ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS - Incumbent Councilman James Murphy and former Army Captain Ellen O’Dwyer are seeking the two seats on borough council to be decided in this year’s election and will appear on the ballot in the Republican primary June 6.
Unopposed in the June primary, they will face newcomer Brian Dougherty as the only Democrat candidate for the two seats to be filled in the November election. Councilman Roy Dellosso has indicated he will not seek another term.
A third generation resident of Atlantic Highlands, and raising his three children as the fourth, Councilman James Murphy has been active in the community all his adult life. Serving as council president and police commissioner this year, he has been on the governing body three years and is seeking his second term.
Murphy is a former member of the planning and zoning board, and the local Board of Education where his wife, Molly, currently serves.
He is also a member of the original Board of Trustees for the borough’s Sailing Education program, an officer in the Office of Emergency Management, member of the Mother Teresa School Acquisition Task force, and Monmouth County Stigma Free subcommittee member for the Mental Health First Aid calendar of events. He is certified with green and Lean belt in Six Sigma, a business methodology for process improvement.
Murphy also served as chair of the borough’s Department of Public Works and recently became a member of the local First Aid Squad. He has been on the Recreation committee for more than ten years, and serves as basketball, soccer and Little League coach
At St. Agnes church, he is an usher and Eucharistic minister. He is also a third degree member of the Vincent T. Lombardi Council of the Knights of Columbus in Middletown.
Murphy is a sales and branch manager, a home loan officer and first time home buyer specialist. He married his elementary school sweetheart, Molly, and the couple live on South ave. with their three children. Murphy said he is seeking a second term “because my work is not done yet. Right now, Atlantic Highlands needs strong leadership to guide us through this ever changing time. We have major changes coming down the pike, changes that will sculpt the future of our community. I’m here to continue leadership necessary to secure our prosperous future.”
The councilman said the biggest problems of today are the same as years past, property and school taxes, infrastructure, and community involvement. “More and more we see neighbors arguing with neighbors, calling in to council meetings to shame, complain, and attack members of our governing body; fingers are increasingly being pointed outwardly and people’s concern for others’ wellbeing is seemingly diminished in too many areas. ‘Divisiveness’ is growing like never before. It takes ‘unity’ to spell the word Community.”
Strong leadership is the only way to face each challenge, he said, along with continuing the work of resolving routine problems every Borough is up against. Looking back at his first term, Murphy believes his greatest accomplishment has been working with each council member to fulfil the needs of the community and satisfy many of their wants along the way. “Simply, I am up here to work with all residents for the greater good for Atlantic Highlands. As leaders within this community, I think we should all seek to finish our terms of service with fewer personal accomplishments and more unified accomplishments as a governing body.”
PHOTO: Ellen O'Dwyer is seeking election to the AH Council
O’Dwyer, who ran in a close raise last year in her first attempt to become a council member, while receiving the highest number of votes for a GOP candidate for council here in the past quarter century, said she is running again primarily because she emphasizes with the many residents with whom she has spoken about their concerns for the community and feels she can help by bringing her style of leadership and collaboration to the council table in troubleshooting solutions and getting things accomplished. Many have asked her to run again, she said, and she is ready and willing.
A lifelong resident of Monmouth County, O’Dwyer is the daughter of an Asian mother who was an artist and an Irish father who was a contractor. The family moved from Hazlet to Colts Neck, where she also raised her son and two daughters on a farm rehabilitating and finding homes for retired racehorses. She earned a master’s degree from Seton Hal University and is a market research and business analytics consultant for biopharma, bringing therapies to patients suffering from rare diseases.
O’Dwyer began volunteering as a pre-teen joining the Civil Air Patrol’s Bayshore Squadron. She also served as a first responder for the Colts Neck First Aid Squad, and is a founding member of the Friends of the Library board. Moving to Atlantic Highlands four years ago, she serves on the Environmental, Shade Tree, and Beautification / Public Relations committees, and the Sustainable Green Team as well as the Friends of the Library, Garden Club, and the American Legion, AH Post 141.
Divorced for many years, and with three grown children, all living locally, O’Dwyer was assigned to the NJ National Guard’s 194 th Dental Detachment while a student at Rider University, participating in the Guard's Simultaneous Membership Program. Upon commissioning as a second lieutenant in the US Army, she spent four years on active duty in the medical logistics field, rising to the rank of captain while serving in Texas, California, and Kentucky before being deployed to Germany, where she was billeted as Chief of Logistics for a 400 bed full capability field hospital. Over her seven years, both active and reserve, she also served as a medical platoon leader, training officer, and marksman instructor.
O’Dwyer feels the major problems facing the borough for which she will offer initiatives are continuing the public safety the community enjoys, protecting open space, supporting local businesses and the environment, and added “we need to be able to multitask and solve more than one prioritized issue at a time. I think the biggest solution is to address several issues at once developing plans for new revenue streams to offset expenses, and grow the local economy.” She plans to accomplish this by bringing business and technical skills and experience to the table, coupling them with the strengths of the rest of council She said her experience as Captain of the borough’s Sustainable Green Team this year has enabled her to collaborate with the Environmental and Shade Tree commissions, as well as the local Garden Club in bringing green initiatives to protect natural resources.
The candidate said her unsuccessful run for office last year taught her positive things, including that “people are willing to volunteer and get behind a good idea or cause,” and added “I enjoy making it happen, by working together, hands-on.”