In the kitchen with Jim Lupo

| 06 Aug 2012 | 10:02

By Ginny Raue “New Jersey State Statute 27:5-9 prohibits the placing of signs (political or otherwise) on public utility poles..”

We’ve all seen them, “Garage Sale,” “Lost Puppy.” They’re stapled toutility poles, probably by thoseunaware of the ordinance.Somebody has to receive the complaints and remove the signs and in West Milford that someone is Jim Lupo, West Milford’s zoning officer.

“I pick them up every day,” Lupo said.But that’s just one small part of his job.

Lupo is the man to see if you are thinking about adding to your home or property; an addition, a pool or fence for example.Residents are encouraged to contact Lupo before applying for a building permit.He can determine if the improvements will be in conformity with the town’s zoning laws.

On the job for 12 years, he covers the 80-square mile town, solo, handling everyday complaints.

“I basically take different sections of town every day and try to visit, but if there’s a serious complaint, I go there,” he said.

Born in Lodi, 59-year-old Lupo moved to West Milford in 1968.He graduated from the township’s high school in 1972 then attended Bergen County Community College where he earned his degree leading to his license as a building inspector.Hepreviously owneda construction company but when thezoning officer’sjob became available he went for it.

The father of three adult children,Lupo is currently engaged to be married.He spends a great deal of his time at the West Milford Elks lodge where he is the Exalted Ruler, his fifth time holding the one-year term office since 2000.It’s a lofty title, so what are the responsibilities?

“Basically I’m in charge ofdaily operations, making sure everything is flowing well,” he said.He reports to the 234 members of the lodge and makes sure everything is in compliance.

“Everything we do benefits charities,” Lupo said.Special children’s benefits, people in need, an annual charity ball, Friday night dinners and Sunday morning breakfasts, all in the name of charity.Last year’s duck race, overseen by Laura Paul, for example,raised an astounding $10,000.

The Elks provide $5,000 in scholarships to the town’s high school each year, contribute to Project Graduation and sponsor sports teams. They send special needs children to the Elks Camp Moore for two weeks at no cost to the family, a blessing for the parents, Lupo feels, that also gives them some well-earned rest.At the cost of $2,000 per camper, it’s easy to see why the members of the lodge work so diligently to keep the funds rolling in.

“I’m very proud of these members, even giving the smallest bit.It’s all volunteer,” Lupo said.

The Elks also have a soft spot for veterans, bringing in guests several times a year from Montrose Hospital in New York for breakfast, bingo and a gift to take home.

Friday night dinners at the Elks sometime turn musical with open mic and karaoke nights.The lodge is open to the public each night except Tuesday, meeting night.

Lupo feels that everyone looks for something useful to do and he has found his niche with the Elks.

“I love it.It gives me a purpose.I have my own hobbies and this takes a lot of my time but I enjoy it," he said."You look around and see what we’ve done, and you feel so satisfied.” In 2011, the lodge celebrated its 50th anniversary.

“In that time, we have given millions of dollars back into the township,” Lupo said.

The lodge is also available for private parties for up to 250 people.The Elks are available todo the catering and, if you choose them, there’s a good chance that Lupo will be in the kitchen.

He enjoys fishing and a trip to the shore, a break in the action.At one time he was a sportsman and a coach, now he’s a spectator.

His claim to fame, until recently, was a healthy head of hair.He had that shaved offat the St. Baldrick’s event for yet another charity, childhood cancer research.Arrivingat the event with his white mane tinted pink for the occasion, he handed over a check for $5,000 from the Elks and friend Jimmy Paul of The Huntsman restaurant.Amazingly, he’s not growing his locks back any time soon.

“Everybody likes it,” he said.Change is good.

While Lupo is often in the Elks’ kitchen, he rarely cooksat home.He has dozens of specialties and chose one for this column.