ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, NJ – The crowd was three deep in the borough hall meeting room, and spilled out into the hallway and down the stairs as Harry Murtha was unanimously named police Captain and Travis Sodon unanimously named Sergeant at last night’s meeting of the Mayor and Council.
Murtha, a native of the borough, and a member of law enforcement for the borough since he was a security officer at the Yacht Harbor in 1995, was the first to be sworn into the higher office as Captain of the department by Mayor Loretta Gluckstein, in the presence of four generations of the Murtha family.
Sodon was sworn into the position of sergeant minutes later, to continued applause and standing ovations for both officers. Sodon scored highest among officers taking the test for sergeant, and like, Murtha, his appointment became effective immediately.
Police Chief Scott Reinert, who was appointed to his position last month at the retirement of Chief David Rossbach, praised both officers for their excellence, their experience, and their dedication to duty, noting having the excellence of men of their caliber will enable him to continue the excellent work and dedication of the local department.
In speaking about Murtha, Reinert, who is a Monmouth County native but not a native of Atlantic Highlands, recalled when, as a young officer joining the department, he admittedly gave a lot of traffic violations. He recalled that in trying to get out of summonses, motorists would frequently say “I know Harry Murtha,.” Or “I went to school with Harry Murtha.”
Amid laughter, he admitted he often questioned drivers more, asking more information about Murtha to see if they really knew him. And they always did! Praising the new captain, Reinert said “he’s the kind of guy who would cut off his arm if you needed it,” and noted that it’s men like Murtha that make the department not only professional but great.
Murtha, after receiving his Captain’s pin which was pinned by his wife, Melissa, along with his son Harry and daughter Danica, first thanked his parents for the way in which he was raised, and then thanked individual members of his family all in attendance in the front rows of the meeting room, noting how they all have played important roles in his life. He then turned to Kathleen Sweeny, and expressed thanks to his ‘adopted family,’ of Kathleen and the late Bernie Sweeney, and noted the roles both have played in his life. He added he is certain “Bernie is happy tonight and looking down on all of us.” Sweeney died Feb. 11, and Murtha and all members of the Police Department served in various positions as pallbearers and other honored positions at Sweeney’s funeral.
Sodon introduced his wife Samantha and son Justin, who participated in pining on his new rank. He thanked Murtha, noting “he brings energy and I’m looking forward to his passing on his energy” in congratulating Murtha on the promotion. Sodon thanked his family and all who have helped him along the way to achieve what he has achieved. The new sergeant also praised the police department members lined up with Chief Reinert along the side of the room, saying he is more than proud to be a part of the outstanding department recognized for its excellence. He praised past chiefs under whom he has worked, from former Chief Jerry Vasto, who was present for the ceremony, along with Chief Rossbach who recently retired, and Reinert, with whom he served night duty for many years, and whom he got to know and respect well for his excellence.
All members of the governing body stood in appreciation and congratulations of the two promoted law enforcement professionals, offering their own appreciation and standing ovations for their years of service and professionalism in providing assistance to the residents and visitors to the borough.
The officers and their guests continued the celebration of their promotions with a buffet dinner at the Shore Casino immediately after the meeting.