Tag Archives: Democrats

Rumson’s Democratic Council Candidates: A Chat with Sarah Orsay

 

Sarah Orsay
Photo/Marnie Doherty

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*With the knowledge that public servants’ addresses are public information, the candidate asked that her address not be published in this article.* 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.

What are your key platform issues? AND/OR What do you think are the most critical issues currently facing Rumson residents? Why did you choose these issues as focal points?
I have touched on all of these above in greater detail, so I will summarize here:
I would especially like to see improved communication and connectivity with residents (provide detailed agendas prior to council meetings; recommend live-streaming council meetings; publish a regular, detailed town e-newsletter; install an electronic bulletin board that can be kept current; hold regular, informal coffee chats around town; have my borough email go directly to me, not the Borough Administrator). With that improved communication would come growing transparency.
I would like to bring my first-hand experience and foster a close relationship with public schools (administrators, BOE, staff, parents, students), which comprise the largest portion of borough budget.

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.

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!