Fair Haven Council Candidate’s Q&A: Jacquie Rice

In Fair Haven’s Borough Council elections on Nov. 5, four are vying for two three-year seats on the six-seat dais: two incumbent Republicans and two Democrat challengers. Jacquie Rice is a Republican incumbent candidate. She filled an unexpired term and is now running for a full term on council. Below is R-FH Retro’s Q&A with Rice …

Republican incumbent candidate for Fair Haven Borough Council Jacquie Rice

Name, age, street address

Jacquie Rice, 52, 45 Maple Avenue 

Where did you grow up? What about your hometown do you think ultimately shaped your desire to serve the town in which you live? Any specific incident or experience? 

 I grew up in Union Beach, NJ. When I was growing up I did not imagine that I would one day be very involved in my future town. The desire to volunteer and give back came much later in my life. 

I did have family members who volunteered though. My Uncle was a member of the Union Beach First Aid squad for all of my childhood. My Father coached grammar school basketball teams for Holy Family & St Joseph’s.

What did you admire most about your hometown? Its greatest attribute?

What I liked about Union Beach was that everyone seemed to know everyone. People who grew up there chose to stay and raise their families there also. 

I also like the fact that we were by the bay. I spent a great deal of my childhood exploring the marsh lands and crabbing in all of the creeks. 

How long have you been a Fair Haven resident? If there were periods in which you relocated, please explain why and where you lived? What prompted you to move to Fair Haven or come back, if that’s the case? 

 I moved to Fair Haven in 2005. I didn’t know anything about the town prior to meeting my husband. He grew up here as did his father. He was adamant that we were going to live in Fair Haven and raise a family here. As we started to have children I came to realize how unique this town is and what a great place it is for kids. 

What do you consider the single most important issue facing Fair Haven residents? Please choose one issue only on which to focus. How do you propose it be remedied? Please be specific.

 Our single greatest issue is deciding what to do with our facilities. Our Police Department must be replaced. Renovating it is not an option. Renovating was explored and it was deemed more costly than a complete rebuild. The community center is attached to the current PD so a decision needs to be made on where to rebuild that also. I would like to move the PD to River Road and get it out of the residential area it is in now and combine it with new Borough offices. Over the past year many options have been explored as far as property and where to move PD. Cost is a huge factor in deciding where to put the new building. I do not want to build anything that will cost the taxpayers money. Until the best location is decided and we can ensure a zero tax increase, we will not be making any decisions. 

What is your professional career? What do you think is the most misunderstood perception of your line of work? How will your professional skills and make you a more effective public official? How does the particular misperception of your career that you cited make you better equipped to serve the public? 

In 2006, when my son was born, I stopped working full time. Since then I have been a stay at home mom who has always had a part time job. I currently work part-time at Knollwood as a paraprofessional. For this question I would have to say that my professional career is being a mom. I think the greatest misperception about stay at home moms is that we don’t do anything worthwhile all day, are dissatisfied in life and gossip all of the time. This could not be further from the truth. 

I feel that being a mom full time helps me be more effective because I look at the issues from a different point of view. I want to make sure that Fair Haven remains a town where everyone wants to live so my kids will want to raise their future families here also. 

Knowing that people misperceive what a stay at home mom does has helped me develop thicker skin which is definitely a requirement when you are in a public role. It also drives me to prove the misconception wrong by working hard and making thoughtful decisions that are for the good of all of the residents.

What do you think is the most misunderstood aspect of local municipal officials’ work and/or character? Why do you think that is? How would you propose changing that perception?

 Lately I feel that a lot of people seem to think that municipal officials have ulterior motives. There is a baseless distrust of all levels of government. I honestly think this is because most people do not understand how government works.

There are circumstances where not everything being discussed amongst council can be made public. Those circumstances are clearly laid out by the state of NJ and strictly adhered.

It’s a shame because everyone at the municipal level is giving their time, away from their families, for free and there are some people who continually go around trying to disparage their reputations simply because they are ill-informed of how the process works. 

Do you have any past experience on any governing body, local board or commission or committee? If not in Fair Haven, then where, in what capacity and for how long?

 I spent one year on the board for the Junior League of Monmouth County. I was the recording secretary. In that role I learned a lot about leadership, decision making and basing decisions on the future of the organization. 

Cite a specific accomplishment in your life that has made you most proud — anything, from having an effect on one person or thing to initiating some sort of worldwide change. Why? How do you think this equipped you for public service? 

This may sound strange but I was proud of the fact that I went back to work downtown after 9/11. I didn’t enjoy going back to work. I was scared every single,solitary day but I did it.

I did it because the President asked me to … he asked that we all move forward with our lives and show the world we would not be broken. Continuing to work downtown I felt like I was part of the front lines of the war on terror so I got up every day, held my head high, buried my fear and moved forward. It wasn’t easy. 

I am better equipped today to deal head on with things or matters that I find frightening or uncomfortable. I feel that if I could survive that first year after 9/11, I can survive anything. 

Fair Haven Borough Council members are volunteer public servants. There is no pay or health benefits 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? 

The benefit I receive from serving is knowing that I am making a difference. I am making decisions to help move us into the future while maintaining our awesome community. I want to be a part of the solution not a part of the problem so I help make the decisions. I want to be impactful, I want to leave my mark on this world, serving the community helps me do just that. 

In response to the contentious outcry from residents over a new business coming to town, a new business committee has been formed. The committee is designed to serve ONLY in an advisory capacity with respect to the community’s wishes involving incoming businesses. Do you think it will be effective? Why or why not? 

I 100 percent think it will be effective. There was a lot of division in the town over a Dunkin Donuts application. I feel the committee allows for all members of the community to have their voices heard. The committee will advise council on how the cooperative public wishes to see the town move into the future. We all have a stake in the future of this town, I think the committee is a perfect example of how democracy works. 

Affordable housing is another hot button issue in Fair Haven. The borough has not met its obligation. From a PURELY HYPOTHETICAL vantage, if you were given the ultimate power to satisfy the original need of 371 units deemed by the Fair Share Housing Committee, what sort of units would you propose bringing into the borough and where would you put them if the sufficient land were yours for the taking? 

Hypothetically speaking I would have the town buy individual houses as they come onto the market, update them and sell them with a 20-30 year deed restriction allowing for low/moderate income families to purchase them. 

Which local municipal governing body member, in Fair Haven or the surrounding area (any town), do you admire most and why? Past or present. 

I admire Paul Smith,Jr. the current mayor of Union Beach. I do not know him personally nor have I met him. I admire him for his leadership during and after Super Storm Sandy.

My childhood home was flooded during that storm and my parents lived through a very trying time. Mayor Smith organized the recovery process immediately and communicated very clearly with the residents. His leadership helped pull that town back from the brink and the town is thriving today because of it. I can only hope that if I am ever faced with a crisis of that magnitude that I would be able to lead as he did. 

All candidates expressed at the debate a desire to keep seniors in Fair Haven. It is a dwindling population, due to the high cost to live in the borough. If you won the lottery and became a billionaire, what would you do, personally, to help your senior neighbors live their lives out in Fair Haven? 

First, I would use my money to hire professionals to meet with all of the seniors in town to help them apply for a freeze on their taxes with the state of NJ. 

For those who still couldn’t afford the taxes I would look into setting up a foundation that would assist seniors in paying the portion of their taxes that would be a hardship to them. 

Is there anything you would like to add that you feel is critical to your platform/candidacy? Please explain why. 

The only thing I would like to add is that this past year on council has been my honor and privilege to serve. I hope the residents of Fair Haven can see how passionate I am about this position and that they choose to vote for me again for a three year term. If elected, I promise to continue to serve the community to the best of my abilities.