In the spirit of the season, looking over Ocean County's increasingly turbulent political landscape, here's a moment's pause for those officials who manage to remember to be statesmen as well as politicians. Lakewood Deputy Mayor Steven Langert exemplifies it.

Langert spent an hour in the WOBM Studios during this week's "Open Forum," offering a wrapup assessment of Lakewood 2011, probing his township's strengths and weaknesses, victories and setbacks, facing hard issues (homelessness, development, economics) and fielding calls from townsfolk, not all of whom are fans of conditions in New Jersey's seventh most-populous community.

The ability to address carping as well as compliments in equal stride is part of what sets Langert, and a handful of other elected officials, apart from the crowd. The other quality that places him in a more rarefied atmosphere is the skill for absorbing what he's hearing and the willingness to work toward solutions. Langert isn't afraid to roll up his sleeves, nor does he expect anyone else to do it for him.

He's a Republican, but he's a populist.  He has the ego to be a political figure, but the humility to be a taxpayer. He is unfailingly civil and favors discourse over dysfunction. These are common qualities on the Lakewood Township Committee, which wrestles daily with the exigencies of Ocean County's largest, and most diverse, population.

So, no glib punchlines or surprise endings here. As long as people of conscience still have a place in government, there is room for the likes of Steven Langert. He filled in capably every time Mayor Menashe Miller was called away to his Chaplain duties for our fighting men and women overseas, such as he is doing now in Qatar. Regardless of his role next year, Langert remains a voice of reason.