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Monday, May 20, 2024


Murphy’s Top Aide Talks Interim Solutions for North Wildwood Beach Erosion

Rosenello: Shay Roddy/File Photo; Scaccetti: DW Labs Inc./
North Wildwood Mayor Patrick Rosenello, left, and Gov. Phil Murphy’s Chief of Staff Diane Guttierez-Scaccetti, right, met in North Wildwood to discuss a potential project to help mitigate erosion that could be implemented prior to the federally funded Five Mile Dune project.

By Shay Roddy

NORTH WILDWOOD – In a demonstration of the governor’s increased concern with the condition of the city’s beachfront, his top aide made a recent visit to observe the erosion and meet with Mayor Patrick Rosenello.

Gov. Phil Murphy’s chief of staff, Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, came to North Wildwood to discuss potential interim solutions that could be implemented before construction begins on the Five Mile Dune project, Rosenello said in an interview with the Herald.

“We covered a lot of different ideas and scenarios. Really nothing was on the table, nothing was off the table,” the mayor said. Both sides declined to reveal details of the talks.

The private meeting, which was also attended by state Sen. Mike Testa, left the mayor feeling hopeful that the governor may step in to help, and do so sooner rather than later.

In the past, Rosenello made scathing public statements about Murphy’s lack of involvement with the situation in North Wildwood, saying several months ago that the governor was willing to “march in our July 4 parade to get a photo op, but when it comes to actually doing the job of governor, he’s AWOL.”

Rosenello added then that he thought Murphy was the “living epitome of why so many people have so little faith in government.”

But Murphy, a Democrat, and Rosenello, a Republican, have said recently that they have no ill will for one another and are committed to solving the problem in North Wildwood. Murphy has said he isn’t sure that the state Department of Environmental Protection has been managing the situation well, while Rosenello has said he is sure — that it hasn’t.

During a March radio appearance on WNYC in New York City, Murphy told a caller he was “sick of the standoff” between the DEP and North Wildwood but wasn’t “smart enough” to determine “who’s more right than the other.”

Rosenello said he appreciated the governor’s comments on the radio.

“I am happy that the governor is questioning the DEP’s approach to this,” the mayor said in a phone interview April 5. “I’m fine with him questioning our approach to it. I have no qualms about that whatsoever. I have been saying for a number of years that the DEP has so many conflicts in this matter that they are not the agency to solve this problem. They just can’t. From his comments, it appears pretty obvious that the governor doesn’t disagree with that sentiment.”

Rosenello told the Herald he did not want to get into the specifics of what he called a “private meeting” with Murphy’s chief of staff and Testa, but added, “In the past month, the governor’s office has been fully engaged with the situation in North Wildwood. More so than at any time in my time as mayor.”

Murphy’s office is now focused on “trying to find an immediate solution to the severe shore protection issues that we’re facing,” Rosenello said.

Through his spokesperson, Natalie Hamilton, Murphy told the Herald he wasn’t currently available for an interview.

“The governor and his team have engaged directly with the mayor and North Wildwood community to address this issue and will continue to work collaboratively to identify a solution to mitigate erosion in North Wildwood,” Hamilton said in a statement to the newspaper.

When asked why he thought the governor was now becoming more involved in the issue — something he had left to the DEP and Shawn M. LaTourette, the department’s commissioner and a member of Murphy’s cabinet — Rosenello said he wasn’t entirely sure.

“It’s clear to anybody paying attention that the DEP is just simply not getting this done,” the mayor told the Herald. “I think it’s partly the realization as to how little they have done, which you reported on, as it relates to the property issues in the past year, while they were making public statements about how they were working on it. I know you dug up some stuff, and we found some stuff that indicated they really weren’t moving at all on the property issues.

“I think anybody paying attention realized that the DEP was not moving this ball in a way that it should be moved. So, when that happens, obviously people up the chain of command get involved.”

Testa, a Republican, whom Murphy gave a shout-out to on the radio show, confirmed the meeting through a spokesperson, but declined to be interviewed.

“Sen. Testa remains in talks with Mayor Rosenello and Gov. Murphy’s chief of staff, Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, regarding North Wildwood’s beach erosion and what will be the best long-term remedial plan of action to mitigate further erosion,” Arvene Kilby, the spokesperson, said. “He does not have any further comment at this time, while options are being explored to develop a plan for North Wildwood.”

A dredge currently sits off the coast of Sea Isle City, working on a federal project there. Sand from Hereford Inlet can be used if federal money is not involved.

Rosenello said he wouldn’t comment on whether a project to dredge the inlet prior to this summer was specifically discussed.

Contact the author, Shay Roddy, at or 609-886-8600, ext. 142.


Shay Roddy is a Delaware County, Pennsylvania native who has always spent as much of his summers as he could at the Jersey Shore. He went to Friends’ Central and is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.

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