Jackson Township says goodbye to longest serving councilman

JACKSON TOWNSHIP, NJ – The Township of Jackson said farewell to retiring longtime councilman and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Ken Bressi on Tuesday.  Bressie, for decades, has served the township and decided in 2020 not to run for re-election.  A Vietnam war veteran, Bressi has seen combat over the years, but perhaps none so much as he has faced from fellow Republican Mayor Michael Reina.  Reina has been at odds with Bressi since taking office.  Before a ceremony at town hall honoring Bressi, Reina left the meeting and did not return. Reina has regularly been a no-show at township council meetings, missing more than 60 town meetings since taking office.

Bressi did not run for office this year but received hundreds of write-in votes in the November general election.

“It’s really an honor to be an elected official,” Bressi said. “I can leave this position with a clean heart that I did the right things.”

Bressi thanked his colleagues and township clerk Janice Kisty and township employees.

“It’s bittersweet. I have been here many, many years,” Bressi said. “My wife’s retired. I’m retired, we have grandkids. It’s time to take a little rest here. It was an honor to serve Jackson all the years I have, God bless Jackson.”

Bressi served the township from July 1989 to December of 2020, serving as mayor, council president, chairman of the planning board and serving on many different committees during his tenure.  Bressi is one of the longest-serving public officials in township history.

One of Bressi’s community projects that he will continue to work on is the Jackson Veterans Memorial Garden, which started over 10 years ago and honors all Jackson Township veterans.

The feud between Reina and Bressi has marred the past few years as Reina felt threatened by Bressi, feeling Bressi might again challenge him for the job of mayor.

Reina never returned to the meeting after spending about 5 minutes in town hall at the start of the meeting.  Reina is currently the subject of an FBI investigation headed by Special Agent Shawn McCarthy, who directed the blockbuster political corruption cases, Operation Bid Rig I, II and III. Each operation sent local Ocean County public officials to jail for taking bribes, peddling influence and relationships with developers and builders.

Reina is also facing 2 wrongful termination lawsuits in Jackson, 3 employee grievance and harassment cases at his job as the Ocean County Bridge Director, a federal Department of Justice lawsuit, and several state and federal RLIUPA and civil rights lawsuits as mayor of Jackson.  Reina’s administration is also being investigating by the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General.

Last year, Reina’s administration leaked Bressi’s testimony in which Bressi said he felt Reina was anti-Semitic while under oath in sworn testimony.   That testimony fueled the fire months after Bressi served as Reina’s campaign manager in the 2008 election in which Reina was re-elected to be mayor.

Reina eventually removed Bressi from all of his committee seats, including the township planning board.  Since Bressi’s removal from the planning board, the township has approved thousands of new homes.  Bressi has always been known as a fighter against overdevelopment in Jackson.