Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Former Manasquan borough attorney honored for decades of service

At Monday evening’s borough council meeting, Mayor George Dempsey named former Manasquan borough attorney Kenneth Fitzsimmons as an honorary citizen of the town he served for 32 years.

Fitzsimmons retired as Manasquan’s borough attorney in 2008 to accept a full-time position in Toms River, N.J. During his tenure, Fitzsimmons negotiated public contracts and fought for the preservation of countless local landmarks, Dempsey said. He is credited with conserving Fisherman’s Cove and restoring the Algonquin Arts Theatre when the Main Street landmark was in disrepair. Fitzsimmons was also instrumental in securing Manasquan beach’s “historic” Coast Guard station and in organizing the town’s 1987 centennial program, according to the proclamation.

The public meeting began at 8 p.m. in the Borough Hall Council Chambers immediately following the council’s closed-door work session. In addition to honoring Fitzsimmons, the council appointed relief snow plow drivers, an appointment usually carried out in early January.

“It was just something that slid through the cracks,” Mayor Dempsey responded to a question of the two month delay. The appointment comes one week after a major storm dumped six to 12 inches of snow across the Garden State.

Although it was not on the agenda, local sports were a hot topic at Monday’s meeting. The mayor, in particular, was caught up with the real time scores of the boy’s high school basketball game then in progress. At one point, Dempsey informed the council of the blue and grey’s victory over Middlesex, making them Central Jersey II State Champions. He detailed the 59-36 win, claiming it was “mental telepathy.”

After public orders were dealt with, Fitzsimmons entered the chamber and Squan’s mayor and council praised their long-time colleague for his “expert negotiating skills” and “exemplary legal service.” The mayor went on to bestow the title of borough attorney emeritus upon Fitzsimmons, a resident of neighboring Point Pleasant. Dempsey’s proclamation declared March 9, 2009 Kenneth B. Fitzsimmons Recognition Day.

“You’ve only got a couple hours so live it up,” Dempsey said as he glanced at the clock. The proclamation’s reading contained no shortage of clever side remarks by a mayor known for his quick, impromptu quips. The council repeatedly erupted in laughter as the mayor and former borough attorney continued to take one friendly jab after another.

Before presenting Fitzsimmons with a plaque, Dempsey said the attorney was “a tremendous asset who served the borough with devotion, honor and dedication.” The entire council then gave their former colleague a standing ovation.

“Ken, you’ve been awesome,” Councilman Jeff Lee said.

Fitzsimmons accepted the plaque with a gracious smile and his wife, Judy, by his side. “You can hang [the plaque] in your office in Toms River and tell little stories about everybody here,” Dempsey said.

Dempsey and Fitzsimmons hugged as tears began to roll down Fitzsimmons’ face. “It’s been a real pleasure,” he said. “I don’t know whether to regard you as friends or colleagues.”
Mayor Dempsey and the council agreed that the honor was well deserved.

Fitzsimmons noted some of the parallels between Manasquan and his new employer, Toms River. The attorney said it was a “big little town” that was just as passionate about football and athletics. He also noted the towns have the same warrior Indian mascot. “I think that Indian has rights or something,” Fitzsimmons said with a chuckle. “He’s collecting from a lot of towns.” The mayor and council smiled and laughed with Fitzsimmons who wiped a tear from his cheek. He became emotional while thanking his friends, colleagues and wife.

“When you’re around this town for 32 years,” said Fitzsimmons, “you can’t help but bleed blue.”

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