WILDWOOD - A New Year’s Eve meeting of the Wildwood Board of Commissioners focused on Mayor Ernie Troiano, Jr.’s departure. Troiano, while holding back tears, said, “Just remember, this is the greatest city in the world. Someday, somehow, someway, we may be back.”
Peter Byron, who was sworn as the city’s new mayor Jan. 2, put his hand on the departing mayor’s shoulder to console him, as a visibly emotional Troiano fought to keep his voice steady through his final meeting as mayor.
“That came from my heart,” Byron said. “I’m not going to let eight years of politics trump 40 years of friendship. I think you could tell by the emotions that both of us showed at the podium that it was a mutual feeling.”
Byron and Troiano have sparred in the last few years. Byron filed a lawsuit, accusing Troiano of retaliating against him politically, by stripping Byron of some of his power when the commissioner didn’t vote in line with the mayor. The case was dismissed in 2018 (http://bit.ly/307ziKu).
Byron said that he’s moved on, and that the incident was not a motivation for him to run against Troiano, who was once his political ally and someone Byron considers a lifelong friend.
“Ernie and I have been friends since the 70s. Our friendship was born out of competition. We met out of playing basketball and volleyball together in different leagues,” Byron said. “I think we’re both aggressive, we don’t like to lose at anything. We’ve been friends for a long time.”
Troiano did not respond to requests for an interview with the Herald.
He originally served as mayor from 2003-2009, when he was recalled by the public over tax raises, among other issues. He began a second term as mayor in 2011, running on a ticket with Byron, a political newcomer.
It was Troiano who called Byron and pushed him to run for the first time.
Midway through their second term together, Byron realized that Troiano was going in a different direction politically, and if there was to be a third term for Byron, it would be with a different team. Byron said they sensed each other’s differences, but it wasn’t until spring 2019 that they discussed their election plans.
“In March, we had a conversation, and, at that point, we realized we were going to have two different teams,” Byron said.
After that, communication was limited to the issues they had to work on together, he said.
“Was there some tension, yeah, of course, there would be,” he continued. “I don’t think it ever made him or I lose focus of the fact that we still wanted what is best for the community.
“At the meeting the other day, that was, frankly, the first time we’ve had any meaningful conversation since the election,” Byron added.
“I see Wildwood going in a much different direction than Ernie did,” said Byron.” That doesn’t make him a bad guy. He saw it going one way, that’s what he was pushing. I saw a lot more opportunity for growth,” said Byron.
Troiano was the subject of public comment, made by his wife, at the Dec. 31 meeting, who read from a handwritten sheet of paper, thanking her husband for his service to the city and highlighting his achievements during his two separate terms as mayor. Much of the departing mayor’s family was in attendance.