Surf City Mayor Francis R. Hodgson, Sr., who turns 91 next month, looks like a shoo-in for re-election to another four-year term. He’s running unopposed in the primary and general elections in a solidly-Republican shore town of 1,243 people on Long Beach Island.
Hodgson was first elected to the borough council in 1969 and became mayor in 2016 after Leonard Connors retired after 50 years in office. He is now in his 54th year in public office.
His running mates include his 61-year-old son, who has been a councilman for 25 years, and a 75-year-old former Ocean County freeholder who returned to local office last year.
But Hodgson is not the oldest mayor in New Jersey; that title belongs to 98-year-old Vito Perillo, the two-term mayor of Tinton Falls. Perillo is believed to be the oldest mayor in the United States.
Hodgson won his first term in 1969, defeating former Democratic Councilman Donald Cummings by over 200 votes. Cummings, who served in the early 1960s, is believed to be the last Democratic officeholder in Surf City.
Gerry Little, who served six terms as an Ocean County freeholder before retiring in 2021, will be on the ballot again this year as a candidate for an unexpired term on the Surf City Borough Council. He returned to government after a ten-month hiatus last November after 84-year-old John Klose resigned his council seat, and Little was appointed to replace him. Klose and Little had been running mates in the 1990s and 200s.
A Marine veteran, Little served as chief of staff to State Sen. Leonard Connors (R-Surf City) and Assemblyman Jeff Moran (R-Beachwood), and Christopher Connors (R-Lacey). He was elected to the Long Beach Board of Commissioners in 1988, running on a ticket with Mayor James Mancini and Commissioner DiAnne Gove.
In 1991, Little resigned his seat to move to Waretown; he later wound up in Surf City, where Leonard Connors was mayor (he served as mayor for 50 years before not seeking re-election in 2015). After Councilman Benee Scola resigned in late 1994, Little was appointed to fill her seat.
Mancini, a Long Beach Island political legend and an assemblyman from 1972 to 1974, was elected mayor in 1964 and freeholder in 1982; he was holding both posts when he died in November 2003, at age 77, following a long bout with cancer.
Little was one of thirteen candidates who sought Mancini’s seat at a December special election convention.
On the first ballot, he led Brick Councilman Steven Acropolis, 197 to 154 (45%-35%), followed by Lacey Committeeman John Parker (36), former Manchester Councilwoman Theresa Lettman (29), Seaside Heights Councilwoman Joyce Camera (8), Point Pleasant Councilman Brian McAndlin (5), Lavallette Councilwoman Anita Zalom (4), and Island Heights Councilman James Biggs (1). Five others withdrew between nominations and the first ballot.
Little defeated Acropolis on the second ballot, 243 to 158, a margin of 61%-39%.
The younger Hodgson was 37 when he was appointed councilman in 1998 after Russell Harris resigned and moved out of town. He and his father were running mates.
The mayor’s other son, Francis Hodgson, Jr., 62, has been a Superior Court Judge since 2007; he became Ocean County’s assignment judge in February after Marlene Lynch Ford retired.
Christopher Connors is retiring this year after sixteen years in the State Senate. Connors won the Senate seat in 2007 after his father retired after sixteen years in the upper house. He was mayor of Lacey from 1986 to 1989 and an assemblyman from 1989 to 2008.