Haddonfield Commissioner Kevin Roche Resigns After Moving Out of State


Although he had intended to finish out his tenure in a local rental, Roche says the topic of his move had become ‘a distraction’ to the work of his fellow commissioners. They have not spoken about whether they intend to fill his unexpired term before the November election.

By Matt Skoufalos | May 30, 2024

File photo: Haddonfield Commissioners (from left) Kevin Roche, Frank Troy, and Colleen Bianco Bezich in August 2023. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Tuesday’s meeting of the Haddonfield municipal government would be the last for Commissioner Kevin Roche, who on Wednesday morning tendered his resignation amid a move to Washington, D.C.

Roche, who had planned to complete the final year of his term by maintaining a rental residence in the borough, said in an open letter to the community that he chose to resign rather than allow the ongoing work of the commission to be undermined by political detractors.

“I was deliberate in my actions, and followed the rules and by-laws for elected officials in town; however, for some, this is not good enough,” he wrote.

“I have become a distraction to the office, and a detriment to the work my colleagues are doing for Haddonfield.”

Although he had secured a Haddonfield rental apartment while selling his home in the borough in early April and closing on his new residence two weeks later, the subject of Roche’s residence was raised in public comments at the May 13 and 28 meetings of the municipal government.

As the commission works through major redevelopment projects in town, including the Bancroft parcel, Boxwood Hall, and Lullworth Hall, and proceeds with its Master Plan update, Roche said he didn’t want to become “a story” that detracts from the work his colleagues will continue.

“Any vote I make will be questioned,” he said. “If I don’t show up, it looks like I don’t care. So what side of the sword do I want? I’ll either be critiqued for doing something, or punished for not doing something.”

Moreover, Roche said he was concerned by how much the question of his residency had begun to creep into broader criticisms of his colleagues on the borough commission.

“I don’t worry so much about how I was treated, but how the treatment of others was affected by my decision,” he said.

“Here’s [Commissioner]  Frank [Troy]  out here trying to handle his obligations, and I became a story for him. That’s not fair,” Roche said. “The same thing with [Mayor]  Colleen [Bianco Bezich]. It became too much of an issue.”

“Why should they have to answer that?” he continued. “This was my decision, and they’re the ones who are facing the brunt. The work that they want to try to do, the initiative that we all put in place when we started, was getting overshadowed by one-third of the vote, so to speak.

“I signed on for this and I was going to do it,” Roche said. “I think it became an issue just because of the politicization of a non-partisan thing.

Roche said he enjoyed the experience of holding public office, not only for the opportunity to lend his expertise in finance to the commission, but for the chance to hear his neighbors’ problems, and offer support. He commended Bianco Bezich and Troy on being hard-working colleagues who were committed to the process of governance.

“I can’t speak enough about how good the two other commissioners were,” Roche said. “There were some really good arguments, principled ideas and ideals, but it was the Socratic method at its best.

“The strongest argument won; it wasn’t personal,” he said. “Everybody stepped up and did exactly what was required of them.”

From the moment of his inauguration, Roche said he was reminded by voters that “Haddonfield’s not in the real estate business,” which underscores the work the commission has done to address the major redevelopment projects it inherited.

From left: Haddonfield Commissioners Frank Troy, Colleen Bianco Bezich, Kevin Roche in May 2024. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Since taking office, Roche said that Haddonfield politics have become further complicated “by a bit of a battle between egalitarianism versus elitism” among residents, whether calling for greater investment in law enforcement, or second-guessing the redevelopment agreements for historic properties in the borough.

“It’s the age-old problem: socialize the cost but prioritize singularly the benefit,” he said.

“There’s a finite amount of resources and what can you do with them, but you have to make a decision.

“For people who’ve been in the town for 30, 40, 50 years, it’s costing more to maintain and service your property. Taxes are going higher.”

Roche said that he’d intended to hold office for one term only “to maintain the freedom to make the decisions based on the information,” rather than courting voter opinions.

“That gave me a lot of latitude to figure out what the ramifications of an issue are going to be five or 10 years from now,” he said.

“In wrestling, we have a saying: step up or step aside,” Roche said. “You face the challenges and what comes with that. I’ve got no horse in the race of political ideology.”

The borough government has not issued any comment on how or whether it intends to fill Roche’s unexpired term, although it will likely be a topic of discussion at their upcoming work session June 3.

Bianco Bezich and Troy could name a replacement within 30 days, but are not required to do so. Anyone appointed would still be obligated to run for office to maintain the seat in November, and then again in the spring of 2025, when Haddonfield holds its municipal elections.

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