Tag Archives: Republican

Getting to Know Fair Haven Council Candidates: A Chat with Susan Sorensen

Susan Sorensen is the current Fair Haven Borough Council president. Having served since 2012, or three three-year terms, all full, elected terms, she is a Republican seeking re-election to her fourth term.

Name, age, street address 

Susan A. Sorensen, 57, and I have lived at 34 Clay Street in Fair Haven since 1998.

How long have you served on Fair Haven Borough Council and what prompted you to run initially?

I have had the privilege to serve the residents of Fair Haven on Council since 2012, and this past year I was nominated by Chris Rodriguez to be the Council president. 

What prompted me to run initially is twofold:  I was raised to always give back, to my community, to my family, to my school, to charities, etc. My parents were very big volunteers, and as children we were “dragged” along, which even as a young person I realized was very fulfilling. 

I was also raised to be informed, make sure before I have an opinion on something I have all the facts, not assumptions, and so, for years prior to running I attended Council meetings. I had already extensively volunteered in Fair Haven on so many committees — school, town, sports, etc., and when I was asked to run I decided it would be an honor to give back to this community that I love so much.  

Incumbents: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment in your tenure on council?

My greatest accomplishment hands down is the improved communications strategy. 

The residents wanted better communication; and, after encouraging and convincing the council and the administration, we began to put into place improved and varied communication methods. 

We now have a database of email addresses and cell phone numbers (that the residents can opt into so they can receive these communications. If you are not receiving them, please email either bberube@fhboro.net or myself ssorensen@fhboro.net and we will add your information) where we have the ability now to:

  • Send out eblasts and texts for important updates 
  • Fair Haven now has a weekly “What’s Happening in Fair Haven” email that comes out every Monday – and informs the residents of upcoming meetings, events, etc.
  • The mayor now has a weekly email, that comes out on Fridays and gives a brief summary of the week or Borough information for the residents
  • Fair Haven has Facebook postings – almost daily of all items ranging from upcoming meetings, to road closings, to Recreation events, to police alerts, to voting information…etc. 
  • FAQs on certain topics and these are growing and evolving
  • All of the above has tremendously helped us during COVID to provide information to the public. I also try to share as much as I possibly can on Facebook. 
  • While COVID did push the borough towards Zooming meetings, I have been actively working on ways for the borough to live stream meetings post COVID

I am always open to listen to the residents for ideas and how to continue to improve our communications. I feel it is very important for all the residents to be informed. If you have any ideas of items we are not addressing in regards to communications, or anything for that matter, please reach out to me, any time. 

Tell us about your volunteer work in and out of the borough. Your favorite charity organization and why.

I have had the honor of being named Fair Haven’s Volunteer of the Year. I work tirelessly for Fair Haven, and truly love this great community. Here is a list of just some of my volunteer work within the borough:

Councilwoman since 2012

Fair Haven Centennial Celebrations – 1 a month throughout 2012

Fair Haven Days & Fair Haven’s Oktoberfests– Founder and Chair and I have the privilege of working with the most AMAZING committee around since 2011

I have volunteered at numerous FH fireman’s fairs

Recreation Committee and chair – 9 years

Liaison to FHPD, FHFD, FHFA and OEM – 6 years

Fair Haven Personnel Chair – 3 years

Communications Strategy Chair – 2 years 

Liaison to the Historic Commission

Historic Preservation Events – helped raise money for Bicentennial Hall – 12 years

Dozens of Teen Canteens 

Multiple team moms and fundraiser chairs for sports teams – too many to name or count

Several PTA Luncheons – 50/50 chair

Liaison to the Fair Haven Business Association

Liaison the Fair Haven BOE and the RFH BOE

Foundation of Fair Haven President since 2012

Outside of Fair Haven: I am on the board of the Monmouth Day Care Center in Red Bank NJ, which is a non-profit day care center that serves families in our area. 

Many of the families that attend the MDCC come from very diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. There is tuition assistance for those that are in need. This is an amazing organization that meets such a demand in our area. I am very proud of the work they do at this facility and how they are a true treasure to so many.

This year is a presidential election year in a challenging time with the pandemic. Which president in U.S. history do you admire most for overcoming major hurdles/obstacles of his time? Your favorite motto/quote of that president? 

Easy. JFK.  While he was not perfect, by any means — he had not only health issues, but he had many adversities that he dealt with — for example the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

I feel that he handled many of this with grace, although he did not have to deal with social media, which has created so much miscommunications. 

I feel that he also provided one of the best presidential quotes in his speech — “Ask not what your country can do you, ask what you can do for your country.” This is such a wonderful cry for a public’s call to action — give back to your country, your state your town — for the greater good.  This is what I have aspired to live by — always. 

What do you consider the most negative component of your personality? How do you feel it can be used to a positive end as a council member? Be very honest. For instance: a temper could be a positive viewed as or channeled into passion for a cause. 

My most negative component to my personality, and what I get yelled at the most, is that I have a hard time saying NO!  Sometimes I take on too many responsibilities at once, but somehow I do manage to tackle them all.  But, if I commit to something, I will get it done.  

Who in your family or extended family do you admire most and why? What was the best advice that person gave you that you have implemented most of your life?

This is a very easy one — my mom. Both of my parents actually, but especially my mom. My parents volunteered extensively throughout our lives, and taught their children to give back. My Mom never gives up; and if there is a cause or a situation that needs her attention, she will be there in a heartbeat to help that person or situation. 

When my dad had a stroke, my mom became his sole caretaker, and we all credit her for giving us 12 additional years with him, even though it took a toll on her. There is not exact advice she ever gave me, other than to lead by example, or, in her case, lead by HER example, which I strive to do daily. 

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?

When I was born I lived in Sea Bright, and I still have many relatives in the area, but eventually my parents move to my father’s hometown of Nutley, NJ. 

My parents always knew that I would end up in the Two River area someday. I was always more at home here. Nutley is a great town, with a really great school system and great people. I have several relatives who still live there and I visit often. 

If I were to pinpoint something about Nutley, it would have to be when I was young my parents were on the Board of a Boys and Girls Club for the underprivileged, and all of us kids had to volunteer at the club. It really was fulfilling and rewarding, and a lesson that I learned at a very young age about diversity as well as giving back to a community. 

What did you admire most about your hometown? 

The people and the parks. Nutley has really great people and beautiful parks. As a matter of fact, the Dedication Bench Program that I developed in Fair Haven (and soon to include trees) was modeled after what Nutley has to offer. 

How long have you been a Fair Haven resident? Other than the obvious (good schools, highly rated, PR spin, nice people … things we often hear) why did you choose to make it your home? What, specifically (incident or even moment) while visiting town cemented your decision? 

I have lived and raised a family in Fair Haven since 1998. There are the obvious reasons — living near relatives, good schools, nice neighborhoods, but it was the community that drew us in to Fair Haven. 

I grew up going to the Fireman’s Fair, and knew all the volunteerism that occurs throughout Fair Haven. We knew we wanted to live in the area, Sea Bright, Rumson, Little Silver or Fair Haven, and when driving around and seeing the kids playing in the streets and in the parks, seeing neighbors out talking with neighbors we then started concentrating on Fair Haven, specifically the Historic District. 

Even though they are a lot of work, there is nothing like the charm of an old historic home. We have been in our home, as stated, for over 20 years, and we are still working on “projects.” I love that the historic area for the most part has remained unchanged and is a lovely slice of history. Living near the dock and the new Robards park makes it even better.  

What is your professional career? What do you think is the most misunderstood perception about your line of work? How do you think dealing with this misperception makes you better equipped to serve the public?

I work in telecommunications, which is ever evolving. I started out selling phone systems, then data, then VoIP to cable companies (which enables them to offer voice) and now I work in wireless. I work on the wholesale side of the business. 

I would have to say I am not sure what the most misunderstood perception of my line of work may be, but I do know that folks think because I work in wireless I can fix their phones. That is NOT my strong suit by any means. LOL.

Aside from any misunderstanding, I deal with negotiations all day long, and that is an element of my work life that aids me in my public service, whether it is negotiating or giving advice on negotiating this is a skill that has come in very handy during my term. Sometimes even negotiating amongst the council. 

Incumbents: What do you think is the most misunderstood aspect of local municipal officials’ work and/or character? What measures do you think you have taken to change that or make it better understood? 

Interesting question. What I get asked most about is “Where does the extra money go for the big McMansions that get built? And that the borough allows this because of greed.”  

I have actually met with some folks in town to review this with them. There is NO extra money and council does not make decisions on homes that are built. For starters, many of the larger homes that are built do not have to come before for the Zoning Board because they are built within the codes that have been in Fair Haven’s ordinances for decades. 

Next – there is not extra money. The budget is the budget is the budget.  The borough has a budget. Let’s say that the budget is a pie. Everyone in town pays their portion or their slice of the pie. The newer larger homes get a larger piece of the pie (or pay a larger portion of the budget), while the older smaller homes (that have not been renovated) get a smaller piece of the pie (or pay less). 

To help with this misconception we have included over the last several years with the tax assessment/bill a letter that helps to explain how a homeowners taxes are dispersed. This year the letter depicted a fictitious town to help clarify how a home is taxed and how the taxes are then dispersed.  In 2020, 64% of a homeowners taxes are for the schools, 21% for Fair Haven to run the municipality and 15% for the county. 

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 constant accessibility to the public. It’s often a thankless job. What benefit is there for you, specifically, besides the obvious serving the town in which you live?

There are many folks that believe we get paid or that we get benefits. We do not. 

I personally, have no agenda but to give back to my community. It is really amazing being part of protecting this community and helping to not only maintain its charm but to be stewards in guiding it forward for future generations. I believe the communications strategy is the biggest measure that has taken place to help residents understand much of the work we are doing for the borough. 

Critical, complicated issues in the borough presently are: facilities, gentrification, affordable housing, seniors. I know the incumbents have mulled these issues repeatedly, but the average resident has not conveyed a distinct understanding of the facts and circumstances. So, that in mind compounded with a retrospective look at the issues, please read the statements and provide thoughtful, insightful answers that may offer a perspective not previously shared.  

Facilities

Question Background: Council has been grappling with with settling the facilities issue for years. In recent meetings, it has been agreed among council members that a new police station is a priority. Police have told council members that they are happy with their current location. So, a new plan was hatched in the same spot that involves demolishing what many feel is a historic structure, what used to be referred to as the Youth Center and formerly housed the borough’s segregated school and kindergarten after segregation ended.

Former police chief Darryl Breckenridge went to kindergarten in the building. It hasn’t been brought up in meetings, but word on the street from old Fair Havenites is that preservation of the building is preservation of a big piece of Fair Haven history. Of course, the building is not on the official National Register of Historic Places, but it holds a lot of history. 

It has been well established that the building is a bit rickety and old and in dire need of renovation and mold remediation, though police have been in it for years and remain in it. When the subject has been broached of saving the building and renovating, it has been stated that it’s not worth saving and would be too costly to renovate. It will still cost a purported tens of millions (a rough estimate of about $11 million for police station and DPW a street over) to demolish and/or rebuild.

Drafting plans also costs a substantial amount of money. Council members have said in meetings, as has the mayor, that new facilities must be agreed upon now.

Question: In light of a new era in office work due to the pandemic and enhanced technology, can you tell residents, in simple terms, why you think think it is necessary to do such a major overhaul? Besides the mold issue, which has been managed, as police are still in the building, even though you may feel you’ve explained it repeatedly, explain again why you feel the facilities project is so critically important right now. Also explain to the average resident how, exactly, it won’t significantly impact taxes. 

The Police Station and DPW need – yes, need to be replaced.  These are not wants or wish list items – these are the cold hard facts – that have been provided by professionals. The borough did not do its best job with the first presentation of the facilities, and a huge misunderstanding began. 

The first presentation in January of 2019 was a presentation to the public to make them aware of the situation and to present options, but it was mostly to hear from the residents. 

We have continued to learn from this, but the continued misinformation that is out there is very hard to continually counter. 

A new police station will not cost tens of millions. The borough has explored several options, and continues to hone a solution that meets the borough’s needs as well as the residents. The goal is to provide new facilities with the least amount of impact to the homeowners taxes by bonding and possibly eventually selling off some property. Our residents and our borough employees deserve to a safe environment to come to or to work in. Renovating was cost prohibitive and not recommended.  

Affordable Housing

Question Background: Affordable housing and gentrification is a critical issue in Fair Haven, but with a median income level at more than $200,000 per year, and demographics and average income level that have shifted drastically since those who are now seniors moved into the borough, residents don’t tend to see it as important since the majority don’t need it. Fair Haven was once affordable for most income brackets. That is no longer the case. Change is inevitable and with the demolition of many small homes and replacement with very large, the answer has been “it’s what the market demands.” 

Yes, but that leaves out a significant segment of the former population of the borough that was priced out of their homes over the years more and more. Very few who raised families and were raised in Fair Haven have been able to stay. The borough has yet to meet its affordable housing obligation, as mandated federally, but officials have taken steps to satisfy the obligation with plans for potential future affordable units. Still, those plans are far off and not ironclad, they are tentative promises to the courts. 

The original need of 371 units deemed by the Fair Share Housing Committee has been debunked by a consultant hired by the borough to come up with an acceptable plan to satisfy affordable housing mandates. Such consultants are usually quite costly as well.

That number was diminished significantly in the consultant’s report with the most concrete plan in the works for a new mixed use development (where the former Sunoco gas station sat) calling for only a few units: one very low income, one low and another moderately low. In a workshop meeting, for example, it was discussed at length that the units should not have balconies because they can get too unsightly with residents leaving things outside and that parking should only fit normal sized vehicles, not work trucks. Yet, many of the large homes in the borough have front porches with a full view. 

There has long been a notion that low income housing, or even affordable, is equated with unsightly and undesirables in town. Fair Haven was founded by a low and moderate income population.

Question: Why do you think affluent commuities, such as the present Fair Haven, have this perception and have either avoided or tried valiantly to lower, sell off to other towns or not honor the obligation to provide a fair share of affordable housing? Please don’t use the schools burden argument, because it is flawed.

IF you had your way, what sort of truly affordable housing for young people starting out and seniors on a low fixed income, would you provide without question — all 371 units?

Fair Haven’s Fair Share Housing Committee worked very hard to not only meet the state mandated requirements but to also preserve the goals of Fair Haven’s Master Plan. 

The Borough has more than met — through overlay zones (that include Senior housing), above garage/secondary structures, an agreement with the property owner of the old Sunoco Station and donating land to Habitat to Humanity — its obligation to allow for affordable housing. 

The 371 number is from a state equation, which means that the amount of units that a builder can build is 5 times the amount, and the 371 is the total of 20% of the units that can be built. Fair Share Housing then takes into account several factors one of which is available space to build, which Fair Haven is lacking. The number is then dramatically reduced based on the specific town’s restrictions.  

What is very misunderstood, is that this does not provide affordable housing for Fair Haven residents that want to stay in town, these units go into a lottery system that includes Mercer, Ocean and Monmouth counties. The council’s desire while going through the Fair Share Housing process was to make sure that at least one of the overlay areas included senior housing, which it does. 

As for the larger homes that have been built, if a resident, and in many cases a long-term resident wants to sell their home to a builder, they should have the ability to sell their home for the maximum amount of money. 

The Borough is not in the business of stopping a resident from selling their home or from making a profit. If a builder purchases the home and chooses to replace the home with a new larger modern home that is their right as long as they build within code. I personally like my modest home in the Historic District, but that is not what the market demands. We should not penalize a resident that wants to make a profit on their home when they are selling.  

Seniors 

Question Background: Candidates have continually expressed a desire to keep seniors in Fair Haven to live out their lives. With each year and larger homes, high municipal and school taxes and the demolition of smaller, more affordable homes, it has been increasingly more difficult and unaffordable for seniors on a fixed income, who moved to Fair Haven as low- to middle-income residents when it was much more affordable, to do that. In fact, the senior population has dwindled significantly. Not only are the taxes unaffordable to seniors on a fixed or even average income, but they also have great difficulty with the upkeep of their homes.

Question: If you had your way, besides tax discounts that are helpful, but don’t make much of a difference for a person on a fixed income, how would you keep them here? How, besides things like the Snow Angels snow removal program and activities and larger-scale programs like Habitat for Humanity, would you propose helping them with maintenance sourced from borough residents? Decades ago, neighbors were known to rally and help neighbors in need with larger, necessary home projects. Again, IF you had your way, what would you do? 

Fair Haven has a strong “Helping Neighbor” program that helps seniors with shoveling snow and in many cases raking leaves. If you are senior or if you know a senior that has not signed up for any of these programs, please send an email to Bberube@fhboro.net and she will add the person to the list. 

Our Fair Haven Police Department is very active in checking in our seniors, especially during these strange COVID times. Years ago, my neighborhood rallied around an elderly person and we all scraped and painted her home. That is what I love about Fair Haven, we are a community of volunteers. 

About a month ago, the AME Church in town posted on Facebook an SOS regarding volunteers to come and help scrape and paint their Church — it was really great to be able to help and to see dozens of  residents participating. This is where social media can truly help a community. If there is someone in need, typically there are several folks that respond and help.  

Any other issues you see as critical? How do you propose addressing them? 

Fair Haven Council Candidate’s Q&A: Jonathan Peters

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. Jonathan Peters is a Republican incumbent candidate. He is currently Fair Haven Borough Council president. He has served on council for 15 years and is seeking a sixth three-year term. Below is R-FH Retro’s Q&A with Peters …

Republican incumbent Fair Haven Borough Council candidate Jonathan Peters

Name, age, street address 

Jonathan Peters, 56, 100 Park 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 on the South Shore of Staten Island.  I was involved with recreational sailing and fishing from a very young age.  These experiences gave me a strong connection to the natural environment and the ocean.  That probably drew me to this community.  My desire to serve came from my father — who volunteered in our community — and who was a role model as to how one should help your community. 

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

A strong sense of community and family. Growing up on an island is much like living on the Rumson Peninsula, where we have strong geographic boundaries to our community and that helps us bond over common challenges.

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? 

My wife and I moved to Fair Haven in 1999 from Hunterdon County, New Jersey.  Being a waterman since I was a kid, I wanted to get back near the ocean and bays. The great schools, proximity to the water and my wife’s new job in Freehold motivated us look around the area. The walkable aspects and nice downtown attracted us to Fair Haven.

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.

A continued focus on evolving the community to meet the needs of our residents.  The onslaught of online shopping options is changing the nature of downtown business districts.  As a community, we need to explore options as to how we can maintain a walkable and useful downtown commercial district for the benefit of our residents and businesses. As the government, we need to “set the table” — we need to manage the public infrastructure and business rules so that we encourage responsible private investment — an then we need to let the business owners do what they do best — provide goods and services.  

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? 

I am a professor of economics and public finance at The City University of New York.  I think there is a perception that professors are somewhat detached from society.  I have not found that to be broadly the case, but I do think that it is unfortunate that more professors do not serve in public office.  

I believe that would help the professors understand society better as well as bring more cutting edge ideas to the public sector.  My training in economics and public policy have greatly aided my efforts in Fair Haven.  

My knowledge of public finance I believe has been very useful in helping the borough design the funding methods for our public facilities, be it fire engines, roads, parks, sports fields or open space.   Professors are very good a focusing on the long term — we do it all the time as we work on our research projects — which may take years or decades. I am very good at maintaining focus on the long game here in the Borough, and that is very helpful in solving major problems.

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?

I think some members of the general public think that municipal officials can solve every problem that arises to their personal satisfaction. In many cases, problems may not have a consensus solution — where most townspeople agree on what is the right solution. That presents a challenge to an elected official, as we generally want to represent the views of our constituents. But it is not possible to represent all views if there is not complete consensus on an issue; and most issues do not have complete consensus from the residents.  

Talking about issues in an open way I think is the best way to help residents develop a sense of engagement and compromise as well as get the best ideas on the table.

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?

 Yes, I have served on Borough Council for the last 15 years. I am currently the Borough Council President.  My service on Borough Council has taken up most of my volunteering time over the last decade or so.

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? 

I have spent the bulk of my professional life as a university professor with a specialty in economics and public finance. I hope that I have been a role model for my students and that I have inspired them to be engaged members of their home communities.

I have had the great pleasure to see a good number of my students become productive business leaders, good citizens and parents, and that has been a great joy.

Serving on Borough Council here in Fair Haven offers me an opportunity to use my academic skills in a practical way, and to continue to learn and change based upon my service. Serving as an elected official has taught me a great deal about practical politics and working with people that has contributed to my research and teaching.

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? 

For me, I have a strong sense of duty and I believe that if I want to have the right to critique our systems, I have to be willing to serve in a policy role in our community.  I also think that this is the best way that I can serve.

As a professor of public finance, I like to put my professional training and theories into practice.  So far, the financial community has liked the performance of our financial controls, awarding Fair Haven a AA+ bond rating that we have maintained over the last 10 years —five rankings above the State of New Jersey that is ranked A-.

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 think it is key to have a good discussion of the issues that face the borough. The committee seems to me to be the best mechanism to gather opinions and ideas about this issue. 

The results will be shared with the Borough Council and the land use boards.  At that point, we need to see if any changes need to be made to the land use rules for Fair Haven. It is very important to understand that municipal land use ordinances can and do provide guidance to land owners, but they have limited scope as to what the private sector can do with the property that they own.

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? 

Our current obligation looks to be two units — based upon our existing vacant land — so 371 units is a very big leap from a plan that reflects on the fully built out nature of our community. That being said, it has been hard to develop a plan in Fair Haven, as we have had a number of targets over the years set by the state agencies and the number of units needed varied widely. That made it hard to develop a firm plan that we could execute, as the scope of the units would impact how the plan should develop.

Best practices in this area (and I teach Urban Planning) generally tend to favor both mixed use facilities and transit accessible development, where you have housing over stores in a downtown and lower income housing along transit routes. This would make the River Road corridor our best potential site for low and moderate income housing. 

A second issue to consider is inclusive zoning, where the town gives a certain bonus in terms of housing units, typically 20 percent additional units, that are provided by a developer of a property and are mixed in with other market rate units. Those two solutions seem to me to be the most helpful in solving your hypothetical question.  

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 have had the opportunity to work with a number of great people who served on Borough Council in Fair Haven. I value what each one has contributed to my understanding of politics, public policy and personalities.  

Some of my best lessons came from people who I did not admire – but they still taught me important lessons. It would be unfair for me to pick a favorite — I have served with so many.  I would say that one event that stands out is when Mayor Joe Szostak and the council members came together to lead a bipartisan group in building a better community after a very turbulent election. 

I was impressed by the bipartisan behavior on both sides during that time, and I continue to work to foster a sense of collegiality on the council between our members from both parties.  

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? 

The key thing is to try to control costs and limit the increases in the tax bill for seniors. It is also critical to maintain support for critical services such as the Fair Haven Rescue Squad who provide important services for senior residents.   

A billion dollars would offer an individual a significant amount of money to donate annually to the community.  I would suggest that if we could provide a partial subsidy to property taxes for low and moderate income residents who have paid taxes in the town for 25+ years that might help a lot, and that is what I would probably do.

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

I want to continue to serve the community. I think I still have a bunch of good ideas to move forward. I also am pretty good now at balancing our community goals with the financial realities of a town where 95 percent of the local government expenditures come from our local taxes and only 5 percent comes from the state.   

I have been a leader on shared services and privatization of public services in our community over the last decade. Fair Haven was recently ranked #21 in New Jersey Monthly’s Best Town’s report, and I hope that I have contributed along with many others to make our town one of the best in the state. I hope to continue to provide calm and thoughtful guidance to the community and borough staff that helps the borough continue to be a leading community in our region.   

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.

 

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

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.