In the race for the two seats that are up for grabs on Rumson Borough Council, four candidates are vying for the wins. Two are Republican incumbents. Two are Democrats and newcomers to the local political ballot.
Of the two Democratic challengers, one is a former employee of the borough with a slew of local volunteer work to her credit.
That former employee is Sarah Orsay.
Stressing that her and her running mate, Marnie Doherty, are very much a team package deal on the ballot, Sarah offered Rumson-Fair Haven Retrospect a glimpse into her own background and local government perspective in the following Q&A chat …
Name, address, age:
Sarah Orsay, 52
*With the knowledge that public servants’ addresses are public information, the candidate asked that her address not be published in this article.*
Where did you grow up?
St. Louis, Missouri
How long have you been a Rumson resident? If you left and returned, explain when and why.
12.5 years (since June 2006)
Any past experience on a local board or commission, organization or governing body? If not in Rumson, where, in what capacity and for how long?
I have extensive experience as a senior manager in the private sector (Wall Street), not-for-profit, and municipal government (Rumson).
In Rumson, I have served as the director of Parks & Recreation and was staff liaison to Rumson Recreation Commission.
I also served as Rumson’s communications director.
In volunteer capacity, I was a board member with Rumson Endowment and worked closely with the head of Rumson Shade Tree Commission on five-year forestry plan, 25th year Tree City USA celebration
I have also chaired various fundraising events and serve as a volunteer at numerous community and charitable events.
On a national level, I served as CEO of Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. In this capacity, I reported to the organization’s Board of Directors and was responsible for $35M budget and overseeing 40 staff members in Research, Communications, Development, and Human Resources departments.
I have been a senior manager running a sales group on Wall Street for many years and am currently head of Business Development at a successful hedge fund.
Volunteer work? Community organizations?
In Rumson, I was a Rumson Recreation soccer coach for six years, a Kelleher Kids Triathlon organizer and volunteer for nine years, community liaison to Forrestdale School Safety Committee for two years, co-chair of the RCDS Book Fair for two years. I also assisted the head of the Rumson Shade Tree Commission on the Tree City USA 25th Anniversary, Arbor Day celebration, and Five-Year Forestry Plan.
I also always attend Rumson’s Memorial Day Parade and ceremony and Veteran’s Day ceremony (and was responsible for planning these activities as Rumson’s Recreation Director).
On the tri-state level, I have been actively involved in various NYC volunteer activities in 2018, such as: Getting Out and Staying Out day of service, Operation Backpack day of service; serving food to elderly at a soup kitchen on eve of Yom Kippur; Habitat for Humanity day of service (November 2018).
If you are running to fill an unexpired term, why did you opt to run to fill in for a short time rather than full term? Local politics can prove to be more overwhelming than anticipated. If you are running for a full term, are elected and find the job isn’t what you expected, is it your intention to complete your term, regardless?
Marnie Doherty and I are each running to fill a full, three-year council term.
Having run Rumson Parks & Recreation for three years, followed by a stint as Borough Communications Director, I am familiar with the workload and responsibilities of being a borough council member. I would be honored and excited to represent my fellow residents in this capacity, bringing high energy and a fresh perspective to the role.
What do you do for a living, for how long? How do you think your professional career/skills will make you an asset as a public servant?
I am currently Head of Business Development for a successful, NYC-based hedge fund, but have flexibility in my schedule to meet the obligations of serving on Rumson Borough Council.
Having served as director of Rumson Parks & Recreation and as borough communications director, I have an excellent handle on how the borough operates. I also have a great working relationship with the borough administrator and staff, including DPW and public safety officers, as well as the mayor and council members, and school administrators.
I have 30 years of professional experience in finance, communications, not-for-profit, municipal government, and organizational management. I have run organizations as a CEO and senior manager responsible for staff, volunteers, programming, and budgets. I have demonstrated time and again a proclivity for hard-work, high energy, creative problem-solving, with a focus on improving operational efficiency.
In addition, strong sales, marketing, and communication skills have been a critical part of my success and are skills missing on our current council.
I would bring relevant work experience, high energy, transparency, and proven financial stewardship and communication skills, with a demonstrated dedication to our community life
If this is your first go at public office, what prompted you to run?
Rumson Borough Council needs a fresh perspective!
Rumson voters should have a choice in who represents them. For too long, our council members have been hand-picked and appointed by the Mayor and Council, then run unopposed as “incumbents.” The result is a very homogenous council and this process risks complacency and GroupThink outcomes and does not reflect the current demographics of Rumson.
Marnie Doherty and I would be the only members of council to have children at the public schools and the schools represent the biggest chunk of our tax bill.
I, like many residents, am frustrated by the lack of pro-active communication and outreach from our representatives.
Which U.S. president is your political role model? Why, specifically?
I most respect leaders who are excellent communicators — those who inspire others in a positive way by their words and actions and who are excellent listeners.
I also respect those who are good decision-makers — capable of collating information and making an informed decision for the good of their constituency, regardless of personal preferences.
We have numerous examples of US Presidents from both parties who have demonstrated these qualities of leadership throughout our history.
What is your favorite charitable organization? Why?
Having worked in not-for-profit and being an active volunteer and financial supporter of numerous causes, locally and beyond, I cannot list just one favorite.
Areas of particular current interest are: helping those in need; environmental causes; and investing in children, who are our future.
It is important to me that charities have a clear mission, motivated leadership, engaged staff, and are excellent financial stewards.
Which local or regional official/representative (municipal governing body member, senator, assemblyman, congressman) do you admire most? Why?
I am fortunate to know and/or have met many in NJ state and municipal politics.
I greatly admire Senator Cory Booker (federal) for his positivity, energy, can-do attitude, active engagement with his constituents, support of others, and gifted speaking abilities.
On the state level, Senator Vin Gopal is an inspiration for his dedication to his constituents and his work-ethic. A year after being elected, Senator Gopal continues to knock on his constituents’ doors, introducing himself, listening to concerns. He attends numerous events each week, making himself fully available and accountable to constituents. He is also very supportive of others running for office at every level. Senator Gopal loves serving NJ and it shows.
Rumson Borough Council members are completely uncompensated volunteers. There is no pay involved. It is also a very time-consuming job that requires transparency and accessibility to the public. What benefit is there for you, specifically, besides the obvious serving the town in which you live?
I was honored to make a positive impact on our community as Rumson Parks and Recreation Director. I enjoyed many aspects of the job, but interacting with the volunteer coaches, parents and children on the field/court/playground and seeing the fruits of my effort was incredibly rewarding.
I also had an opportunity to interact with Rumson’s Senior Citizens group, our veterans, and public safety officers. I would love to find ways to further support these groups.
The reward of the hard-work is interacting with the public, listening to their ideas, opinions, and concerns, and finding ways to further improve our wonderful community.
I would bring a proven track record of financial stewardship to council. Even in a smoothly running town, a fresh set of experienced eyes may have creative ideas for improving efficiencies. We all want to enjoy the services that make Rumson wonderful, while keeping our taxes down!
It is my goal to enhance and revitalize community events to engage residents of all ages and interests.
Mostly, I want to restore the small-town feel that makes Rumson a special place to live.