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Two-term Wildwood Commissioner Pete Byron has teamed up with two political newcomers to topple Mayor Ernie Troiano in the November non-partisan election.
Steve Mikulski and Krista Fitzsimmons will join Byron on the “Wildwood 4 Change” slate and say they will make “big tax increases and deteriorating infrastructure” the central theme of their campaign.
A third incumbent, Anthony Leonetti, is not seeking re-election.
Once running mates, Byron and Troiano have been feuding for years.
A lawsuit filed by Byron against Troiano and Leonetti alleging the two retaliated against him for voting against the city budget, was dismissed last year.
Byron could wind up as mayor if he and one of his running mates win. Wildwood has a three-person City Commission and all three seats are up this year.
“For years, I have been a lone voice in trying to spend appropriately to keep taxes down and make essential improvements to our city,” Byron said. “With the unique qualities of my running mates we are positioned to make real fundamental changes to the way Wildwood is run. We will bring a professional approach to city government that is accountable to taxpayers. “
Local voters recalled Troiano from his seat as a commissioner in 2009. In 2011, he ousted incumbent Gary DeMarzo, who had been indicted on charges that he illegally held jobs as mayor and as a local police officer.
Last fall, a decade-long controversy ended when a jury found that former Cape May County Prosecutor Robert Taylor wrongfully arrested and prosecuted DeMarzo and Wildwood Solicitor Samuel Lashman.
DeMarzo lost a comeback bid four years ago by an almost 2-1 margin. He would run again this year.
Wildwood voters have a history of recalling local officials from office. In addition to DeMarzo, Mayor Doris Bradway and Commissioner Fred Murray were recalled in 1938, Mayor Earl Ostrander in 1984, and Commissioner Bill Davenport in 2009.
“There’s a dark cloud hanging over our community and we need a proactive approach to breakthrough and move the city in the right direction,” said Fitzsimmons. “When I retire, I want the opportunity to continue living here and not be pushed off the island by out of control tax increases every year. I also want the city to be more appealing and affordable for my kids to have the opportunity to stay here.”
Wildwood has a year-round population of 5,325. Some estimates put the summer population at over 200,000.