Category Archives: Elections

Fair Haven Council Election Winners Split Ticket: Sorensen & Rodriguez

With all six districts reporting results as of 9 p.m. on election night, voters have split the party teams running for Fair Haven Borough Council and elected Republican incumbent Susan Sorensen to serve her third term and Democrat Christopher Rodriguez for his first full term.

Rodriguez, who ran for his first full council term after being chosen to fill Democrat Aimee Humphreys’ unexpired term, garnered the most votes with 1,148, or 26.05 percent of the vote. Sorensen brought in 1,120, 28 fewer, or 25.41 percent of the vote, according to the Monmouth County Clerk’s online election results.

Sorensen’s running mate, Betsy Koch, garnered 1,112 votes. And Rodriguez’s running mate, Jessica Patel, got 1,017 votes.

A total of 4,407 votes were cast. There were 10 write-ins.

In the District 13 State Senate race, Republican Declan O’Scanlon won with 32,484 votes. Democrat Sean F. Byrnes garnered 26,376 votes.

In the District 13 Assembly race, Republicans Amy Handlin and Serena DiMaso won.

The results are unofficial, as provisional and mail-in ballots have not yet been tallied.

Neither Sorensen nor Rodriguez was available for comment on election night. We will feature a post-election interview with both. 

— Elaine Van Develde

Election Time: Q&A with Democratic Fair Haven Council Candidates Rodriguez & Patel

This year in Fair Haven there area two three-year seats on the Borough Council up for grabs. Running in teams are Republican incumbent Susan Sorensen and newcomer Betsy Koch and Democrats Christopher Rodriguez and Jessica Patel. Rodriguez is currently filling the unexpired term of Democrat Aimee Humphreys, who moved out of the borough. Patel is a newcomer to the political arena.

Koch is seeking her inaugural term on council. Her husband, the late Jerome Koch, served. Sorensen is seeking a third term on the six-member governing body with a weak mayor-strong council form of government. In this form of municipal government, the mayor presides over meetings, but only casts a vote in the case of a tie and has veto power.

The following is Rumson-Fair Haven Retrospect’s Q&A with Rodriguez and Patel. The questions are listed with each candidate’s response.

Name, address and age

Chris Rodriguez

Christopher Rodriguez, 134 Buttonwood Dr., 44 years old

Jess Patel

Jessica (Jess) Lewis Patel, 205 Fair Haven Road, 37

Profession

Chris Rodriguez

Entrepreneur, Financial Services Executive

Jess Patel

I’m a proud mom of four, homemaker, volunteer, and yogi. I’m in charge of Marketing and Creative to our family endeavor, We Gift, a fundraising platform for both 501(c)(3) organizations as well as community-based charities. My youngest son is 3, and September was his first time going to school. It’s been a very busy time in my life up to this point, but I finally have a few hours free everyday while he goes to Sickles Pre-K! It’s been wonderful to spread my wings and start to get my hands wet again. As a mom of young kids, it can be challenging to focus on all the things I’d like to, while not spreading myself too thin. I stick to the things that make me the happiest and have the most positive impact on myself, my family, and the people around me.

Volunteer affiliations

Chris Rodriguez

I volunteer my time across many organizations and causes. I have run a communion breakfast ongoing for the past 22 years at St. Benedict’s. I was a board member of St. Benedict’s Prep, a non-profit school in Newark, NJ for 19 years through 2013. I support the Fair Haven PTA and local students, examples include volunteering for the Teen Canteen this past spring and supporting the beloved scarecrows fund raiser by collecting/accounting for funds while my wife Karen was the head of that effort. I participate in the Symphony.com charitable group where I currently work and am scheduled to staff a soup kitchen in NYC on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I have volunteered at multiple local events like Fireman’s Fair, for the Foundation for Fair Haven, spraying runners at the recent Color Run 5K and co-leading the past three FH Natural Area Volunteer days cleaning up trails, cutting down weeds/invasives and restoring trees through state donations of regionally appropriate seedlings. I have facilitated or co-chaired three (3) town-wide tree giveaways as a commissioner and former chair of the Fair Haven Shade Tree Commission giving out nearly 1,000 trees to contribute to our massive tree canopy since 2014. I am a volunteer to the FH Soccer federation and have been a coordinator managing multiple coaches and teams including 2nd grade boys coaching this year, 3th/4th grade girls soccer and 5th/6th grade girls soccer. I also worked as the opening crew co-lead with Jennie Lucci for the concession stand to drive the needed funds to keep fees down for our soccer athletes and families. I am involved with our Cub Pack as a member of the leadership team and recently stepped in as a den leader for the Wolf cubs. I’ve participated in promoting volunteer opportunities and getting the word out for local opiod prevention, suicide prevention, and blood drives over the years.

Jess Patel

I am actively involved with the Fair Haven PTA. Of their many great events and programs, Harvest Fest, Art Appreciation, It’s OK 2 Be Different, and the book fair are some of my favorites. I am a Cub Scout Den leader, and also help with Pack events. I’ve been a Dance Mom for my daughter’s Team. I’ve helped with Natural Area clean-ups, and recently assisted Firefly Yogis with an International Day of Peace celebration for 1st-3rd graders. I’ve Polar Plunged for NJ Special Olympics, participated in blood drives, and am heavily involved in promoting fundraising opportunities for the Lupus Foundation of America.  

What is your favorite charitable cause outside of the borough and why?

Chris Rodriguez

My favorite cause outside of Fair Haven is Saint Benedict’s Prep, now a co-ed school that offers educational experiences for children from Elementary school through high school. The school is focused on building good community participants through education, athletics and service oriented experiences. The school has remained in the city of Newark for almost 150 years through good times and bad. It provides children with opportunities to learn and explore interests that may not have been otherwise available without St. Benedicts. It’s truly a special and unique place that I cherish and personally support with effort and resources. The Benedict’s community was recently profiled by 60 Minutes: http://www.sbp.org/news/60minutes

Jess Patel

Hands down, if I had unlimited time, resources, and funds, I would dedicate my life to the Lupus Foundation of America. They are currently the only national organization devoted to fundraising towards and researching for a cure for lupus, an incredibly unpredictable, devastating, and debilitating disease. LFA also provides care for those who live with lupus’ brutal impact, and support to friends and family of patients sick with the disease.  Their vision, as well as my own, is a life free of lupus, and their mission is to “improve the quality of life for all people affected by lupus through programs of research, education, support and advocacy.” I lost my aunt to complications from lupus in 2007, and my mom in 2016. There’s nothing I would love more than to see a cure in my lifetime. https://www.lupus.org/

What is your premier campaign platform issue and how do you propose accomplishing your goal?

Chris Rodriguez

My focus is fundamental and pointed as it relates to infrastructure. I believe we have many opportunities to enhance the maintenance and in some cases, upgrade roads curbs, sewers, sidewalks and our core facilities. For generations we’ve kicked the can down the road on some buildings and projects in favor of repairing and keeping costs down, which should be done throughout the useful life of the asset. Many of our facilities are at or beyond useful life. As the back-up to Councilman Eric Jaeger on the Facilities Committee of the Council and when elected for the next term, I plan to dedicate my time to quality projects that enhance our town for current residents and the next generation to come.

Jess Patel

I am learning so much on this journey! I have learned from Chris’ guidance and influence, but more than anyone, the residents of Fair Haven have been my most treasured resource and my most valuable tool. My main goal, if elected, would be to focus on projects that maintain the integrity of our town as it is today, while also preparing us for a bright future ahead! This means taking advantage of opportunities to maintain and improve upon our town’s infrastructure and facilities: sidewalks, buildings, sewers, trees; while keeping safety a priority for residents of all ages. This, of course, while also making a dedicated effort to keep costs down. I’d also love to see more community involvement, wherever and whenever appropriate. Our town is full of smart, passionate, and dedicated community members who are brimming with bright ideas and a desire to be involved.

How long have you lived in Fair Haven?  What brought you here and in what year?

Chris Rodriguez

We are going on 6 years in Fair Haven. We showed up on the scene before Sandy devastated the Jersey Shore in 2012.  We have been in Monmouth County since 2006 by way of Spring Lake. We spilt time between NYC and our Spring Lake home near the beach but wanted more of a hometown feel while still being at the shore. We found Fair Haven through close family friends from both Rumson and Fair Haven. Frankly, we originally focused our search in the town to our East, but soon realized Fair Haven was more our speed. Three things stood out more than anything else: 1) the close-knit neighborhoods where you know and interact with others daily, 2) the throwback traditions that are the bedrock of the town like the Fireman’s Fair and lastly, 3) how the children can roam the town like I did as a child growing up in a small North Jersey town. Once we found the home we’re in, we called off the search in surrounding towns to focus exclusively on planting our roots in Fair Haven and have never looked back.

Jess Patel

My husband, Kal, and I moved to Fair Haven 10 years ago. We closed on our home the day after Christmas, 2007. As many families do, we took the long way here from New York City, via Hoboken. When we arrived, we had an eight-month-old daughter, a baby on the way, and two dogs. Our growing family had only a few requirements for our new home, but they were important. First, we needed a reasonable commute to the city. Kal was working downtown at the time, and wanted to be sure he would make it home before bedtime to see the kids. Also, we needed an excellent school district, not only for our kids, but potentially for me (I was an early childhood educator at the time, unsure if I’d go back to work in the classroom). Lastly, as long-term city-dwellers, we truly desired a walkable community! We needed to be able to walk for coffee, groceries, and pizza; to the bookstore, library, and post office. Of course this started as a wish-list item only, but when we found Fair Haven, we knew we’d look no farther. We’ve never regretted our move. A decade later, we have four kids, a dog, a cat, and a Bompy (that’s grandfather in our home – my dad!) living in the house we purchased all those years ago.

What was the first thing (situation, inanimate object, image  … anything) you encountered in the borough that captured your heart and clarified your decision that there would be no place like this home for you?

And don’t say the schools or the scenic suburban atmosphere. They are a given.

Chris Rodriguez

We purchased our home from a 50+ year resident who built his home specifically for his wife, in that it was the identical layout and floor plan of the home his wife grew up in out in Iowa. Mr. Jim Greene was a member of the FH Board of Ed and a typical passionate Fair Havenite. He vigorously interviewed potential buyers of his lovely home, which we now call our home. After losing his wife a year earlier, he desperately wanted a new family with young children to take his home into the future; at the time our son had just turned 2. After sitting with him 1:1, having multiple phone conversations, joining him for a lovely meeting with his grown children at the Seabright Beach Club and finally a formal dinner at his beloved Navesink Country Club, we were all-in. He curated a vision for us in Fair Haven while showering with stories from the past. I gravitated to his passion and perspective of the traditions of town. We shared common themes like his body of work in banking and involvement in the community and politics. Interestingly, he mentioned he was the Envoy to Argentina in the Carter administration. All told, our real-life firsthand Fair Haven experience with a 50+ year resident like Mr. Greene was what sealed it for us.

Jess Patel

Two things come to mind at first thought, in no particular order. First, the two large trees in front of our home. We’ve made some changes since we bought in 2007, but I can still recall the old image from the realtor’s website of our home the way it was when we first saw it in person. There’s something about the trees and all they symbolize: life, strength, change. So much in my life and in my family has changed in the decade we’ve been in town, but our big trees are still there, holding steady, anchoring us to each other and to our town. They go through the seasons with us. They’re pillars, and they represent so much for me, both literally and figuratively. I hope they outlast me! Secondly, the raspberry muffins (and all the other delightful baked goods) at what was then the Gourmet Picnic on the corner of Fair Haven Road and River Road. I spent countless hours there with my little ones, sipping coffee and indulging in sweets, meeting new friends, and forming lifelong bonds. We went there the day we saw our home for the first time, after the realtor left, and it was there, over raspberry muffins and coffee, that we decided once and for all that Fair Haven would be our new home.

Being a local official can be a tiresome, thankless job involving a major investment of time and heart. Why do you want it?

Cite the pay and benefits for a Fair Haven Borough Council member.

Chris Rodriguez

Let me start by saying the obvious, there is no cash payment for services rendered. Rather, the payment is in the gratification of giving back and setting an example for my children, my neighbors and for those new to the community. I serve because we need qualified folks contributing to the town in every way, whether it’s an extra set of eyes examining the financial aspects, contributing ideas to building projects, refining ordinances or simply volunteering for a committee of interest. I believe the more we put into the community, the more we all get out of it. Yes, it’s tiring at times and yes, it’s also thankless, but that is all offset by the amazing feeling of contributing to the long-term viability and growth of our treasured borough.

Jess Patel

I do realize this is a volunteer position! I have been out of my comfort zone campaigning; knocking on doors, speaking with individuals I don’t know, opening myself up to judgement, both positive and negative, putting myself out there. Not everyone wants to talk, and not everyone likes what I have to say. In spite of that challenge, that has been the single greatest part of this experience for me. I personally spoke to over 1,000 members of our community. I talked to neighbors who support me, and I spoke to those who don’t. And in the end, what matters most was merely the connection, not whether I earned their vote. I learned so much about what drives our community, and what people feel passionately about. I have a long list of community “wins,” things that people are raving about. I have a much shorter list of complaints. These are real issues – not mine, but ours. Real wins, and real concerns. But mostly, I learned about myself. I realized that I want this job because I know I can make a difference in our community, to our children and our retirees, to my family, to my friends, and to those I don’t know yet. I can be an inspiration to young women and men who want to be involved and want to make a difference, but might be unsure of themselves because they are viewed as inexperienced, and don’t know where to start. I’ve heard a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. This is my first step. Everyone starts somewhere. This is my beginning.

How do you feel about the gentrification — boom in retail and residential development in the past several years — in Fair Haven and the growing lack of affordability for the middle class?

It has been said that large, expensive homes are what the market is demanding. The predominant demographic for the borough, according to the 2010 census, is white families (73.6 percent headed by married couples and 51.4 percent of all households with children under 18 living with them). The median family income was $113,546. The median for Monmouth County is $82,265. For New Jersey, it’s $71,637.

Chris Rodriguez

I was approached by a resident just yesterday (11/5/17) on this very topic. We explored the pros and cons of the sizes of homes, the redevelopment of the ACME shopping center and the general direction of life on the peninsula. I shared a similar view with the person that we are going through an evolution not a revolution in Fair Haven. The resident pointed to the original development of River Oaks in the 50s and 60s. Before that period, there were no homes in that area and all of a sudden hundreds of ranches and capes popped up attracting new people and new business to an otherwise sleepy hamlet on the banks of the Navesink. In a 20-year period from 1940 to 1960 the population more than doubled (going from 2,491 to 5,676), imagine that. The cultural and economic changes must have been staggering and still we have this wonderful community. The sheer number of homes exploded in that time period putting stress on schools, roads and general infrastructure. There has only been and increase of about 400 people since 1960, a solid 55+ years later. The gentrification we are experiencing pales in comparison to what this town had seen in the middle of last century. We may be seeing a general increase in wealth and prosperity in our country and in the areas 20 miles circling the NYC area manifesting itself in all of the towns on the Narumsunk Peninsula.  So what do I think…I think our town will continue to evolve demographically and as such, attract folks that want the Fair Haven experience. We need to be careful to plan for and guide the evolution when it comes to zoning, planning and adhering to the feedback we get from residents in surveys we conduct like the revaluation of the master plan from 2015. We have a perfectly good road map from the people we work for, the voters and residents. I think the governing body comprised of the council and mayor should guide the town and its laws and ordinances based on the constituents’ direction.

Jess Patel

Our town attracts affluent families who want everything that Fair Haven has to offer, and that is exactly what we’ve built; a quaint, quiet retreat from city life that still offers all the amenities of urban living, ie: walkability, flourishing commercial district, exemplary schools, and reasonable commute, all with a peaceful view of our river and a quick drive to the beach. What isn’t to love? This is what we pride our community on; I’ve heard more than one resident refer to Fair Haven as “Mayberry,” and it makes perfect sense. For some new families moving into our community, newer and bigger homes are in demand. And certainly, for others, these are seen as unnecessary and out of character lining our lovely streets. Fair Haven will continue to grow to meet the needs of its residents, both current and future. Our goal should be to prepare accordingly, to stay on top of zoning and planning ordinances, and to truly listen to feedback from the community to understand fully what residents want and need moving forward.

Do you think there is a need to rethink residential zoning that encourages, allows for and makes room for more affordable, smaller homes, maybe even apartments, and diversity?

According to the 2010 census, 7.3 percent of the households in Fair Haven were comprised of someone living alone age 65 or older.

Chris Rodriguez

I am a firm believer that we need to take all of our residents into consideration when looking at zoning. One idea that I shared with some residents was the notion of encouraging small apartments like the one above Edwards Jones on River Road. I understand it’s not easy to accomplish these kinds of things in a mature and fully developed town with an iconic past and historic structures. We need to steadfastly focus on ways to retain our residents and even attract back young professionals who grew up there. Finding opportunities will be difficult, but one resident mentioned their child would either have to live with them in their home or move to anther town. We should consider ways to accommodate and encourage our younger generation to come back.

Jess Patel

We absolutely need to consider the needs of residents of all ages and incomes in our town.

My discussions with retirees and residents over 55, however, lead me to believe there is no clear right answer, and that this won’t be a one-size-fits-all solution. In a community like Fair Haven, there is a desire to keep with the appearance of current homes and buildings, and therefore a typical apartment building may not be the way to go. There may be an opportunity to explore the option of using some existing structures and/or business dually as residences. Regardless of the solution, the ultimate goal should be keeping our residents in town, especially those who have grown roots here over the decades.

How do you propose to keep the area affordable for seniors who have lived here most of their lives and would like to stay?

It’s no secret that the average assessed property value in Fair Haven is one of the highest in the county and state at more than $700,000. The municipal taxes have stayed level for several years, but the rate itself is high, comparatively. Many people are not only fleeing the state, but leaving Fair Haven.

Chris Rodriguez

This is a complex and layered issue for which no silver bullet exists. There are many initiatives that can be explored with the help of the state government, county leadership and our own local governing body. I’d like to point to the NJ Homestead Rebate and work that can be done to make it more relevant to our residents. We struggle to make the rebate work for our residents because the relative level of affluence that was pointed out in a previous question works against our municipality relative to the rest of the state. The first step would be to create a small task force of residents and officials to lay out the issues, options and potential courses of action we can embark on with the county and state. Again, this is a very real issue with no silver bullet answer.

Jess Patel

If only I had the perfect answer to this pressing issue. Of course, there is no easy solution. There are federal, state and county initiatives that may be relevant and helpful to residents with a specific income or in a specific age bracket. If we begin with research and planning, we may empower residents to feel more secure here.

Who is your local political role model, past or present? It can be someone from another municipality anywhere. Why this person?

Chris Rodriguez

I share many characteristics with my own father, John Rodriguez, who was also an entrepreneur, an Eagle Scout and was a lifelong public servant in Roselle, NJ. My father was himself inspired by President John Kennedy’s focus on public service and particularly the formation of the Peace Corp. I try to conduct my actions in Fair Haven and on the borough council with the same passion and dedication to serving the community as my father. My dad had many flaws, but where he lacked in some areas, he made up for in others like volunteerism, active engagement in municipal projects and getting people more involved in community activities across the board.

Jess Patel

Mariel DiDato, current candidate for General Assembly, is an inspiration. At 24 years old, she went to testify at a senate budget committee meeting. She noticed that the committee members were not responsive to the witnesses; they seemed distracted and disinterested. Frustrated with their lack of interest and respect, she decided to get involved, to make a tangible difference. I have seen her speak with such passion and integrity, she can motivate an entire room into action. As a woman who is new to politics, I am completely motivated by her energy, honesty, and positivity. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to get to know her.

Local politics/governing bodies have a significant effect on residents. So do residents on one another. Whether or not you are elected, what, as a small town suburban resident, would you like to be your legacy?

Chris Rodriguez

Honestly, I don’t think about stuff like this much and don’t have a great answer. I would like to focus on what good things we can do as a community and how I can help us get there. Once I wrap up my public service life whether as an elected official or as a volunteer, I will look back on what I accomplished and be proud. If I inspire the people around me, namely my own family members, to also give back with their God-given skills, available resources, and an honest effort, then I will be happy with that outcome.

Jess Patel

The only legacy I leave will be to my children. If there is one thing I want my neighbors to think when they think of me, however, it’s that I took a big leap of faith, and I did it for Fair Haven. Because I love it here as much as they do!

 

Election Time: Q&A with Sorensen & Koch, Fair Haven GOP Borough Council Candidates

This year in Fair Haven there area two three-year seats on the Borough Council up for grabs. Running in teams are Republican incumbent Susan Sorensen and newcomer Betsy Koch and Democrats Christopher Rodriguez and Jessica Patel.

Rodriguez is currently filling the unexpired term of Democrat Aimee Humphreys, who moved out of the borough. Patel is a newcomer to the political arena.

Koch is seeking her inaugural term on council. Her husband, the late Jerome Koch, served. Sorensen is seeking a third term on the six-member governing body with a weak mayor-strong council form of government. In this form of municipal government, the mayor presides over meetings, but only casts a vote in the case of a tie and has veto power.

The following is Rumson-Fair Haven Retrospect’s Q&A with Sorensen and Koch. The questions are listed with each candidate’s response.

Name, address and age (sorry)

Susan Sorensen

Susan Sorensen, 34 Clay Street, Fair Haven, 54 years old

Betsy Koch

Elizabeth Koch, 27 Sycamore Lane, Fair Haven, NJ,  66

Profession

Susan Sorensen

Sales Executive in the Telecommunications Industry for over 30 years

Betsy Koch

Science/MathTeacher, Knollwood School, 23 years

Volunteer affiliations

Susan Sorensen

Volunteer on various committees for close to 20 years in Fair Haven.  These include but are not limited to: councilwoman, council chair for Parks & Recreation, council liaison for Fair Haven Historic Commission, Fair Haven Police Commissioner and liaison to OEM, Fire Department & First Aid, liaison to Board of Education, liaison to the FH Fields Natural Area, council chair for Personnel, on special Facilities Committee regarding The Foundation of Fair Haven, president and founding member Centennial Committee, 2012 event chair of an event each month including the large celebration that today is now Fair Haven Day, Fair Haven Day 2013 – 2017 and hopefully 2018 event chair, Oktoberfest 2012– 2017, and hopefully 2018 event chair, Teen Canteen Chair 2008-2015, PTA Luncheon 50/50 chair 4 years, Personnel Committee for the Borough of Fair Haven, Event Chair (3) of the Historic Preservation Committee’s Annual Garden Party, Team Mom on various sports – too many to name, event chair (3) for RFH Lacrosse Fundraiser

Betsy Koch

Parks and Recreation (27 years), Zoning Board (2 years)

What is your favorite charitable cause outside of the borough and why?  

Susan Sorensen

Monmouth Day Care Center – which is located in Red Bank, NJ, a non-profit organization that provides a safe and nurturing environment for many young children in the area who may not have support otherwise. They have been around since 1969, and my aunt was on their board many years ago, and I love that I am able to continue the tradition for this great and worthy local cause.

Betsy Koch

HABCORE, a very committed group of volunteers who fundraise to provide housing for the homeless

What is your premier campaign platform issue and how do you propose accomplishing your goal?

Susan Sorensen

Throughout my tenure on council I have enhanced Fair Haven’s numerous avenues for communication and I hope to continue to do so. It is imperative that we remain fiscally prudent and responsible especially with our upcoming facilities challenges. I have been involved on the special committee working towards a sustainable solution for future generations in regards to the challenges we are facing, while being creative to find ways to offset some of the financial burden.

Betsy Koch

I have several goals.  As a member of the Zoning Board I would like to see us clarify some of the ordinances which are unclear and at times cause our citizens undue financial hardship. I would like to see the DPW open more than once a month. Fair Haven is in the early planning stages for upgrades/changes to some of our municipal facilities and I would like to be a part of that process.

How long have you lived in Fair Haven?  What brought you here and in what year?

Susan Sorensen

I was born in the area, and once we began a family, we chose to move to Fair Haven in 1998 because of the warm community and charm of the town, especially in the historic district where we live.

Betsy Koch

42 years. My husband Jerome had a ROTC scholarship and when he graduated from college he had a four-year commitment to the Army. His second (and last) posting was Fort Monmouth (1975).

What was the first thing (situation, inanimate object, image  … anything) you encountered in the borough that captured your heart and clarified your decision that there would be no place like this home for you? And don’t say the schools or the scenic suburban atmosphere. They are givens.  

Susan Sorensen

We were coming to the area every weekend and finally decided to move here – our first image of Fair Haven when we were looking for a home to raise our children was watching all the children ride their bikes to school.  I grew up in a town that had a similar “to school” routine and it really hit home for us.

Betsy Koch

As young newlyweds we needed a place to live and the real estate agent suggested Fair Haven. We bought our first home on Fair Haven Road and joined Newcomers. We met wonderful neighbors, made great friends and loved the sense of community that was so evident in so many community events (parades, recreational activities, access to the river and so much more).

Being a local official can be a tiresome, thankless job involving a major investment of time and heart. Why do you want it? Cite the pay and benefits for a Fair Haven Borough Council member.  

Susan Sorensen

This has nothing to do with pay, Fair Haven is one of the few towns in NJ that doesn’t get paid anything let alone a stipend.  I was raised to give back to my community, it is engrained in me – and have done so even as a child.

The pay and benefits for a Fair Haven Borough Council member cannot be measure in dollars and cents – it is measured in witnessing your hard volunteer hours, strategy sessions, community outreach, countless meetings paying off – such as municipal budgets remaining relatively flat for 7 out of 8 years, improvements to our infrastructure (roads, curbs, sidewalks), new tennis courts, huge improvements to Fair Haven Fields, increased river access, creative solutions to financial challenges, the list goes on and on.

Betsy Koch

I have always been involved in community affairs. As the oldest child in a family of 10, our parents always encouraged us to be involved. Whether serving meals in a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving, raising funds for families less fortunate than ours during the holidays or something simple like visiting an older neighbor of my parents, volunteerism has always been a part of my DNA and encouraged by my parents. I have reached a point in my life where I have the time, the energy and the passion to become involved in government at the local level. 
Fair Haven is one of the few communities that not only do not provide pay or benefits for their council members, but do not provide stipends for council members’ expenses associated with their positions.

How do you feel about the gentrification — boom in retail and residential development in the past several years — in Fair Haven and the growing lack of affordability for the middle class?

It has been said that large, expensive homes are what the market is demanding. The predominant demographic for the borough, according to the 2010 census, is white families (73.6 percent headed by married couples and 51.4 percent of all households with children under 18 living with them). The median family income was $113,546. The median for Monmouth County is $82,265. For New Jersey, it’s $71,637.  

Susan Sorensen

Families are drawn to Fair Haven because we are an extremely well run town. Fair Haven encourages small businesses to move to Fair Haven,  which in turn helps to offset the tax burden on our families.   Currently there is a strategic committee in place to review all zoning ordinances to update and clarify.

Betsy Koch

Response unified with running mate, Susan Sorensen.

Do you think there is a need to rethink residential zoning that allows for and make room for more affordable, smaller homes, maybe even apartments, and diversity?

According to the 2010 census, 7.3 percent of the households in Fair Haven were comprised of someone living alone age 65 or older. 

Susan Sorensen

Yes we do.  But the reality is that there is very little property available for these types of residences. As our population ages, we need to be more creative and look for ways to provide more affordable housing and encourage our seniors to stay in Fair Haven.  Committees are currently exploring such options with Fair Haven’s upcoming municipal facility challenges.

Betsy Koch

Unified response with running mate, Susan Sorensen.

How do you propose to keep the area affordable for seniors who have lived here most of their lives and would like to stay? 

It’s no secret that the average assessed property value in Fair Haven is one of the highest in the county and state at more than $700,000. The municipal taxes have stayed level for several years, but the rate itself is high, comparatively. Many people are not only fleeing the state, but leaving Fair Haven. 

Susan Sorensen

This is a similar question and answer above in regards to creating affordable housing. With that said, the more important issue is taxes and the Borough Council has worked extremely hard to maintain a relatively flat budget over the last decade while continuing to improve the quality of life in Fair Haven.

Only approximately 20% of your overall tax bill is the municipal portion, with the balance not directly being within the borough’s purview.  Fair Haven has worked strategically with the other entities in regards to shared services as well as other options to help reduce overall spend.  As members of Parks & Recreation we have worked hard to address the recreational needs of our seniors and provide them with the funds and opportunities to pursue their mutual interests. Some examples:  bus trips, health and yoga classes, lining our new tennis courts with lines for pickleball.

Betsy Koch

Unified response with running mate Susan Sorensen. The more important issue is taxes and the Borough Council has worked extremely hard to maintain a relatively flat budget over the last decade while continuing to improve the quality of life in Fair Haven. As a member of Parks and Recreation we have worked very hard to address the recreational needs of our seniors and provide them with the funds and opportunities to pursue their mutual interests. Examples include: bus trips (Cape May), health and yoga classes and lining our new tennis courts for pickle ball.

Who is your local political role model, past or present? It can be someone from another municipality anywhere. Why this person?

Susan Sorensen

Hands down – Jon Peters.  When he joined Council the philosophy changed from reactionary to long range, strategic thinking.  He is a brilliant strategist and economist – with some urban/suburban planning thrown in for good measure. You will not find a better financial expert in the region. I have learned more from Jon and I truly hope I have the opportunity to continue to learn from him.

Betsy Koch (taken beyond the local level)

Eleanor Roosevelt.  I grew up in New York State near Hyde Park and she was an icon in our family.  She was the first First Lady to become involved in politics in her own way.  She was a champion for human rights, children’s causes and women’s rights.   

Local politics/governing bodies have a significant effect on residents. So do residents on one another. Whether or not you are elected, what, as a small town suburban resident, would you like to be your legacy? 

Susan Sorensen

I would like the residents of Fair Haven to continue to enjoy all of the hard efforts that have gone into the many improvements throughout the borough, specifically the facilities within our Parks and Recreation.

I would also be remiss if I did not mention being one of the founders and the president of the Foundation of Fair Haven, which has brought the borough many community events beginning with our Centennial Year all the way through the many Fair Haven Days and Oktoberfests. I truly hope my legacy is one of volunteerism and enhancing Fair Haven’s sense of community one event at a time.

Betsy Koch

I would like the residents of Fair Haven to remember my work as a founding member on the Foundation of Fair Haven and the many community events our Foundation sponsored. It has been my privilege to be a member of the staff at Knollwood School for 23 years and work with the children in our community.  I am honored to have worked with Joe Perrotto on a very special project.  We created a Wall of Honor at Knollwood School to honor our Knollwood graduates who are currently serving on active duty in the Armed Forces.   
I would like my legacy to be one of volunteerism and enhancing the Fair Haven community spirit – one event at a time.

 

At the Polls: Local Elections 2016

It’s election day 2016; and the choices at the polls in the Rumson-Fair Haven area are a mix of longtime incumbents, newcomer challengers and one mainstay  …

Fair Haven Borough Council

The incumbents … 

Republican sitting councilmen Rowland Wilhelm Jr. and Jonathan Peters are hoping to keep their council seats on the six-member, weak mayor strong borough council form of government dais. There is a lone Democrat serving on the present GOP-dominated council.

Wilhelm and Peters are running on a “Family Friendly — Fiscally Prudent” platform which touts experience, preservation and fiscal responsibility.

The Democratic challengers …

for the two seats up for grabs are Shervyn von Hoerl and Christopher Rodriguez. Rodriguez is relatively new to Fair Haven and von Hoerl ran for mayor last year.

Rodriguez’ wife, Karen, is running for the Fair Haven Board of Education.

The two seek to break the long-time Republican majority on council with what they have said is a non-partisan, unifying mission to serve and represent residents.

Rumson Borough Council

Two seats are up for grabs on the six-member dais in Rumson. The two Republican incumbents, Joseph Hemphill and Laura Attwell are being challenged by Democrat Michael Steinhorn, who has run for local mayoral and council office several times and has made a bid for Monmouth County Surrogate as well as clerk.

Hemphill, a longtime resident, has served on council for 10 years. Atwell, also a longtime resident, has served for the past three.

The two, according to their campaign brochure are running on a platform of experience and accomplishment.

Atwell has served as the council’s liaison for the borough’s Department of Public Works and the Historic Preservation Commission.

Fair Haven Board of Education 

There are five candidates running for the three Fair Haven Board of Education seats up for grabs on the nine-member dais. They are: Karen Rodriguez, Carol Lang, Sherri D’Angelo, incumbent Marisa Coar and Ellen Iovino.

The only seated BOE member who is running again is Marisa Coar. Michael Bernstein and Jeff Spector’s terms expire in December of 2016. Both opted to not run again.

Rumson Board of Education

There are two uncontested seats up for grabs on the nine-member board in Rumson. They are those of: Diane MacGillis and Elaine Melia.

 

The BOE Votes: Mancuso Loses FH Bid for Third Term

By Elaine Van Develde

Fair Haven Board of Education President Mark Mancuso has lost his bid for re-election, leaving contenders Bennett Coleman, Michelle Buckley and Charlie Jakub filling the three seats up for grabs on the nine-member board.

Mancuso first came to the board by filling an unexpired term five years ago. He will be finishing the end of his second full term on the dais by the year’s end.

The highest vote-getter in the election, which brought out 3,299 voters, was Coleman, with 847. Buckley garnered 655 votes and Jakub 632, according to the unofficial tallies of the Monmouth County Clerk’s Office.

Five vied for the three seats. In addition to Mancuso, Marisa Coar did not win her bid for election. She won 615 votes, or roughly 19 percent, while Mancuso had the least amount of votes cast on his ballot — 540, or about 16 percent.

There were 10 write-ins.

Rumson

The race for three board seats in the Rumson School District was uncontested.

Three ran for three seats.

With a total of 1,595 votes cast, John Connors got the highest number of votes, 533, or more than 33 percent. Charles ”Chuck” Jones III won 532, or just more than 33 percent. And Margaret Simons got 514 votes, or 32 percent, the vote tallies of the Clerk’s Office said.

There were 16 write-ins.

Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School

With three seats up for grabs, only two incumbent candidates ran uncontested to fill them.

Lourdes Lucas and Sarah Maris (both representing Fair Haven) won new terms with 874 and 869 votes, respectively.

Teresa Liccardi, M.D., Rumson representative, did not seeking re-election.

So, there will be an empty seat to be filled.

There were 55 write-ins for that seat.

 

Fair Haven Votes: GOP Incumbents Keep Seats

By Elaine Van Develde

Republican incumbents kept their seats on Fair Haven Borough Council by a comfortable margin, with 2,339 votes cast, or more than half the estimated 4,000 registered voters in the borough.

With newcomer Democrat Shervyn von Hoerl vying for one of the two three-year governing body terms up for grabs, a win for him would have put a long-unprecedented two Democrats on the dais.

He did not succeed. The challenger, von Hoerl ended up with 621 votes, or nearly 27 percent of the vote.

The high vote-getter in the race was Councilman Eric Jaeger, with 876, or more than 37 percent.

Jaeger’s running mate Robert Marchese won his third term to council with 834 votes, or roughly 36 percent.

There were eight write-ins.

Fair Haven’s form of government is a Borough Council form. In this form of municipal government, there are six council members with three-year terms and a mayor with a four-year term.

While the mayor presides over meetings, he does not vote, unless to break a tie.

The mayor does, however, have veto power.

 

Rumson Votes: Ekdal is Mayor Again, Uncontested Council

By Elaine Van Develde

Familiar challenger Michael Steinhorn tried again, but did not succeed in ousting longtime Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl.

With 864 votes cast in the mayoral race, Ekdahl ended up with 565 of them, or more than 65 percent.

Steinhorn, a Democrat who has long attempted to break the longtime Republican stronghold on the governing body, garnered 294 votes, or 34 percent.

There were five write-in candidate votes.

Ekdahl will begin his fourth four-year term as mayor in January.

Incumbent Republican Borough Councilmen Marc Rubin and John Conklin won uncontested three-year seats on the dais, garnering 623 and 629 votes, respectively. A total of 1,276 votes were cast for the council race.

There were 24 write-ins.

Rumson is run with a Borough Council, or Mayor and Council form of government.

As with Fair Haven, the governing body has six council members and a presiding mayor. The mayor runs the meetings, but does not vote unless there is a tie.

He has veto power.

 

On the Borough Council Ballot in Fair Haven

With two Fair Haven Borough Council seats up for grabs, a lone Democrat is vying to oust one of two Republican incumbents.

Those GOP incumbents are Robert Marchese and Eric Jaeger. The last time the two ran on a ticket together was the year Hurricane Sandy hit — 2012. Marchese is seeking election to a full third three-year term. Jaeger, who began serving in 2012 to fill an unexpired term, is seeking a full second.

Continue reading On the Borough Council Ballot in Fair Haven

GOP Keeps its Hold Streak in Rumson

By Elaine Van Develde

Historically, officials in Rumson can’t remember a time when a Democrat or independent sat on the governing body.

There has, however, been one consistent candidate for Borough Council for many years now — Michael Steinhorn.

This election was no exception. With two seats up for grabs — those of Republican incumbents Benjamin Day Jr. and Shaun P. Broderick — Steinhorn again threw his hat into the status quo ring, attempting to mix it up on the dais.

Garnering 512 votes, or 16.5 percent of the votes this time around, he failed. His campaign was characteristically low profile.

The top vote-getter in the Rumson council race was Day, with 1,313 votes, or roughly 42 percent of the votes. Broderick won 1,265 votes, or about 41 percent.

There were nine write-ins.

Dem Breaks GOP Hold on Fair Haven Council

By Elaine Van Develde

The unofficial results are in and they’re showing that, for the first time in more than a decade, the all-Republican hold on Fair Haven’s governing body has been broken.

Newcomer to the local political scene, Aimee Humphreys, has unseated longtime Republican incumbent Jerome Koch.

With what was considered a good voter turnout for mid-term elections at the borough polls, according to Monmouth County Board of Elections’ results tally, Humphreys beat Koch by more than 100 votes — her 1079 to his 963.

The high vote getter in the council race was Susan Sorensen, who won her second three-year seat on the dais with 1,216 votes, or roughly 37 percent to Humphreys’ approximate 33.

Total votes cast for the council race were 3,268.

There were five write-ins. And as “unofficial” results dictate, provision and absentee ballots have not all been counted.

Republican Mayor Ben Lucarelli has won his uncontested bid for re-election with 1,354 votes. There were 25 write-ins.

The last time the GOP hold on the dais was broken was when Joseph Szostak won his independent bid for mayor in 2002. He served one term through 2006 when former Mayor Michael Halfacre won the mayoral election.

He served until 2012, or one-and-a-half terms, when he stepped down upon being appointed by Gov. Chris Christie to serve as director of the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Watch for a follow-up interview with the newest member of the governing body and Sorensen.