• Gabriel Donio

Hammonton has four people holding higher office


On January 4, Congressman Jefferson Van Drew (R-2nd) administered the oath of office to Atlantic County Fifth District Commissioner and Hammonton resident James Bertino (second from left). His daughter Michelle held the Bible. Clerk to the Board Sonya Harris is pictured in the background. (Courtesy Photo)

Hammonton’s a unique town. It’s not like any other place.


Look at the current lineup of elected officials on the county and state level who call Hammonton home, for example.


Attaining a seat on the county and state level isn’t easy. Most communities either don’t have any elected officials on those levels, or just one.


Hammonton has four: Eighth District New Jersey State Assemblyman Michael Torrissi; Atlantic County Surrogate James Curcio; Atlantic County Clerk Joseph Giralo; and Atlantic County Fifth District Commissioner James Bertino.


Before they served in the positions they are serving in now, these four individuals served in other elected offices. Torrissi was a Hammonton councilman. Curcio was an Atlantic County freeholder (the title was changed to commissioner after his service). Giralo was the Hammonton Board of Education president and later, a Hammonton councilman. Bertino was a Hammonton councilman.


In other words, their successful rise to higher office didn’t just happen. They served for years on the local level in Hammonton, where they dealt with thousands of people, hundreds of meetings and issues large and small.


Elected officials tend to want to be helpful. I have often defined attempting to help a Hammontonian this way: You grab them by the shoulders, tell them “I want to help you.” And then let them repeatedly punch you in the face.


Then you help them anyway.


I’m sure the four elected officials listed in this column have experienced that feeling when trying to help others locally. Still, they persisted and persevered and have reached new heights in their political careers.


What’s interesting to me is that they have remained connected to their roots in Hammonton. Rather than going a rung or two up the political ladder and forgetting where they came from, they have continued to make sure that a sizable portion of their new positions involve giving back to the town where they started in politics.


Remembering where you came from and remaining grounded as you advance in your professional and political life isn’t simply good politics.


It’s a good way to live. Period.


There is great satisfaction in watching each of these individuals find success in the political arena. It is a point of pride for our town to have three countywide offices filled by Hammontonians—surrogate, clerk and commissioner—at the same time a Hammontonian is serving in the New Jersey Assembly.


In the past two weeks, we have featured photos of swearing-in ceremonies for local and county officials, including Giralo and Bertino. It’s long been a tradition at The Gazette to include the ceremonies in our coverage. Being able to cover so many locally-connected elected officials on the county and state level is a point of pride for us, as well.


In the coming months and years, this newspaper looks forward to covering the accomplishments of Torrissi, Curcio, Giralo and Bertino—the “Fab Four” of Hammontonians elected to higher office. There will be moments, we are sure, when having all of them in their positions will be extremely beneficial to Hammonton. How could it not be?


On a side note: This situation could become a trend. Who knows what current or future elected officials in Hammonton may take the baton from these four and serve on a higher level—the county, the state, or even beyond it? People with Hammonton connections have been known to wind up in the White House in some capacity.


You never know.



Gabriel J. Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.