Rumson Politics: A Civics FYI

As an Election Day complement to the Fair Haven civics lesson, the notion is the same, of course, for Rumson voters: a better informed voter is a better voter.

So, here’s some information about the form of government and history of politics and issues in Rumson:

Form of Government

Rumson, like Fair Haven, is run as a Borough form of government. This form of governing includes the same “strong council,” “weak mayor” practice.

It means that the mayor does not vote, except to break a tie among council. The mayor also has veto power and presides over meetings.

The mayor’s term is four years, rather than the three-year staggered terms served by borough council members. The mayor elected directly by voters, as with Fair Haven. In other forms of municipal government, as with the Township Committee form, the mayor is elected as a township committee person and then appointed annually to serve as mayor from the pool of committee members.

Refer to the description of Fair Haven’s governing body by clicking here.


Rumson’s elections have been largely uncontested over the years. Republicans have maintained sole majority and have only been opposed a few times.

For many years, and in more recent years, Democrat Michael Steinhorn has run for borough council and lost.

Former Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl recently retired after decades of serving on the governing body. He began his long run in local politics in 1995 when he was appointed to council to serve an unexpired term.

He was a councilman for three terms, or nine years, until he was appointed mayor to fill the unexpired term of Charles Callman.

Ekdahl had been mayor since 2004. He retired before the end of his final term, which was up in 2019. Councilman Joseph Hemphill was appointed to fill Ekdahl’s unexpired mayoral term.

Two seats are up for grabs on the borough council. Those seats are John Conklin’s (who filled resigning Councilman Frank Shanley’s unexpired term in 2015) and Mark Rubin’s. Both are running for another term. They did not respond to Rumson-Fair Haven Retrospect’s request to answer an election Q&A.

Their challengers, Marnie Doherty and Sarah Orsay, did. The two are the first Democratic challenger team to vie for incumbents’ seats as a team as far as anyone can recall.

It has long been status quo for incumbents in Rumson to either not be challenged or only partly (one challenger only when two seats are up).

Rumson, like Fair Haven, is in Congressional District 4, where incumbent Republican Congressman Chris Smith is being challenged by newcomer Joshua Welle.

The borough, as with Fair Haven, is in Legislative District 13.

Rumson is comprised of roughly five square miles of land with a population of about 7,000.

Paramount issues in Rumson are: Piping Rock Park, governing body transparency and communication, affordable housing, the environment (specifically, the environmental health of the Navesink River).

The polls are open until 8 p.m.