WILDWOOD CREST – One likely wouldn’t expect to see a Queen Elizabeth II figure, along with an accompanying corgi, sitting on an office windowsill, in Wildwood Crest Borough Hall. Yet, for Commissioner Joyce Gould, the queen adds a “homey” touch to the place in which she spends a great deal of time. Public service reigns in Gould’s affection for her adopted hometown.
Faith Matters met with Gould, in her office, Feb. 8, and learned the journey of her life and political career. From housewife to mayor, Gould shared how faith helps her stay the course and handle opposition as a woman in public office.
A Tale of Two Cultures
Gould, 75, hails from Chicago, Illinois, and grew up in a Jewish home.
“Many people think I am a convert,” she said.
She noted the misconception arises from a stereotype of Jewish people.
“Jews come in all shapes and sizes,” she added.
Despite the misconception, Gould strives to see every individual as a person, not by racial or religious divisions, even if she is not treated the same.
Born at the close of World War II, Gould grew up attending one of the largest synagogues in Chicago’s suburbs. Going from the Windy City to Five Mile Island was “a bit of a culture shock,” according to Gould.
She met her husband, Alan, through friends, at the University of Miami.
“We grew into dating,” Gould said.
Alan grew up attending Beth Judah Temple, in Wildwood, and brought Gould for a visit during summer break. In 1964, the couple married after seeking an appropriate date in September, between the “high holy days” of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
“I wanted to be a June bride,” Gould explained.
Gould settled in Wildwood Crest, as Alan completed his tenure in the Air Force and began practicing law. They have one daughter, Tracey, who lives with her family in Cherry Hill.
The Day Everything Changed
In 1989, on Martin Luther King Day, Gould received a call from Mayor Frank McCall, a longtime politician who also served in Ocean City. At the time, Gould volunteered at the old Nesbitt Center, a tourism/information hub. According to Gould, McCall informed her she would be replaced as a volunteer.
“I got really mad,” Gould said. She lived on Seaview Avenue and, after meeting with friends, decided to run for office. Wildwood Crest needed a change in leadership, from Gould’s perspective.
Along with nine other candidates, including another female, Gould “threw her hat into the ring” and received the majority of votes that November. She ran on the promise of never being in “anyone’s pocket.”
From her first day in office, Gould realized the monumental task ahead.
“I was a registered Democrat and a Jew,” Gould said. Setting politics aside, Gould strove to serve her community.
“It was interesting working with all kinds of personalities,” Gould said.
She served as mayor from 1989 to 1993 and served as a commissioner for six terms. Gould’s tenure culminates in 31 years of public service.
She is also a member of the Greater Wildwood Chamber of Commerce and other civic organizations.
How has she handled prejudice throughout the years?
“You just deal with it,” Joyce said. Faith in God compels her to treat everyone with respect and courtesy.
“I have great respect for people of faith. Prayer is an important part of life,” Gould explained.
A Legacy of Understanding
Although impacted by generalized stereotypes, Gould focuses on doing her best for all residents.
“You don’t do it for the money. You do it for love of country,” she added, describing the grittier details of public life.
She emphasized a love of people must guide civic leaders at every level. As commissioner of revenue and finance, Gould takes her role seriously. She is proud to work alongside other professionals, i.e., Borough Administrator Constance Mahon.
Looking to the future, Gould finds fresh optimism as people purchase property, in the Crest, despite Covid’s impacts.
“It’s a better buy in Wildwood Crest,” Gould said.
She is thankful for Alan, her “rock,” and for Zoom, allowing them to participate in Shabbat (Sabbath) services. The Beth Judah congregation worships together via Zoom due to safety concerns. Although not as religious as Alan, Gould cherishes her heritage, Judaism, and friends at Beth Judah.
Gould believes everyone has the “God-given right to vote” and should exercise it for a better, safer society, where people of all faiths can live in peace and harmony.
Faith Matters is an ongoing series exploring the connection between individuals and their faith, impacting their families, community, and beyond. Those with a story of faith to share should contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.