With his family relocating for work, John Moscatelli will relinquish his office this summer, with elections to follow in November. It’s the latest in a series of shakeups to the borough government in 2019.
By Matt Skoufalos | May 9, 2019
It’s been a year of ups and downs for the Haddonfield borough government—and it’s only May.
During a stubborn cold and flu season, Mayor Neal Rochford was in and out of the hospital for the better part of a few weeks.
Now, the third member of the triumvirate, Commissioner John Moscatelli, will be resigning his office as his family relocates out of state.
“I’m moving out of the Delaware Valley,” Moscatelli said. “We’ll be pulling out of town between the beginning and middle of August.”
Moscatelli’s departure means Rochford and Kasko must name a replacement to serve on the commission until November, when a special election will be held for the remainder of Moscatelli’s unexpired term (until 2021). The three had been re-elected to office with no ballot opposition in 2017.
Asked what he’d like his replacement to address, Moscatelli said he would prefer a commissioner of public works who will maintain a focus on infrastructure issues in the borough. He criticized the community’s tendency toward “chasing the bright and shiny object” instead of addressing long-term, underlying concerns.
“We’ll spend 20 years chasing the library, and everybody gets upset if someone paints their house purple, but 60, 80 years without investing a dime in the sewer system, water system, the roads,” Moscatelli said. “The neglect led to us having to sell [the water and sewer system]. It was a public asset that we should have been able to take advantage of.
“I would really like to see the commission going forward to focus on this stuff, and I would hope that the voters would require them to do that,” he said.
By dedicating a few hundred thousand dollars annually to road repairs in the borough, Moscatelli said Haddonfield could get itself on a restoration cycle that would stabilize maintenance efforts.
“It can be done; it just requires focus,” he said.
Among the regrets of his unfinished business, Moscatelli said he’d have liked to have held office long enough to have seen the Bancroft project concluded. Having held office for six of the 12 years his family resided in town, the outgoing commissioner said government in the borough is “high maintenance.
“It’s a great town, a great place to live, and we’ve enjoyed our time here,” Moscatelli said. “But as they joke in borough hall, [things happen on] ‘Haddonfield Time.’ It’s certainly not a bad thing; it just makes the act of governing that much more complicated.”
‘I’m saddened by the fact that he’s going’
Rochford said that he’ll miss his colleague, that Moscatelli leaves office having achieved much, and that his replacement will have big shoes to fill.
“I’m saddened by the fact that he’s going,” the mayor said.
“[Moscatelli] has been a very effective, energetic, thoughtful commissioner. He has worked through very complicated infrastructure projects for the betterment of Haddonfield for the six years he has served. I wish him and his family well as they transition to a new life.”
In cultivating Moscatelli’s replacement, Rochford said the commission will solicit resumes and letters of intention throughout the next two weeks, with the aim of interviewing a handful of candidates next month for a June or July appointment. (Interested parties should contact Borough Administrator Sharon McCullough.)
“I’m sure it’s going to be tough,” Rochford said of the vetting process. “John was a manager and a hands-on commissioner. It’s nice to get both.
“I wouldn’t mind seeing some diversity on our board,” he said. “[We want] someone who is committed to town, confident, and willing to roll [their] sleeves up, understanding you’re going to take some nicks and some arrows and roll with the punches.”
Kasko agreed that Moscatelli’s talent will be difficult to replace, as will his chemistry with the other members of the body, which was honed over the years they shared together in office.
“We’ve worked well together, and he’s been a valuable contributor to the things we’ve worked on,” Kasko said. “What’s nice is we each bring different perspectives.”
Horizon goals for the new commissioner, whomever that will be, include a lot of land-use issues, including resolving the redevelopment of the Bancroft and Boxwood Hall properties, advancing the Snowden Commons affordable housing project, and wrapping zoning law changes in a community that has seen a rash of teardowns of its older housing stock.
“Those are big things we’ve been working on that we have to continue and finish up,” Kasko said.
“And every year is a challenge to provide the borough services that everyone demands, and to do it within the budget and not have a tax increase.”
Kasko said he and Rochford would like to be joined by “someone that’s engaged in town, that’s smart, that has some experience and background that would be valuable to being an elected official.
“And someone who cares about the town moving forward, not just their one pet cause, but the bigger picture that benefits everybody and the current and future residents,” he said.
As for his own legal issues, Kasko said he was approved for a six-to-36-month pre-trial intervention program. Among its conditions are community service hours, check-ins with court officers, and “staying out of trouble,” he said. The commissioner will not face official charges from the events of February 13 if he satisfactorily completes the program.
“I’m pretty confident that what really happened, people understand that it wasn’t what it was made out to be,” Kasko said. “It’s time to fix it and move on.”
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