Joseph F. Berenato
Mayor Hodson serving Egg Harbor Township
EGG HARBOR TWP.—Egg Harbor Twp. Mayor Paul Hodson (R), now in his third year, learned the importance of serving one’s community at a young age.
“I was raised by a pretty conservative family in Somers Point. My father was a World War II veteran, and when he came home he was in the VFW and American Legion. He helped us with Little League and the sports teams, and he was a volunteer fireman. My parents were always doing something for the community, and I think that’s what makes a great community: the ability for a lot of people to contribute to the community,” Hodson told The Gazette.
Hodson, a 1971 graduate of Mainland Regional High School, has had a long career in law enforcement and security.
“I went to work in Washington, D.C. right after high school—I was a clerk with the FBI for five months—then the Army saw fit to give me a draft number. I ended up doing active duty, then the reserves, and I completed a two-year degree at Atlantic Community College (now Atlantic Cape Community College) in criminal justice in 1981,” Hodson said.
After his stint in the armed forces, Hodson was hired by the Somers Point Police Department, where he stayed for approximately 15 years.
“I left and went to the Atlantic County prosecutor’s office, where I retired on April 1, 1998 after 25 years or more of police and fire. Then I was fortunate enough to get a job with a security contractor; I was a project manager at the FAA tech center for about 20-plus years with the armed guard contractor at the tech center. It’s a 45-plus years in the law enforcement and security background from the start,” Hodson said.
Hodson, now retired, has two children with his wife Patricia: Maria, who also has three children, and William, who has one child.
Hodson said that he has long had an interest in local politics, but could not run because of his employment, though he did serve as president of the Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 77 for a number of years and was a member of their executive board.
“Once I retired, I had some idea to run for the school board and got elected. I spent like 22 months on the Egg Harbor Twp. school board, and there was a position open on township committee—that was in 2005—and I ran, was successful, and I’ve been successful ever since,” Hodson said.
Hodson explained Egg Harbor Twp.’s committee form of government.
“We have five committee people, and we’re all basically the same; we run two, one, two, and we elect who’s going to be the chairman of the board, which I have taken that role for the last three years. It’s considered mayor. The term starts every year when we reorganize among ourselves. We decide who’s going to be the mayor and deputy mayor, and the other three are committee people,” Hodson said.
Hodson said that, since starting as mayor, Egg Harbor Twp. has been finding ways to thrive during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“The last couple years have been challenging in a lot of respects with local government. Hopefully we’re coming out of this thing pretty well ... I try to make sure our community is cared for, especially with public safety—police, fire and rescue. Not everybody needs police, fire and rescue, but, when they do, they certainly want the best we can provide, and make sure there’s plenty of things recreation-wise and community events that allows our community to flourish, and people enjoy living in Egg Harbor Twp.,” Hodson said.
Hodson also expressed his appreciation for his township’s volunteer fire departments.
“We have five of them in this township that do a pretty good job for us. They’re all volunteers; fire services are needed all days and nights, and we seem to be able to provide that, and make sure we have a good quality of life in the township, and make it attractive for families to move into Egg Harbor Twp.,” Hodson said.
Hodson said that the township does its best to attract businesses to provide ratables, but noted that “it’s going to be a tough time this year with budgeting because of the lost revenue that we experienced.”
“It’s an interesting dynamic; a lot of workplaces are now going to go where their people are working from home. I think you’re going to see some of these office buildings and open spaces be available, because they’re not going to come back to a brick-and-mortar place to operate their business when they can do it virtually through the computer. The maintenance and upkeep and leases and so forth on commercial properties, they’re where they have to be in this economy but they’re expenses that they won’t have to incur if they can log onto their computer and take care of business from wherever they’re at,” Hodson said.
That paradigm shift holds true, Hodson said, for malls and some shopping centers.
“The Amazon trucks run up and down my street all the time. It’s a whole different way of life; it’s amazing how it changes, and it probably will never go back to where it was before the change,” Hodson said.
Recreation, however, has been thriving in Egg Harbor Twp., Hodson said.
“We’re lucky; we have what we call a nature reserve, which we developed from an old pit, that people have used throughout this pandemic. A lot of people were out there every day, walking the dogs and walking the trails,” Hodson said.
Good recreation contributes to a good quality of life, which is one aspect among many that Hodson wants to see continue in Egg Harbor Twp.
“The hopes are that we can maintain the quality of life, a good education for the kids and people who have children in our schools, recreation, and make it a safe place to live and enjoy ... We want to make sure that, if there’s a way that we can enhance our township, to make it attractive, and that the residents have something to do right here in our hometown,” Hodson said.
Hodson did note a hint of jealousy over an aspect which Hammonton has but Egg Harbor Twp. does not.
“I think the one thing about Hammonton is that you still have the old downtown section, where Egg Harbor Twp.—with our area and space and roads—we don’t have a center city; we don’t have a downtown. Everybody will say, ‘where’s the center of town?’ That’s a difficult thing to have, because we could call it Bargaintown, Cardiff, it could be Scullville, and you’re not sure where it is. You guys have a center city, a main road that goes through town. You have some old buildings that I think are attractive if they’re maintained, and we don’t really have that. We still have some old farms and so forth out here, but we don’t really have a center of town,” Hodson said.
Despite that minor drawback, Hodson was effusive in his affection for his hometown.
“I’m just an older guy who enjoys my community,” Hodson said.