By Laura Pulgarin —
Something about her Media and Government class with the late J/MS Professor Tom Hartmann really intrigued Dina Graygor Long when she became a journalism major in 1986.
Twenty-six years later, Long would make an ideal speaker for the Media and Government course. She is the new mayor of Sea Bright, a community running along one of New Jersey’s most beautiful barrier beaches.
She brings to the position years of experience working with the Democratic administrations of Gov. Jim Florio and Gov. Jim McGreevey, where she was finance director.
When she got the job with Florio, Long took a short break from her education at Rutgers and returned to graduate in 1996.
“Those were some stressful times!” she recalled. “On the bright side, during this time I also returned to J/MS and finished my degree requirements,” said Long.
Even though she began pursuing a college teaching career and now is an English professor at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, Long stayed close to the politics that intrigued her so much in Professor Hartmann’s class.
When she was offered the opportunity to serve on the borough council for her hometown of Sea Bright in 2003, she accepted. Long was re-elected three more times and during her tenure served as the chair for the Public Safety and Finance Committees, and in her last term, oversaw the Beach/Environment Committee.
“After serving on the borough council for eight years, I decided to run for mayor when the mayor announced her intention to retire,” said Long. “It was entirely a grass-roots campaign — I knocked on 1,000 doors, twice, and wore out a pair of sneakers in the process. In the end, I won by over 100 votes.”
She ran, primarily, to get the governing body to work together as a team. In Sea Bright the mayor does not vote on policies, spending or initiatives.
“We’re rolling up our sleeves here to get the job done,” reported Long. “Sea Bright is essentially a three-mile sand bar. Think Mayberry-by-the-sea [the fictional setting for TV’s “Andy Griffith Show”], with a lot of aging infrastructure and a local economy that struggles in the off-season. We’ve got major challenges coming at us from Trenton as well. My priority as mayor is to keep the small-town character while bringing us into the modern age.”
Fully embracing new technologies and trends, Mayor Long made herself available through all online outlets, including a Twitter account (@seabrightmayor), which she updates regularly.
“As mayor, my role is to provide leadership and direction to the governing body and to serve as the ‘chief executive’ of the community,” said Long. “Mayor is definitely a more visible role than council member, and I have to admit I’m still adjusting to it. When I walk into a room and people say ‘Mayor,’ I turn around like, ‘Where?’”
Recently the Asbury Park Press called her for a comment. “It used to be the other way around,” said Long. “Luckily I know a little bit about how this works, so I make sure to speak slowly and choose my words carefully. When it comes to communication skills, J/MS gave me the foundation I needed to get where I am today.”