Township Clerk J. Mark Mutter is tasked with preparing the agenda for each council meeting, meticulously checking each document that goes before the council’s vote. But for July 11’s meeting, council members managed to keep something secret from him.
The secret was a surprise to honor Mutter, who will retire July 31 as the longtime township clerk. A resolution honoring him and naming a building in honor of his 31 years of public service was met with rounds of applause and gushing comments from elected officials.
The building, located on Church Road, is the public records building – a fitting place to bear Mutter’s name as one of the duties of the township clerk is the keeper of records such as public notices, agendas, minutes and more that are now archived there.
It will now be called the J. Mark Mutter Records Center. The resolution to rename the building, read into the record by Councilman George Wittmann, caught Mutter by surprise and left him tearful and a bit speechless.
“I thought the clerk is supposed to do the agenda,” said Mutter to crowd laughter. “You did a good job keeping it a secret.”
Mutter, also the township historian, was instrumental in leading efforts to have a building erected to consolidate the far flung places township records were stored. Now, Wittmann said, records are more accessible, readable and better kept thanks in no small part to Mutter’s leadership.
“He was the driving force behind the records center,” Wittmann said. “Taking dusty boxes stored all over the place and organizing everything to the point now where we know what is in them and can easily find them and are properly utilizing them.”
The resolution, passed unanimously by the council, said the building should be renamed in Mutter’s honor in thanks of his efforts in “modernizing, revitalizing and bringing the township into the 21st century with his many ideas.”
Officials also commended Mutter for much of the programming held as part of Toms River’s 250th anniversary this year and during previous anniversaries.
Mutter’s public service goes beyond that. A former mayor, deputy mayor and committeeman under the Dover Township form of government, Mutter also helped develop many recreational offerings still enjoyed in the town under the clerk’s office, said Wittmann.
“You’ve been a tremendous cheerleader for the town,” he said.
Mutter, township clerk for the last 12 years, had prior to that served from 1993 to 2001 on the then-township committee, including two terms as mayor. Prior to elected office, he also served as the assistant township attorney.
Other council members heaped compliments and congratulations on Mutter for his decades of service and said he was a pleasure to work with and was someone who taught them so much.
“I have no doubt I will be running into you often around town,” Councilman Brian Kubiel said.
Mutter, 59, frequently was asked to give presentations on township history, and during the years when Toms River held a Founders Day, even dressed in uniform replicating how the history of the township pre-dated the Revolutionary War.
“Public records are a public trust, that’s what the law says,” Mutter said. “And I think we’ve done a pretty good job maintaining our records.”
The major project of the records center had its genesis in a seminar he and former Records Manager Greg Horbach attended in 2008, and led to the 2015 opening of the modest facade building on Church Road across from the Department of Public Works, which houses about 4,000 square feet of space for storage boxes of township records. He said they’d now be under the auspices of Records Clerk Stacey Proebstle. She said after the meeting that they’d worked hard to keep the renaming a surprise, and even thought to put the new sign up ahead of the meeting, but that Mutter often takes that route to work and might see it.
“This is a well-deserved honor,” said Councilman Jeff Carr, “Congratulations.”
Mutter said he was surprised and not prepared for the honor, and promised some prepared comments he’d say for his last council meeting as clerk, July 25.
“I’ve never seen you stutter,” said Council President Al Manforti. “But honestly, even in my short time I’ve learned so much from you and have no doubt so many others have as well.”
The township clerk’s duties are varied, also serving as the chief registrar for vital records, and assisting in local elections, in addition to serving as the secretary to the council.
“I love our town,” Mutter said, “I walked into this very room, as a 17 year-old boy, with my mom and dad, and the rest is history.”