Maclearie will make independent run for mayor

Councilman breaks with Tinton Falls Together running mates


Staff Writer

In this new year Tinton Falls Councilman Peter Maclearie is not clinging to political loyalties for auld lang syne.

Instead, he is breaking his own political tradition to start anew in an independent run against former running mate and long-time incumbent Mayor Ann McNamara, who has been mayor since 1989.

“I told her and (Borough Council President) Jerry Donlon last week,” Maclearie said on Tuesday. “I really wanted to be up front with them and let them know that I respect the work they’ve done and hold them in high regard, but truly feel it is time for me to move on in my own direction. We have just grown apart in our ideas of political priorities.”

Maclearie, 45, of Glenwood Drive, is up for re-election to a council seat in May.

The borough is run on a Faulkner Act nonpartisan form of government, with a strong mayor and weak council. The council president runs the meetings and the mayor has veto power, but is not required to attend meetings, though McNamara is present at most every meeting. Terms are for four years. The mayor is elected, not chosen from council seats.

In addition to Maclearie’s seat being up for grabs, so is Donlon’s. Deadline for filing petitions to run in May is March 17.

Though the mayor is elected and does not align herself with any particular party, Donlon, Maclearie and McNamara have run on the same platform, “Tinton Falls Together.”

“But we’re really not totally together on a lot of initiatives or issues any more,” Maclearie said. “There are several things I have tried to stress as a council member — mistakes I think have been made and need to be rectified. But they were just running in a different direction.”

Those mistakes, Maclearie said, were fiscal accountability errors, a lack of initiative to enact a ban on rewarding campaign contributors with no-bid contracts (commonly referred to as local pay-to-play legislation), and thwarting over development.

“I haven’t come up with my own platform tag line yet or chosen two running mates for council seats, but that will come next,” Maclearie said. “I just want to choose wisely.”

The corporate finance executive of about 25 years — who currently is controller at Myron Corp., Maywood — may not have that platform set in stone, but he has his own ideas of what it should focus on.

“I have been a lifetime resident of Monmouth County and a Tinton Falls resident for 18 years,” Maclearie said. “I have seen a lot of changes and know I have to do my part to preserve what is good in the borough as well as the county.”

Part of that preservation plan consists of keeping as much open space as possible.

Maclearie was on the borough’s now defunct Open Space Committee when the town voted in a 1.5-cent per $100 of property value tax to preserve space.

“We made a lot of strides. I am very proud of that,” Maclearie said. “We set the current progressive direction of the borough to acquire as much land as possible in as many innovative ways as possible to advance passive and active recreation initiatives for the residents to enjoy forever.”

He cited that when he was first put on council to fill the unexpired term of deceased councilman Gabe Tornillo in 1998, there were only 17 acres of preserved open space in the borough. Now there are hundreds.

He pointed to the acquisition of the Mittermaier and Cobb Kennel properties on Sycamore Avenue, which will soon house a major soccer complex along with trails and passive recreation on more than 70 acres.

“That tract, alone, is five times the size of what we started out with,” Maclearie said.

After running out of funds for property acquisitions, the Open Space Committee disbanded about two years ago. It was replaced with a Zoning and Standards Committee, which is designed to advise the council on zoning practices to keep over development at bay.

“I am on that committee and would like to really advance true smart growth in this borough,” he said. “I have seen entirely too much development given the green light. Where we cannot stop development, we need to at least be smarter about keeping density lower,” Maclearie said. “I really have not seen my colleagues try very hard to push density down. Unfortunately, I have seen a lot of things done to keep developers happy. Primarily, that has been pushing density numbers up in exchange for something else. In some cases, it has been worth it, but not often enough.”

Another point of contention for Maclearie with the “Tinton Falls Together” slate was that he and his colleagues ran in 2001 on a platform of fiscal responsibility, among other things.

Delays on the construction of the borough’s municipal complex cost the town an extra $3 million, he said.

The project started out with a price tag of about $8 million and ended up with one of more than $11 million.

Maclearie’s disillusionment with the current administration’s lack of initiative in enacting pay-to-play reforms was the final straw, he said.

“While I was asking the council to initiate some form of reforms, ‘Tinton Falls Together’ [without me] was quietly raising funds for an election that was 16 months away,” he said. “In addition, those listed as major contributors were appointed professionals, developers and individuals who have had property rezoned to accommodate development in recent years.”

Maclearie comes from a long line of politicians. His father, Peter Maclearie was a councilman and mayor in Spring Lake Heights. His grandfather, also Peter Maclearie, was mayor of Belmar. And his great grandfather, also Peter Maclearie was mayor of North Arlington.

Maclearie has served on the borough’s Zoning Board and has participated as a coach in various sports. He has also served on several community and charity committees through St. Leo the Great Church, Lincroft.