MODC Silver Gull Awards 2013: Rising from the Storm
Polishing the Jersey Shore's image to maintain a healthy flow of tourism dollars is a daunting task in a normal year. Superstorm Sandy last October turned it into a Herculean challenge. Monmouth County Freeholder Director Tom Arnone's willingness to take on the heavy lift lands him among the winners of the Monmouth-Ocean Development Council's Silver Gull Awards for 2013.
Presentations take place May 2 at the Jumping Brook Country Club in Neptune. To find out about seating availabilities, visit the MODC web page.
Arnone readily and unabashedly admits being a cheerleader for the shore. His strong emotional ties fuel his drive to ensure that all Monmouth communities - especially the ones struggling with Sandy aftermath - can enter their biggest season confidently.
"When we...let everybody in the state of New Jersey know that the Jersey Shore is open," he enthuses,"and we drive down there on a Saturday or Sunday, from Sea Bright all the way to Manasquan and Brielle, and we see those roads and beaches packed, and we see everybody having a good time, we'll know that the county and the municipalities did the right thing."
Much of the rapid rebound can be attributed to the shared-services initiative that took root about the time that Arnone joined the board. It was well before the storm, and aimed at slimming down a bloated county budget while helping towns cover operating costs under the state-imposed two-percent cap on property tax hikes.
But Arnone also points out that it couldn't have happened without the breaks in the walls of provinciality, town to town and party to party.
"What's most important is the bipartisan working relationship that's happened," he says. "Times are changing. At the end of the day, we're all people that want to see [their towns] be the best...If we don't work together, it's never going to happen. And I truly can tell you that Monmouth does work together."
Arnone also coordinated county services to serve its many storm-wracked small businesses, the lifeblood of its revenue stream. It's one of the main reasons that he's being recognized in the category of Economic Development.
For some, an award on this level is a career capper. For Arnone, it's a launch point. "I'm always looking at the next job. 'What's next? How are we going to build on that?' When that stops, it's time for somebody else to come in."
His fellow honorees include Tom Hayes of New Jersey Resources, Carl Lillvik of Little Cove Services, Meridian Health CEO John Lloyd, First Financial Federal Credit Union, International Vitamin Corporation, Trinity Solar, Ocean County Board of Health Chair John Mallon, and retiring Monmouth University President Paul Gaffney.