After stepping down from his 5-year appointment as the Ocean County Prosecutor in June 2007, Thomas F. Kelaher was sworn-in as Toms River's second-directly elected mayor January 1, 2008. He was reelected and sworn in for a second term on January 3, 2012.
Mayor Kelaher has been a major force in Ocean County's community service and legal affairs, practicing as senior partner in the local firm Kelaher, Garvey, Ballou, Van Dyke and Rogalski. After graduating from St. Peter's Preparatory School, he received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from St. Peter's College in Jersey City. He then studied law at Seton Hall University School of Law and graduated with his Juris Doctor degree in 1960.
While attending college, Mayor Kelaher enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1951 and reported to Marine Corps Recruit Deport, Parris Island. Upon completion of basic training in Quantico, he then reported to Camp Pendleton, where he served in various capacities, including being named executive officer of "Dog" (Rifle) Company and commanding officer of the Anti-Tank Company, both of the 5th Marine Regiment.
During a period of extended active duty, Kelaher was named executive officer of the Marine Barracks at Lakehurst Naval Air Station. Upon release from active duty, he was assigned to the Marine Corps Reserves.
He spent a total of 28 years of active and reserve-duty in the United States Marine Corps Reserves, retiring in 1979 as a lieutenant colonel. During this period of service, he attended numerous Marine Corps Reserve Officer formal schools, including Amphibious Warfare School; the Amphibious Staff Planning Course; the Naval War College ("Commanded & Staff"); Marine Corps Command and Staff College; Guerilla Warfare School; and Naval Justice School.
During his 49-year long law profession, a substantial portion involved law enforcement. He was appointed a deputy Attorney General of New Jersey by Governor Richard J. Hughes in 1963 and later appointed as the Assistant Ocean County Prosecutor from 1969 to 1974. Kelaher also served as prosecutor for the following Ocean County municipalities including Toms River, Jackson, Seaside Park, Seaside Heights and Point Pleasant. While practicing, Mayor Kelaher lectured on criminal law at the Ocean County Police Academy and served as the Ocean County Jail Study Commission Chairman.
During his tenure as Ocean County Prosecutor, he was elected as the president of the New Jersey Prosecutor's Association. While serving in that capacity, he was also a member the New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission; a member of the Prosecutor's Association Ethics Committee; a member of the Criminal Disposition Commission; and a member of the Supreme Court Commission for the Study of the Electronic Recording of Confessions.
Throughout his professional career, Kelaher has been admitted to practice before the New Jersey Supreme Court, the United States Court of Military Appeals, the United States Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court and later became a New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Civil Trial Attorney. Further serving his law vocation, he served as the Ocean County Bar Association President and as Ethics Committee Chairman.
Well-versed in hospital and health care matters, he served as a volunteer member of the Community Medical Center Board of Trustees for 25 years, 15 of which he acted as chairman of the board. While serving as chair, Kelaher helped oversee the consolidation of Community Medical Center and Paul Kimball Medical Center and then with the St. Barnabas Health Care System, which consisted of ten hospitals, nearly 4,000 beds and a complex array of programs and services.
From 1988 to 1998, the mayor also served as Chairman of the Board for Clara Maass Medical Center, member of the Board of Trustees of Kimball Medical Center and St. Barnabas Behavior Health Center. In 1998, Kelaher was named Hospital Trustee of the Year by the New Jersey Hospital Association and appointed in 1999 to the Board of Trustees of the New Jersey Hospital Association where he served as a member of the Executive Committee.
Presently in his voluntary capacity, Mayor Kelaher is Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the St. Barnabas Health Care System.
As a devout Roman Catholic, Kelaher's dedication to the Church has resulted in being named Man of the Year by the St. Joseph's Parish Century Club and by the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Trenton. He continues to be active at St. Joseph's Parish as a trustee, lector and Eucharistic Minister.
In recognition of his outstanding service to the Diocese of Trenton, Pope John Paul II designated him a Knight in the Order of St. Gregory of Great in 1997, and in September 2002, he was installed as a Knight of the Holy Sepulcher at St. Patrick's Cathedral in a main altar ceremony presided over by Cardinal John Egan.
Other awards Mayor Kelaher has received are 1989 Ocean County Police Chiefs Association Man of the Year; 1989 Man of the Year by B'nai B'rith and 1989 Toms River Rotary Club Man of the Year. He was also named the 1987 Toms River-Ocean County Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year and honored as the 1982 Irishman of the Year by the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of the Jersey Shore. He later was recognized with the 1993 Brotherhood Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews. He was awarded the Distinguished Public Service Award for 50 years of dedicated service to community from the 200 Club of Ocean County. Mayor Kelaher was also awarded the Paul Harris Award from the Toms River Rotary Club and recently was awarded the Legion of Honor by the Chapel of the Four Chaplains.
He and his wife, Carol, are the parents of four children and eight grandchildren.
If you would like to email Mayor Kelaher you can do so at
Mayor Thomas F. Kelaher Photo Gallery