Stafford Mayor Spodofora Announces Resignation From Republican Club, Endorses Democrat Joe Mangino for Mayor

Incumbent Throws Support Behind ‘Focus on Stafford’ Team
By VICTORIA FORD | Oct 03, 2018
File Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Stafford Township Mayor John Spodofora has announced he will resign from the Republican Club to endorse Democratic mayoral candidate Joe Mangino and his Focus on Stafford team.

Spodofora and his council lost a close primary election race in June to the Republican Conservatives led by Greg Myhre. The Democratic ticket entered the general election on a write-in campaign, led by Mangino, a former Independent who changed his affiliation in order to run.

In a letter to Republican Club President Richard Carlson this week, Spodofora explained he “simply cannot stay neutral, nor can I belong to a club that supports these (local Republican) candidates.” The resignation, which extends to his wife and their son and daughter-in-law, seems to have been prompted in part by last week’s televised Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination. Spodofora watched in horror, he said, feeling sympathy for all involved as he watched their lives being destroyed.

“I’m extremely disgusted with the entire political process,” he said.

His letter also denounces those who use online and traditional forms of media to launch attacks and cause pain as “evil,” and asserts that those who associate with such evildoers are no better, he said.

These days, more than 30 years since he first ran for public office, Spodofora sounds exasperated. “Morally, it’s just wrong to put politics before people,” he said. “It hurts my stomach,” he added, to see political ads full of “nonsensical stuff and personal attacks.”

Spodofora said he has “a lot of reasons” for his decision to endorse Mangino, chiefly: “My whole thing has always been about doing the right thing for the town. I don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat – all I care about is the future of Stafford.” In response to his resignation, he said he anticipates social and political backlash, e.g. accusations of “sour grapes” – nonetheless he is compelled to stand up for what he feels is right.

“I know Joe,” Spodofora said. “I see him as a person who is truly dedicated to the town.” His tireless volunteer work after Superstorm Sandy and in the aftermath of storms elsewhere since; his demonstration of leadership and organizational skills with START (Stafford Teachers and Residents Together) and the New Jersey Organizing Project; his experience as a sports coach and a school board member; and his widespread reputation as a reasonable and likable person make Mangino a model citizen in Spodofora’s eyes.

“I watch this man, and I admire him,” Spodofora said. “I couldn’t help but be impressed. He’s not connected to any political machine.”

Spodofora said he called Greg Myhre shortly after the primary election to congratulate him and to invite him to meet and discuss the inner workings of municipal government, but Myhre has thus far declined. Spodofora said he doesn’t know where Myhre and his Stafford Conservatives team think they’re going to acquire the knowledge they need to run a town. Mangino, on the other hand, has shown a real readiness to learn the ropes, according to Spodofora, visiting town hall and speaking with as many insiders as he can.

After he steps down as mayor, Spodofora said he plans to volunteer his time with the Surfrider Foundation and to serve as a consultant, if desired, to the incoming mayor and council.

Meanwhile, Spodofora is disheartened by the fact that certain projects in which he has invested a lot of time, study and effort won’t be completed before he leaves office – i.e. building berms in the bay to protect the mainland from future storm surges, and his bogs-to-basins idea for stormwater management, which he started formulating in 2012.

But in a final message he has written as he prepares to move on to the next chapter of his life, Spodofora takes a tone of reflection and optimism.

He writes: “When people, government, land and community work together, we all prosper and share in the overall success; when they compete with each other, all are exploited. Stafford residents should always maintain a strong sense of belonging, and together we can overcome any challenge.

“I continue to have great faith in democracy. However, I have an even greater belief in the people within our community. I remain proud of each of you who can look beyond your self-interests and concern yourselves with betterment of your community. I remain humbled to have served as your Councilman and Mayor and wish for continuing successes in Stafford.”

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