Although Councilman Bannar’s last day is Dec. 31, he was able to share some of the highlights of his time on council in an exclusive interview with The Sun.
Former Fire Chief Jim Bannar traded his bunker gear for a suit and tie when he was elected to the Cherry Hill town council eight years ago. Although Bannar’s last day as a councilman was Dec. 31, he shared some of the highlights during his time on council.
It didn’t cross Bannar’s mind to run for council until Assemblywoman and friend Pamela Lampitt approached him about serving nearly a decade ago. Transitioning from the fire department to an elected official has been an exciting journey but a positive one in contrast to his experience with the public as a firefighter, according to Bannar.
Bannar, who has been in public service close to 40 years, has met residents in various situations, both tragic and uplifting. Of the many moments he has shared with the community, his favorites are the ones he has spent on council. Unfortunately, working for the fire department, he witnessed residents on some the “worst days of their lives,” so when he joined the council, he was able to see residents during some of the best times of their life.
“It was a perfect time to be able to meet the townspeople in a totally different light,” Bannar explained. “Meeting people at grand openings, at functions, at celebrations for the Eagle Scouts and things like that, now I had the opportunity to meet them on a very good day, and that was probably one of the best parts about being on council.”
When asked about his future endeavours, Bannar was quick to respond.
“Well, it won’t be politics … I want to give myself some breathing time,” Bannar joked.
For those hoping to see him in the political spectrum, Bannar will not be involved in government anytime soon, saying he intends to take at least a year off from politics.
Although being an elected official in Cherry Hill has been a privilege, it takes a massive amount of commitment and time.
“People don’t realize how busy you are as a council person,” Bannar said.
It’s not necessarily the technicalities of the job as much as the people he has met along the way that will be missed, according to Bannar. The countless friendly faces and those who have inspired him to run for council and acted as a mentor during his journey will never be forgotten. Bannar expects lasting friendships with members of council that he has become acquainted with through the past eight years.
“They have become my extended family,” Bannar said.
Despite having such a time-consuming and stress-inducing job, Bannar recalls many humorous stories while working for the township, one of which involves one of his mentors, Council President David Fleisher.
“My council mate might kill me for this,” Bannar warned.
Bannar recalled a story during his first campaign for election, where Fleisher spoke in front of a room full of individuals. During his speech, Fleisher encountered a clothing malfunction.
“For some reason, the button on his blazer popped, and at the time, it just tumbled through the air, like it was in slow motion,” Bannar said.
As the button landed on an empty chair in the front row, it made a loud sound reminiscent of a “gong” being hit.
“We didn’t know what to do,” Bannar said, trying not to laugh.
Laughter soon filled the room as the audience realized what had happened. Little did they know, it would be a story that would elicit laughter between the two for more than eight years.
The moments he treasures have been being able to work closely with the school district and attending award ceremonies where students were recognized for their talents.
“Cherry Hill should be very proud of these kids,” Bannar said.
One of the notable accomplishments Bannar shared from his time as councilman is the successful collective efforts to keep municipal taxes at a minimum and even a tax reduction this year.
“I think that’s an accomplishment that any council person could brag about,” Bannar said, emphasizing that any accomplishments he has had should be attributed to the council as a whole. “It’s always a team effort.”
Although he is taking a break from politics, he is excited to work behind the scenes with helping some of his friends who are still actively involved in community politics, possibly helping his friends get re-elected moving forward.
“I will be behind the scenes helping and supporting people who helped and supported me,” Bannar said.
When he isn’t busy at Cherry Hill High School East as a student support assistant, he plans to spend more time with his family and possibly take a trip to Italy with his wife. Bannar also shared some advice for anyone stepping into his shoes as a councilman or councilwoman in the future. To ensure success on council, Bannar encourages those about to step into his position to “keep an open mind” and stay grounded in addition to listening to people.
“Jim Bannar is the model of American citizenship, he works hard, loves and takes care of his family and friends. Jim serves his community as a firefighter, councilman and high school football referee. Currently, he is keeping our High School East students safe and secure. Cherry Hill is a better place because of Jim Banner,” Council Vice President Sara Lipsett said.