WILDWOOD – Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron has put an end to speculation regarding his status as mayor by officially resigning, effective Sept. 21. But he will remain on the ballot in the November election.
In a simple, one-sentence statement addressed to the city clerk, Byron wrote, “Please be advised that effective immediately, I hereby resign my position as Mayor and Commissioner of Public Works for the City of Wildwood,” and then wished the clerk the best for the future.
In a press release issued by the City of Wildwood, it was announced that “Deputy Mayor Krista Fitzsimons will assume his mayoral responsibilities immediately.”
Byron faced potential expulsion after the NJ Office of Attorney General (OAG) filed a motion in Superior court on Aug. 16 to order Byron to forfeit his office. Sept. 21 was Byron’s deadline to file an answer to the court on the state’s forfeiture complaint.
Friday, Sept. 22, the state was expected to appear in court asking to proceed with its motion. Oral arguments were not going to be made at the Sept. 22 proceedings. It is expected that the judge would issue a ruling on the matter so there is an official order from the court.
The OAG filed the motion in response to Byron being sentenced on federal tax evasion charges, on Aug. 2. As the Herald reported, Byron was sentenced to three years of probation during a hearing in U.S. District Court, Aug. 2.
Judge Karen M. Williams also ordered him to pay a fine of $14,000 in addition to $7,014 in restitution to the IRS. Byron is permitted to pay off his fines in monthly installments of no less than $300.
Byron was not automatically disqualified from municipal office by nature of pleading guilty to a federal charge. The motion of forfeiture had to be initiated by the OAG. As such, Byron may remain on the ballot as a candidate for City of Wildwood Commissioner. Byron did not immediately respond to a question texted to him asking if he intended to remain a candidate.
Byron is involved in a separate case involving his use of the State Health Benefits Plan, which required him to be a full-time city employee. Commissioner Steve Mikulski and former mayor Ernie Troiano Jr . are facing identical charges. Byron and Mikulski are due back in Superior Court on Jan. 19, 2024, related to the state’s charges. Troiano is expected to be in superior court on Nov. 17 regarding a motion to dismiss charges against him.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Byron declined to confirm or deny rumors that he was resigning. He indicated in a text message to the Herald that it was a family matter.
The City of Wildwood issued a statement from Byron regarding his resignation, saying, “It is with deep sadness – yet great hope – for the continued prosperity of Wildwood, that I resign as mayor of the City of Wildwood, NJ. I have held the honor and pleasure of serving my community as commissioner for the past 12 years. During my tenure with the city, I have been able to make improvements to public spaces and planned new projects,” going on to mention:
- The Pacific Avenue Redevelopment Project is the revitalization of the historic downtown area for commerce and housing, which includes 315 properties along the Pacific Avenue corridor, from Cresse Avenue to 26th Avenue.
- The Back Bay Project landfill remediation, saying the city is working with NJDOT on dredging, capping, and closing the landfill in 2024 and developing the area.
- The Boardwalk renovation project has rebuilt half of the historic boardwalk. The project has cost $8 million to date with funding secured from the state.
- Beach revenue grew from $7,000 to $534,000 over his tenure in office.
- Major refurbishment of the city parks, dog park, and the Byrne Recreation Center.
“Though I may not be at City Hall, I am still available to help with issues and will be happy to continue to assist my hometown of Wildwood in any way possible. For now, I will focus on being the best dad and grandfather to my loving family,” Byron said.
The city’s statement said that Byron’s departments will report to City Administrator Steve O’Connor until they are reassigned. Byron’s position was primarily as the commissioner with oversight of Public Works.
Fitzsimons, who is assuming the mayoral duties said beginning today she wants to start moving past the matter.
“It’s an unfortunate, dark moment for the City of Wildwood but I am ready to roll my sleeves up and do what I can to move forward from the darkness into the light,” Fitzsimons said.
She said she would continue to work to advance some of the projects she feels will help Wildwood reach its full potential. She said she knows she can look forward to being supported by the city staff.
“We have a great staff at the city. They are dedicated and they deserve a great place to work. They deserve stability,” she said.
Fitzsimons said there would be no disruption of services to the residents of Wildwood.
Fitzsimons ran for office with Byron and Mikulski in the 2020 election. She opted to distance herself from the commissioners under state indictment and named her running mates as Wildwood School Board President R. Todd Kieninger and Planning Board Vice-Chair Phil Swetsky. The trio is running under the slogan, “Moving Wildwood Forward.” She said she simply wants to extend that same message to the residents of Wildwood.
“We need to move Wildwood forward now more than ever. Move on, move forward, move past it,” Fitzsimons said.
Mikulski and Troiano have filed to run in the Nov. 7 General Election under the banner, “Putting Wildwood First.”
Mikulski gave a statement regarding Byron’s decision to resign.
“For the past 17 years as a Wildwood proprietor, resident, and commissioner, my only concern was and is putting Wildwood first. I will continue to protect the integrity of our city,” Mikulski said.
Mikulski said he realizes there is now a vacancy on the governing body and he will take on more responsibilities in order to get the job done.
“I am committed to handle the additional duties for Wildwood during this interim as I am the only full-time commissioner,” Mikulski said.
Mikulski is a business owner, and Fitzsimons is the director of the Cape May County Campus of Atlantic Cape Community College.
As far as Byron’s status in the 2023 General Election, he remains a certified candidate on the Nov. 7 ballot and could potentially be elected again as city commissioner – and he is leaving it up to the voters to decide.
“People who know me still believe in me,” Byron told the Herald. “We’ll see what the voters have to say.”
Thoughts? Questions? Call Christopher South at 609-886-8600 x-128 or email email@example.com.