Home>Highlight>Tom Kelaher, former Toms River mayor, dies at 88

Thomas Kelaher was elected mayor of Toms River in 2007 after serving as Ocean County Prosecutor. (Photo: Toms River.)

Tom Kelaher, former Toms River mayor, dies at 88

By David Wildstein, February 21 2021 7:47 pm

Former Toms River Mayor Thomas Kelaher has died, according to reports from The Lakewood Shopper’s Shlomo Schorr, and Jersey Shore Online.  He was 88.

Kelaher had served as Ocean County Prosecutor before his election as mayor in 2007.  He defeated Democrat Richard Strada by 2,968 votes, 52%-36%, with 11% for independent Carmine Inteso, Jr.  He replaced Paul Brush, a former Democratic freeholder who won a three-way race for mayor in 2004 as an independent.

He served three terms before retiring in 2019.   Kelaher was re-elected by a 61%-35% margin over Brush, running as a Democrat, in 2011 and by a 59%-41% margin over Democrat Susan Pontoriero in 2015.

At the time of his death, Kelaher was a candidate for re-election as a Republican State Committeeman from Ocean County.

Since Kelaher was unopposed, it will be up to Ocean County GOP Chairman Frank Holman to determine the process to open up new nominations in advance of next month’s convention.

Kelaher began his legal career in 1963 as a deputy attorney general under Gov. Richard J. Hughes and served as an assistant prosecutor in Ocean County from 1969 to 1974.

Later, Kelaher served as a municipal prosecutor in Toms River, Jackson, Seaside Park, Seaside Heights, and Point Pleasant.

He served chairman of the Clara Maass Medical Center and on the board of the Kimball Medical Center and the St. Barnabas Behavioral Health Center.

Prior to becoming prosecutor, Kelaher was the senior partner at  Kelaher, Garvey, Ballou, Van Dyke and Rogalski, a Toms River law firm.  He was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and spent 27 years in the Marine Corps Reserve before his retirement in 1979.

He was a graduate of St. Peter’s College and Seton Hall Law School.

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