Former Hawks Take Over Seaside Park and Become Nostalgic of MU

Two Hawks, two generations and two winnings for the Seaside Park Council. That is the story for alums Robert Matthies, class of 1972, and David Nicola, class of 2000. Both individuals ran for the Seaside Park Council this past November; Matthies was elected as Mayor and Nicola as Councilman. With just a few months under their belts in their new positions, the two former Hawks had some time to discuss serving Seaside Park, as well as to recall some fond memories on the Monmouth campus.

This is not the first time Mayor Matthies has represented Seaside Park in an executive capacity. He was Mayor from 2004 to 2007, chose to take a few years off, and has now reprised his role. “I ran again because of the strong support of the community. I’ve been in elected council for 20 years, and I’ve always felt obligated to my community, and if that means being in a leadership role, then so be it,” Matthies says.

As Mayor, he is Chief Executive Officer of the borough representing citizens of the Seaside Park community. Although the town’s population is 1,500 in the offseason, there are around 40,000 full-time residents in the summer – which does not include visitors to the beaches.

Nicola is in charge of multiple duties in Seaside Park. As Councilman, he oversees the annual budgets for the town as well as the operations of the police, fire and first-aid departments, public works department and beach control. “Basically all of the issues in-between, like how the residents are doing, if there are any issues in town they need to be made aware of, and just overseeing a tremendous amount of people and information.”

What the Councilman loves the most, however, is the ability to help others on a daily basis. “One of the most interesting parts of the job is being able to fix problems if you see them,” Nicola says. “I believe in open communication, so I share as much as I can with the residents. I definitely don’t believe in a transparent government. If there are any good ideas out there, then you can actually make them happen. It’s a great way to put the people’s wants and needs in front of you and be able to make people’s lives better.”

Mayor Matthies agrees, explaining that he loves to interact with people and be of service to the community, and exhibit leadership to accomplish goals, to work on challenges. “That’s just what I like to do.”

Alas, with every job, there will be challenges and obstacles. However, the “Jersey Shore” cast is not one of them, as the MTV show is filmed in Seaside Park’s neighboring town, Seaside Heights, so any havoc that is created does not affect Matthies and Nicola’s jobs.

Matthies says with his occupation, it can many times be frustrating, trying and annoying, but overall a great pursuit. “It has a great effect. You’re helping people in so many ways.”

Other challenges, Nicola says, consist of enforcing stable taxes, public safety, budgets and planning for the future as much as you can; although “things can happen that you don’t expect, which can affect your budget. You need to be diligent and look at costs each and every year, to scrutinize everything and to not pay up more than you absolutely have to. But most of all make sure you take care of the people and pay for the things you need to pay for to make sure everyone is taken care of in a proper way. Quality of life is important. I believe the people in Seaside Park deserve the highest quality of life possible.”

Matthies looks upon his MU education as a significant time in his life. He received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in science and science and education, respectively. He occasionally visits the campus, most recently to Pollak Theatre for the Cherish the Ladies performance and sat in front of President Paul G. Gaffney II. “I think he is a great leader of the University.”

Recalling some favorite memories, he softly laughs as he remembers Greek Week 1971, where he was deemed King. Looking back on his time at the University, Nicola was working towards a degree in political science and history. With friends who played basketball and golf, the now-councilman was a huge supporter of University athletics. He attended numerous games of all of the sports teams, and also tried to reel in larger attendances. “We felt it was important to support all of the different sports,” he said.

Overall, he enjoyed walking the campus and living in the Great Lawn and Garden Apartments, which he says are “really nice and fun places to live.” Since his dorm days, he’s noticed more buildings and an increase in student enrollment. He also speaks of the recent coaching changes with the men’s basketball team. “Hiring King Rice is a great step in the right direction, and I think the future’s very bright in general for Monmouth basketball.”

As an alum who attended Homecoming each October for a number of years, Nicola has also noticed tailgating changes that he doesn’t necessarily agree with. “Changes were made, and less people were going, and there was really a less of an incentive to go. However, in the last couple years, I see the University has made some strides to reach out more to bring more people back to Homecoming, so hopefully the University continues in that respect and there’s a nice mutual understanding of what needs to be changed and what needs to be left alone, and the alumni and students can have a great time once again.”

Matthies discusses the extensive growth of the University’s academic programs, as well as the increase in buildings and facilities. “It’s much more of a comprehensive education for those who desire an MU education.”

Alum Jeff Mass, now Career Counselor/ Job Developer for Career Services, has known Nicola for over five years and the two are close friends. “Nicola is a smart, reliable and hard working professional who knows how to get the job done. I’m confident that he will be quite successful as the newly appointed councilman for Seaside Park, NJ.”

Nicola agrees, saying Mass is a great person and addition to the University. “He always wants to help other people before he helps himself, one of those people. I always say people who went to Monmouth have the Monmouth connection.”

Mass is also aware of Nicola’s work-ethic and dedication. “Outside of the workplace, Dave volunteers his spare time with the New Jersey Special Olympics. Last year, his Polar Bear Plunge team finished in sixth place out of 299 teams with contributions of just over $15,900.”

Prior to becoming Councilman, Nicola was involved in several committees in Seaside Park, including the zoning board, environmental committee, and a volunteer of the fire department. His desire to help other people in his town gave him the idea to go ahead and run for Councilman.

Matthies, as noted, has been involved with Seaside Park council for two decades. He was on the Board of Education for close to 10 years, and the planning board for five. Currently, he is also the Superintendent of Cape May County Technical School System.

To the college students and upcoming graduates, Matthies and Nicola offer their perspectives. Matthies insists, “Seize all of the opportunities you came for, don’t forget to tell them where you came from, and say thank you to someone on your way out.”

Nicola has a few tips himself. “Pursue the things you are interested in. Something might pay you a lot of money, but if you have no interest in it, don’t do it. Life is more about making money. It’s about being happy and doing things that you like doing. Happiness matters.”

Overall, the Mayor cherishes the people he met at the University and the lifelong memories he’s made. He explains his respect and admiration for all who attend MU, as well as his professors. “I’d like them to know how important their teaching was to my education, and to my life.”

In the end, both men remain proud to be Hawks. “My time at Monmouth was one of the best times in my life,” Nicola says. “My years after Monmouth, when I would go back and visit friends, were also one of the best times in my life. I think alumni of the school and the current students are working together, from what I understand, very well; and my hope is that the relationship grows stronger as years pass. Now and in the future, anything I can do to help, I will always do. In the end, it’s a great place, it’s a special place, and I always have a place in my heart for Monmouth University.”

PHOTO COURTESY of David Nicola