Mayor Neal Rochford has decided not to participate in May’s upcoming municipal election.
The decision was made official on March 8, when the deadline for submitting information for a shot at one of the three openings on the borough’s Board of Commissioners passed.
Rochford, an alum of Haddonfield Memorial High School, was first elected to the three-member commission for the customary four-year term in May 2005. He lost a re-election bid by eight votes four years later, but rebounded to win another term in 2013.
Rochford led all candidates when he was elected to his current term in May 2017. He bested then-mayor Jeffrey Kasko, who remained on the board and has continued to serve as Commissioner for Revenue and Finance since then. Election protocol in the borough dictates that the mayor’s post goes to the commissioner who receives the most votes.
“Right before the pandemic, my wife and I went on a trip to Italy. We really enjoyed it and vowed that we would do more travel. Our adult kids are independent, so we felt it would be a good time to have options,” Rochford said in a statement.
The last two years have presented numerous challenges for the borough native and civic leader.
Early in 2019, Rochford had to curtail his duties as mayor for several weeks due to his fight with a virulent strain of pneumonia. Later in that year, fellow commissioner John Moscatelli resigned, and the eventual appointment of long-time resident Bob Marshall was concurrent with a myriad of issues that resulted from damaging rainstorms which hit the borough during the summertime. That November, Marshall lost a special election to fill the remainder of Moscatelli’s term, with Colleen Bianco Bezich winning the public’s trust.
Then, one year ago, COVID-19 arrived, throwing into doubt the future of a number of municipal services and community events. Rochford was most proud of, and most vocal about, the Public Works Department, which has continued to serve the town with minimal interruptions for the duration.
Rochford will leave office as Haddonfield continues to deal with a still-pending land swap between the borough and the board of education, as well as delays in development of Boxwood Hall. In addition, the push-and-pull between local government and concerned citizens on the topic of age-restricted housing and affordable units on the Bancroft site still has not been resolved.
“It was a difficult choice, but I leave office with a sense of pride and hope that Haddonfield will benefit from new leadership,” Rochford continued.
Rochford touted his contributions toward renovations of the borough’s library, the town’s roads program, making strides to meet its affordable-housing obligations, and above all the continuation of governance during the pandemic.
“I am also proud of the many Top 10 lists Haddonfield has achieved, including recognition from USA Today and numerous other honors for the best business district,” he added.
During his tenure with the board of commissioners, Rochford oversaw all three municipal posts: finance, public safety and public works. He currently serves as commissioner of the latter, since a reshuffling of responsibilities upon Bezich’s January 2020 swearing-in.
Bezich and Kasko both declared their intentions to run for office as of the deadline. Kathryn Raiczyk, who launched an unsuccessful bid for a commissioner’s post in 2019, was also on the list of candidates. Adam Puff, Kevin Roche, Mark Rusc, Frank Troy and Daniel Zhang round out the list.