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Leadership Change at Cape May County Bridge Commission

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Cape May County Bridge Commission Executive Director Karen Coughlin is pictured in 2018 with then-County Engineer Dale Foster.

By MADDY VITALE

The chief executive of the agency that oversees five toll bridges connecting the Cape May County beach resorts from Ocean City to Cape May is leaving her post.

Karen Coughlin, the executive director of the Cape May County Bridge Commission, will be taking another job.

Kevin Lare, administrator and clerk for the Cape May County Board of Commissioners, will replace Coughlin. Lare will hold two positions with the county while continuing as administrator and stepping into his new role as executive director of the bridge commission.

The Cape May County Bridge Commission’s board meets March 26 and is expected to approve a resolution formally naming Lare to the position, according to the meeting agenda.

Neither Coughlin nor Lare could be reached for comment Friday.

Cape May County Commission Director Leonard Desiderio, who is also liaison to the bridge commission, said a few words about Coughlin and Lare.

“Karen has done an excellent job and we are so sorry to see her go,” he said. “She has another job offer. She is someone other agencies have looked at over the years.”

Desiderio said that Coughlin was well-liked in her role as executive director of the bridge commission.

“Everyone loved working with Karen,” he said. “She was someone who did an excellent job day in and day out with the commission.”

The Ocean City-Longport Bridge is one of five toll bridges that connect Cape May County’s seashore towns along the Ocean Drive.

Desiderio declined to comment specifically about Lare’s new position until after the vote at the March 26 meeting, but confirmed that it is expected to happen.

“Yes, it is on the agenda, and the commissioners will vote on the resolution on Tuesday,” Desiderio said.

The bridge commission operates the Ocean City-Longport, Townsends Inlet, Corson’s Inlet, Grassy Sound and Middle Thorofare bridges along the scenic Ocean Drive.

This is not the first time that a county administrator also headed the bridge commission. Desiderio noted that former administrator Stephen O’Connor held both roles until 2012.

The Cape May County Bridge Commission was created by the then-Board of Chosen Freeholders, which is now the Cape May County Board of Commissioners.

The first meeting of the bridge commission was in 1934 with the purpose of having the means to apply for funds from the federal government to construct publicly owned coastal highway toll bridges and highway approaches, according to a history of the agency posted on its website.

The intent of the commission is to finance, construct, maintain and operate toll bridges within the county, according to the description on the Cape May County government website https://capemaycountynj.gov/647/Bridge-Commission.