By Dan Moffett
Saying it’s time to step aside, Manalapan’s David Cheifetz has decided not to run for mayor again when his term expires in March.
“I’ve been a resident of Manalapan for 12 years now,” Cheifetz said during the Dec. 13 town meeting, “and during that 12 years I’ve served on ArCom, was chairman of ArCom, served on zoning, and ran in the last contested election for commissioner and defeated the incumbent. I’ve been mayor for two terms now, and I think it’s time for someone else.”
Cheifetz’s surprising announcement opens the door to a potential overhaul of the Town Commission next spring. The seats of three other commission members — Vice Mayor Peter Isaac, Mayor Pro Tem Chauncey Johnstone and Commissioner Basil Diamond, who preceded Cheifetz as mayor — also are up for reelection.
None of them has declared candidacy yet, but they have until Feb. 14 to file.
Unlike many coastal communities, Manalapan’s mayor is elected directly by voters, and sitting commissioners would have to resign their seats to run for the at-large position.
Cheifetz, 75, helped guide the town through some important capital improvements and some contentious legal disputes during his four years as mayor.
The town replaced the Audubon Causeway bridge, at a cost of just under $1 million, and renovated Town Hall and the library to comply with federal disability requirements.
Manalapan also resolved a decade-long legal fight with residents Louis and Wendy Navellier over building code violations, collecting $232,000 in fines. Complaints about civil rights violations by the Police Department ended when resident Kersen De Jong, a frequent critic of town officials, died at the age of 65. Cheifetz also pushed through new rules on decorum to keep order during meetings that were often long and heated.
The most significant accomplishment during Cheifetz’s tenure likely will be the town’s approval last summer of a deal to bring a Publix supermarket to Plaza del Mar, something many residents had wanted for years.
“It’s been a good run,” Cheifetz said. “Now it’s time for someone else to become mayor.”
In other business:
• The commission told Town Manager Linda Stumpf to investigate the possibility of hiring an engineering company to replace Mock Roos & Associates, the town’s longtime consultant, for work that is about to begin on the town’s water delivery infrastructure.
Several commissioners have complained about the West Palm Beach firm’s performance in recent years. Cheifetz said he was unhappy with the company’s work on a street paving project and the Audubon Causeway bridge replacement. “It seems we are being obligated to deal with a firm who has let us down in the past,” the mayor said.
Stumpf said that since Mock Roos designed the infrastructure project, other engineers may be reluctant to take over without designing it themselves. That could cost the town an additional $40,000 or so. “Mock Roos’ expertise is with water utilities,” Stumpf said. “They’ve done an excellent job with that.”
Commissioners were not persuaded and told her to explore other options.
• Stumpf said town officials hope to present Hypoluxo with a new contract proposal for water services sometime in January. Plans to make the presentation in December were derailed by the death of Hypoluxo Mayor Ken Schultz.
By Dan Moffett