He was only 26 back in the waning days of 1999, when he took over as mayor after the sudden death of Democratic Mayor Bill Zimmermann Jr.
Mayor Jason J. Varano - now with a little gray at his temples - was back at his seat tonight, his last Township Council meeting as mayor.
It was his first appearance at a council meeting since his narrow defeat in his quest for a fourth term in November. Varano lost to Republican Township Council Vice-President Carmen F. Amato Jr. by 248 votes out of nearly 14,000 cast.
Varano was gracious and brief. He congratulated Amato on his victory.
"Thank you to the residents of Berkeley Township," he said. "It has been my pleasure to serve the residents of Berkeley Township. I've really enjoyed my time here. It was a tremendous opportunity and a wonderful experience."
Then he turned to Amato.
"I look forward to seeing you in the New Year and good luck," Varano said.
Varano praised the township professionals appointed during his administration. They included outgoing Township Administrator Leonard W. Roeber and Township Attorney Patrick Sheehan, both who had served since 1991; longtime Township Engineer Chris Theodos, and Chief Financial Officer Frederick Ebenau.
"The last two months have been a transition for me," Varano said. I'm looking forward to my future. Thank you very much and God bless Berkeley Township."
And then he left the meeting.
Amato said Varano had made himself available after the election.
"It's been a very smooth transition," he said. "Mayor, I applaud your service and I'm sure you'll be around."
Amato said shortly after the election he would be bringing in his own professional staff for his administration. He has yet to release the names of his appointees.
Both Varano, Amato and some audience members also praised outgoing Democratic Township Council members Anne Wolff, Peter J. Mustardo and Nathan Abbe. All three served long terms. Wolff's time on the council dates back to the Zimmermann years.
Amato called Abbe "the dean of the finance committee."
"No matter where the money was, Nate always managed to find it," he said.
"I'm a man of few words, as you know," Abbe said with a smile. "I wanted to make sure the people of Berkeley Township got the best for their buck."
Councilwoman Judy Noonan also said she would miss Township Council President Karen Davis. Davis announced earlier this month she would be stepping down at the end of the year to recuperate from knee surgery and earlier health problems.
"She went through a lot and came back," Noonan said. "I'm going to miss Karen Davis very much. A lot of people didn't really know what she was going through."
Amato and his Republican Township Council running mates will be sworn in at 2 p.m. on New Year's Day at the Berkeley Township Elementary School on Emory Avenue in Bayville.
"This is my last meeting as a member of the Township Council," Amato said. "Certainly we have a lot of challenges ahead of us. We'll be up to the challenges. We'll deliver cost-effective services to the residents."
Amato said that the local Republican organization would be picking up the tab for the costs of opening the school and for refreshments.
"The Berkeley Township Municipal Republican Committee is handling all the costs associated with the reorganization, at no cost to the taxpayers," he said.
Davis' resignation and Amato's victory have left two vacancies on the Township Council. The local Republican organization must submit three names to council members for each vacancy. The Township Council will then pick successors for the two seats.