When Mark Walsifer was sworn in on January 5, 2019, as mayor of Belmar, he became the first Republican to lead the beachfront borough in nearly three decades. And while Belmar is hardly the partisan cauldron of Washington, D.C.—or even Trenton—Walsifer did come into office with some key issues he wanted to address. Among his concerns was Belmar’s lingering image as party central.
“Belmar is a Shore resort town that had the stigma of being a party town,” says Walsifer. “I hired a social media director to begin to market Belmar as more of a family-vacation destination. It is a slow process to bring change, but with all the online outlets, I have faith that it can be done in a few years.”
Walsifer, who has lived in Belmar since 1967, is no novice when it comes to local politics. He served on the Belmar school board for 17 years, and was elected to the Belmar Borough Council in 2017.
When he took office as mayor, Walsifer had his team go through every department to streamline operations. The goal was to do more with less. As part of this process, payroll was computerized and the borough’s website upgraded to allow online payments. “It is important to have all of the internal workings of the borough working properly before you can move forward with other changes,” says Walsifer.
Sharing services with neighboring towns is another Walsifer priority. The pandemic put a pause to some of the progress in that direction, but the administration has continued to work with surrounding towns to create a regionalized Emergency Medical Service. The borough is also working with Monmouth County on road-paving projects.
Walsifer says one of his first major accomplishments as mayor was addressing a local environmental issue. “For years, our L Street beach was closed weekly due to bacteria,” says Walsifer. “We found the cause, stopped it, and our L Street beach has not been closed since.”
Belmar—like the rest of the state—faced numerous challenges due to Covid-19. Walsifer watched small-business owners, many whom he says he has known for years, struggle to make ends meet. To assist businesses, the borough gave restaurants as much outdoor-dining capacity as possible and promoted take-out restaurants on social media.
The mayor is predicting a strong summer for Belmar. “We now track all of our beach-badge sales online, and seeing the amount of badges sold so far, it looks to be a busy summer. We are slowly getting back to normal with outdoor concerts and a farmers market. Our marina is almost full to capacity. We are constantly in contact with the governor’s office and [will] follow the governor’s guidelines.”
As for improving Belmar’s image, the mayor says even D’Jais, a popular beachfront establishment, has committed to following Covid guidelines to ensure there are no issues this summer. Last summer, large, unmasked crowds outside D’Jais raised alarms among state officials, according to published reports. “D’Jais is a great partner with Belmar,” says Walsifer. “This year, the governor has allowed indoor operations, so we are not expecting problems.”
That could help brighten the summer—and polish Belmar’s image.Click here to leave a comment