Clement V. Sommers, a popular former Monmouth County freeholder and Oceanport mayor, died on April 15. He was 91.
Sommers was elected to the freeholder board in 1980 when he and fellow Republican Frank A. Self narrowly unseated two-term Democratic freeholders Ray Kramer and Thomas J. Lynch, Jr. by nearly 4,000 votes. Kramer and Lynch won in the 1974 Watergate landslide and were re-elected in 1977.
When he sought re-election to a second term in 1983, Sommers and Self were defeated by Lynch and his running mate, John D’Amico.
On the same day, Democrat Thomas Cavanaugh defeated Sommers for re-election as mayor of Oceanport by about 150 votes.
Sommers blamed his running mate for his loss after Democrats found out that Self had claimed to have earned military medals that he had not. He also claimed that the Self controversy caused State Sen. Brian Kennedy (R-Sea Girt) to lose his seat to Frank Pallone, Jr., a Long Branch councilman.
He was elected mayor in 1975 against Democrat Francis Margolotti by a 2-1 margin and re-elected in 1979.
Before that, he served fourteen years as a councilman.
Sommers won his first election in 1959 after serving as the Oceanport fire chief. He was re-elected in 1962 and 1965, but lost his seat in 1968 by 21 votes to Margolotti. That was the year Robert Jackson became the first Democrat to win an Oceanport mayoral election.
He made a political comeback in 1970, winning a race for council. He was re-elected in 1973.
“I had the pleasure of working with Clem on the Board of School Estimate for the Vocational Schools where he had a great vision, which I will continue to support,” said Monmouth County Freeholder Director Thomas A. Arnone. “He was always there for advice and proved time and time again that he put the constituents he represented before himself. Clem’s devotion to the community and drive to get the job at hand completed will serve as the standard for future generations who hold public office in our great County. He will be remembered for a lifetime a public service in Monmouth County.”