Home Cherry Hill News Bye Bye, Bernie

Bye Bye, Bernie

Mayor Bernie Platt greeted me last week in his office with more than just a smile. He handed me a list of 50 accomplishments he and his staff were most proud of during his most recent nine-year tenure as mayor.

“It’s a little better than David Letterman’s Top Ten,” Platt joked.

Platt couldn’t quite pinpoint his greatest accomplishment during his time in office. After all, his list covered many bases, including advances in sustainability, the police and fire departments, work-force reduction, business development, shared services and collaboration with the school district.

“It’s been a great ride,” Platt said. “We’ve been through good times and bad. During the good times, things were lush and wonderful. The economy began sinking. We planned for that, and had the foresight to plan for that, so we got through the economic downturn very well.”

Platt entered the political realm soon after he moved his family to the Downs Farm neighborhood in 1966. He began by serving as his civic association’s president, paving the way to a four-decades long career in public service.

In 1976, he was elected to the council. The next year, he opened his family business, Platt Memorial Chapels, in Cherry Hill. Three years later, he was elected by the council to serve as mayor until 1981, and he continued to serve on the council until 1985.

Platt’s also served on the Camden County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the governing body of Camden County.

He said he looks back on his 40-plus years in office fondly, and thanks those he’s worked with over the years who have helped make the township better.

“It’s not me that did all of the wonderful stuff. I couldn’t come up with all the ideas. They brought them to me and we pursued them,” Platt said.

Platt isn’t the only one doling out thanks these days. Many township employees said they’d miss having Platt as their mayor.

Cherry Hill Fire Chief Robert Giorgio said his department could always count on the mayor to rise to the occasion in the community’s times of need.

“During my tenure as chief of the Cherry Hill Fire Department, Mayor Platt has been by my side as a public-safety colleague and confidant. I valued his experience in government, and found that he was always ready to discuss new opportunities to enhance the township,” Giorgio said. “Anyone can serve as an elected official when times are good; the true measure is how they stand up when conditions are difficult. I watched Mayor Platt face a period of serious fiscal challenge with strength and creativity. His leadership set the tone for all his department heads to help us through even the most difficult periods.”

Police Chief Rick Del Campo said he was also honored to work with Platt.

“I want to thank Mayor Platt for all his efforts, all his sacrifice and all his commitment to the citizens of Cherry Hill,” Del Campo said. “Throughout my time as chief of police of this township, the mayor has been a constant advocate and supporter of all the men and women of this department.”

Platt, who plans to stay in Cherry Hill with his family in retirement, said he is looking forward to having more free time. He’s already been approached by various community groups who want him to get involved.

He’s made no commitments yet, however, and said he’s weighing all his options before making his next move.

He said he’ll miss serving the community where he’s raised his family and started his business, but says he is proud of the legacy he leaves behind.

“I really loved being mayor. It’s about helping people — that’s the most important thing. It’s not a popularity contest. You do what you think is best for everybody. We tried to do the best we could,” Platt said.

As Platt begins to remove his family photos from his desk in his office to make way for the next mayor, he said he has just a few words to share with the township’s next leader, Chuck Cahn, who will take the helm Jan. 1.

“Cherry Hill is the greatest community in the state of New Jersey, Our residents are the best,” Platt said. “Listen to them and make the right decisions for them in the future.”

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