Lakewood – New Year’s Eve will be the official end to one part of a three-decades-long career in elected office for Robert W. Singer. Singer’s 10th and final term on the Township Committee ends Friday. His last official committee session closed about 9:30 p.m. Thursday.
His committee colleagues praised his nonpartisan leadership and some regarded him as a mentor. At times, their speeches sounded more like a political eulogy rather than well-wishes. Singer responded to that.
“I’m not dead, guys,” he said. “I’m still in the (state) Senate representing Lakewood.”
A Republican, Singer also represents 14 other municipalities, spread among four counties, in the 30th legislative district.
That Singer did not seek re-election to the committee is the result of Gov. Chris Christie’s call to eliminate as quickly as possible dual-office holding by politicians.
Yet, Singer, who has lost only one election during his career in politics, was reluctant to enter the political arena, according to his friend Abe Penzer, a lawyer and a Republican Party member.
“He was concerned that he did not know enough about politics or the area,” Penzer said Friday. “He was a guy from Forrest Hills, Queens, working in the vending-machine business.”
With the help of Lakewood and Ocean County political figures such as the late Shep Gurszberg and H. George Buckwald, Singer developed into a “senior statesman,” Penzer said.
His votes Thursday seemed routine. One, in particular, was cast against vacating an unnamed “paper street” because one property owner objected saying he would lose street access to his 1.1-acre property and therefore the ability to subdivide his property further.
Singer reminded the other committeemen that the township’s policy on vacating paper streets was that all the owners whose property borders that undeveloped road must agree.
The committee unanimously decided against making the undeveloped street private property. The man who objected called out a “thank you” after the vote.
It was Sam A. Christopher, the former Lakewood newspaper publisher and columnist, who summarized the full breadth of Singer’s career. Without Singer, there would be no Victorian-style street lights on Clifton Avenue, the Strand theater would not have been renovated and there would be no Lakewood BlueClaws, Christopher said.
In many instances, Singer’s dual role as a committeeman and a state senator allowed him to bring money from the state level into the township.
“I understand the criticisms he faced because he held two offices,” said Penzer. “But, in this case there was a perfect symbiosis.”
But, the weight of public opinion throughout a state frequently plagued by political-corruption scandals has turned against those politicians who served concurrently in offices at a number of levels.
The pressure had been mounting for sometime. Singer’s consulting contracts were part of an Asbury Park Press investigation dubbed “Profiting from Public Service.”
State senators are paid $49,000 a year, according to the state website.
State law bars elected officials from holding more than one elected post, but exempted those who already held more than one office when the law passed. That group included Singer and Ronald S. Dancer, Plumsted township committeeman and state assemblyman from the 30th district.
Despite their “grandfathered” status, the Republican legislative leadership and Gov. Christie pushed Singer and Dancer to withdraw from campaigns for re-election in their municipal offices. Dancer’s township committee term expires next year.
Both men bowed to that pressure. They made a joint announcement in September that they would not seek re-election to municipal office.
Singer resigned his candidacy at the 11th hour and the local Republican Party endorsed independent Albert Akerman, 34. Akerman won Singer’s seat in a landslide in November.
“Now, there is a young man coming onto the committee and he’s going to do a great job,” Singer said. “I hope you welcome and work with Mr. Akerman the way you welcomed and worked with me.”