected city council members are sworn in on April 22.
From left are Lauren Edens, Crystal McCune, Katie Dodwell, Kenneth Remy, Joe Garritano, Dave Bertolino and Jon Bopp.

In what has historically been a delicate issue for city leaders, Bowlin also addressed development.

“We continue to be vigilant as to allowing only developments that are right for our residents,” Bowlin said. “These developments are now required to comply with our new grand tree protection ordinance, and I will continue to be committed to greater green space and lot sizes.”

On the front line of development is the city’s Planning and Zoning Committee, which is getting a new face in Jeff Levitt. The former Wildwood council member will be replacing P&Z commissioner Rick Archeski [Ward 7]. 

This was the second time Bowlin has submitted Levitt’s name as a candidate for the position. Archeski had served on P&Z for nearly 12 years, and although his term had expired, the council had previously been unwilling to approve a successor. 

“I’ve applied voter-approved term limits consistently as to all appointees,” Bowlin said of Levitt’s appointment. “I was pleased to see the council also approve [Levitt] in this instance.”

Replacing Archeski on P&Z has been a tricky feat for Bowlin. He’s nominated several candidates over the past few months and each time his nominees have been met with strong resistance from certain members of the council. The objections that have been voiced have been less about the merits of the nominees and more about the desire to retain Archeski. 

Mayor Jim Bowlin presents gifts to outgoing council members Don Bartoni [Ward 2] and Greg Stine [Ward 7]

Bowlin has stated in the past that he believes it was the intent of the people of Wildwood to limit the term of officials serving in the same position to eight years based on a ballot initiative passed last April. While the provision did allow for existing officials to be grandfathered in, Bowlin had viewed Acheski’s continued tenure as a move by a minority few to skirt the will of the majority of Wildwood residents. 

“I believe the intent of the voters is that eight years of service in the same position is the limit – particularly where, as here, the eight-year limit has already been significantly exceeded and other qualified residents want to serve,” Bowlin wrote in comments that accompanied his nomination of Levitt. 

The successful appointment of Levitt wasn’t the only move forward for the city council. Monday night was the final meeting for three council members: Don Bartoni [Ward 2], Tammy Shea [Ward 3] and Greg Stine [Ward 7]. Neither Bartoni nor Stine sought re-election this year. Shea was defeated in the April 2 election by Kenneth Remy. 

In addition to Remy, Lauren Edens [Ward 2] and Crystal McCune [Ward 7] joined the council. Katie Dodwell [Ward 4], Dave Bertolino [Ward 5], Jon Bopp [Ward 6] and Joe Garritano [Ward 8] were successfully re-elected. All seven were sworn in on Monday night. 

One seat on the council remains undecided. Larry McGowen [Ward 1] is also leaving the council, but his replacement is not yet known. In what officials say is a historical first for the city, the race to replace McGowen ended on April 2 in a tie. Both Larry Brost and David Hudson earned 286 votes. After meeting with city officials, the men agreed to take the matter to a special election to be held on June 4, 2019.

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