With one hand on the Bible and the other wrapped around his 3-year-old son, was sworn in today before a packed auditorium at the .
"Ok, you asked for it," he joked, as he made his way to the podium to address the crowd."
Amato became the township's first Republican mayor in 20 years. And the once Democratic bastion of Berkeley Township — one of the few in Ocean County — is now solidly Republican.
Amato, 42, was sworn in by Congressman Jon Runyan, (R-NJ).
He grew emotional at the beginning of his opening remarks. He thanked his parents for moving to Bayville 42 years ago to give their children a better life.
"I know they are here in spirit, and I love and miss them very much," he said.
He also thanked his Uncle Ben, who had been like a second father to him. His uncle died two days before the Nov. 8 election.
"I have three big cheerleaders in heaven," he said.
He praised his wife Nellie and his family for their patience during the long and often challenging campaign season and thanked his supporters.
Amato narrowly defeated by 248 votes out of more than 14,000 cast, in a campaign that turned acrimonius in the later weeks.
Also sworn in were his running mates, J, and . The three new council members decisively defeated their Democratic challengers in November.
All three men left their respective school board seats after they were elected to the Township Council. Ray served on the Central Regional Board of Education; Bacchione and Grosse both served on the Berkeley Board of Education.
Bacchione, who touted his business experience during the campaign, said a major task for the new council was to improve the business environment in the township.
"It's easy to criticize our former governing body," he said. "I'm reluctant to discuss the past. Our goal is to bring us within the growth enjoyed by surrounding municipalities."
"I served on the Board of Education with Bob Ray and Tom Gross," he said. "They are here for the right reasons — to serve the people of Berkeley Township."
Amato promised transparency in Town Hall.
"I hold my door open to all citizens of Berkeley Township, regardless of political affiliation," he said. "I promise not to let you down. God bless Berkeley Township. God bless the president and God bless America.
The audience gave him a prolonged standing ovation when he left the podium.
Runyan also swore in Ray. Freeholder Director — who is also Berkeley Township schools superintendent — swore in Bacchione and Grosse.
Council President — who earlier this month announced her resignation from the council to concentrate on rehab for her knee surgery —presided over the meeting.
While she had orginally intended to step down on Dec. 31, Amato and others convinced her to extend the date until Jan. 2, Davis said.
"Some of you may be wondering why I'm sitting up here," she said. "I have so much confidence I am leaving this town in such good hands. I go with sadness for myself, but not for the people of Berkeley Township. I'll certainly be keeping an eye on things. I know you will do a wonderful job."
Amato was first elected to the Berkeley Township Council in 2005, when he defeated incumbent Council President Peter J. Mustardo and broke a 7-0 Democratic monopoly. Amato was re-elected to a second term in 2009.
Amato's public service has not been limited to the Township Council.
He served five years on the Central Regional Board of Education. He also served seven years on the Berkeley Township Board of Education. He is a current member of the Ocean County Board of Health and serves on the Ocean County Commission on Exploited and Missing Children. Amato also served as chairman of the Board of Adjustment, two terms on the Berkeley Township Recreation Advisory Council and many years as president of the Berkeley Township Voters and Taxpayers Organization.
The council also approved a