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Sunday, July 21, 2024


County Honors Pagliughi on Retiring as OEM Coordinator

Christopher South
Martin Pagliughi, fifth from left, is honored upon his retirement from his position as county Office of Emergency Management coordinator. Also pictured are, from left, former Commissioner Director Gerald Thornton, Commissioner Robert Barr, Commissioner Andrew Bulakowski, Commissioner Director Leonard Desiderio, Commissioner Melanie Collette, and Commissioner Will Morey.

By Christopher South

CREST HAVEN – The county honored Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Martin Pagliughi upon his retirement from the position he assumed in 2012, 100 days before Tropical Storm Sandy hit the Jersey coast.

Pagliughi was praised by Board of Commissioners Director Leonard Desiderio, who noted Pagliughi’s management of the events that followed “the largest storm to impact our region since 1962.”

Desiderio credited Pagliughi for the county’s making a quick recovery from the storm, assisting local communities “to secure necessary funding to rebuild, restore and provide additional protection from future storm events.”

Pagliughi spent 12 years as OEM coordinator, many of them under then-Commissioner Director Gerald Thornton, who was also on hand at the June 25 commissioners meeting.

“Marty was such an asset in protecting Cape May County,” Thornton said.

Thornton said he and Pagliughi spent many hours in the former basement location of the OEM center, in the main branch of the county library, “eating terrible food and sleeping on tables.” He said that Pagliughi made Cape May the first county in New Jersey to make provisions for pets during an emergency.

Pagliughi worked with all the municipalities in Cape May County to make sure they were protected, Thornton said.

“You should thank your stars you had him,” he said. “It was my honor, and I’m very proud to have worked with him.”

Desiderio presented Pagliughi a plaque honoring him on his 12 years as OEM coordinator and asked him, “Do you want to give one last speech?”

“No” was all he said.

Pagliughi, who was a professional engineer, moved to Avalon in 1976. He ran for office in 1987, becoming an Avalon councilman, and became mayor in 1991. He spent 32 years in the mayor’s office, making him one of the longest-serving mayors in Cape May County history. He was also a member of the borough’s Planning and Zoning Board.

He was credited with making Avalon one of the most proactive, resilient communities in the United States, particularly for his dune and beach management plan, which led to his being invited to Washington, D.C., as a keynote speaker at a coastal resiliency conference hosted by the U.S. Senate.

Pagliughi’s attention to coastal resiliency in his community earned Avalon an AAA bond rating by Standard and Poor’s and a 35% discount on flood insurance rates for property owners.

He was also a volunteer firefighter for more than 20 years.

Pagliughi’s replacement as OEM coordinator is Christopher Leusner, who is the current Middle Township mayor and who retired from the Middle Township Police Department after more than 26 years of service, including 13 1/2 as chief.

Leusner served a brief stint as head of the Department of Mosquito Control. He will be replaced there by Assistant County Administrator Ron Simone, who will serve as an interim head. Leusner also served as deputy OEM coordinator.

From 2006 to 2009, he served as the Cape May County Regional SWAT Team commander, coordinating with multiple law enforcement agencies to handle critical incident responses, high-risk warrants and specialized missions.

He was a senior adjunct professor at Atlantic Cape Community College from 2009 to 2016, where he taught various criminal justice courses.

Leusner served as president of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police in 2019 and 2020 and as president of FBI National Academy Associates, New Jersey Chapter, in 2014. He was president of the Cape May County Chiefs of Police Association in 2017 and 2018 and was recognized as a Leadership Exchange Fellow at the College of Policing in the United Kingdom in 2014. He was invited to the White House for a briefing on 21st century policing in 2016.

Leusner has a master’s in administrative science from Fairleigh Dickinson University. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and is a certified public manager. He successfully completed the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police West Point Command and Leadership Academy.

He will assume the position of county OEM coordinator on July 12, with a salary of $114,950.

Contact the reporter, Christopher South, at or 609-886-8600, ext. 128.


Christopher South is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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