Candidates vie for three seats on Edison Township Council

Staff Writer

 Robert C. Diehl Robert C. Diehl EDISON — Two incumbents and 10 newcomers are vying for three available four-year terms on the Township Council. The 12 candidates are split among four teams.

Mayor Antonia Ricigliano’s team consists of Howard Zuckerman, Annie Wan and Sandip Patel. Ricigliano decided to run as an independent after not receiving the endorsement of the Edison Democratic Organization.

Democratic mayoral candidate Thomas Lankey’s team includes incumbent Robert C. Diehl, who is currently serving as council president, incumbent Alvaro Gomez and newcomer Sapana Shah.

Mayoral candidate Dr. Sudhanshu Prasad’s team of Democrats, running on the “Your Independent Voice” ticket, comprises newcomers Mohin Patel, Steven Nagel and Cynthia Doherty.

Republican mayoral candidate Gaetano Gaspari’s team features newcomers Mary Lou Resner, Krupal Shukla and Abiel J. Viruet.

 Alvaro Gomez Alvaro Gomez Ricigliano 2013

Zuckerman, 58, has lived in the township for 24 years. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in management from Syracuse University, and is self-employed in the textile sourcing and consulting business.

Zuckerman said he believes that every citizen has a responsibility to contribute to the community in some way, and running for council is a way of giving back.

“I love this community, and I want for the community at large to have a voice in the services they want provided,” he said. “The most effective way to do this is to be part of policymaking. I believe my common sense and listen-to-all approach will serve Edison well.”

Zuckerman said the government in Edison is dysfunctional.

“I see this occurring in our town, just as it has recently reared its ugly head in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “I believe that people who participate in government should be doing so as a community service, not as a stepping stone for their own political power ambitions.”

 Sapana Shah Sapana Shah Zuckerman said better communication must be fostered between the council and mayor’s office, with both working together to move the town forward.

“By far, the issue of taxes and services is always on the minds of residents in every town across America,” he said. “In Edison, we need to continue to broaden the base of revenue, not by increasing municipal taxes, but by encouraging more businesses to develop and settle in Edison.”

Zuckerman said the council needs to work more closely with the mayor’s office on budget priorities and capital improvements that are needed.

Zuckerman and his wife Karen have two children, Mitchell and Janna.

 Mohin Patel Mohin Patel Wan, according to a press release by Ricigliano’s campaign, is fluent in English, Mandarin and Cantonese. She is a Rutgers University senior, majoring in human resource management and labor studies.

Sandip Patel has a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering and is an entrepreneur in the health care, real estate and hospitality industries. He also serves as executive director of the Central Jersey Lions Club and is vice chairman of South Gujarat Pragati Mandal. Within the community, Patel is a trustee of Asian Community Center of North America and a trustee of the Indo- American Cultural Association of Edison, according to the press release.

Neither Wan nor Patel responded to questionnaire requests.


 Cynthia Doherty Cynthia Doherty Diehl, 60, who is seeking his fourth term on the council, has lived in Edison for 30 years. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and a master’s degree in supervision and administration from Kean College. He is the principal of a South Plainfield elementary school.

Diehl said he is excited about the chance for he and his running mates to move the township forward.

“We have the qualifications and the experience,” he said. “The No. 1 issue has been property taxes. With the financial expertise of Tom [Lankey] and Alvaro [Gomez], we have been able to see a zero percent tax increase to our municipal budget for these past few years.”

He said he has an advantage after serving three different mayors.

“I know what works and what doesn’t work,” he said, adding, “I have seen the good, bad and ugly, and we learn from those mistakes. It’s a constant evolution of making improvements.”

 Steven Nagel Steven Nagel Diehl said he will continue working to make improvements regarding traffic, open space, redevelopment and other areas. He said with a population of more than 100,000, there is no room for further development in Edison, but redevelopment presents opportunities exist.

“With redevelopment, we will see tax ratables,” he said, adding that everyone in the township needs to work together.

Diehl and his wife Anne have two adult children.

Gomez, 37, who is seeking his second term, has lived in the township for 12 years. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in finance from New Jersey City University. He is a financial controller for a health care publishing company.

Gomez said he ran three years ago because he wanted to do more for the township.

 Mary Lou Resner Mary Lou Resner “I learned as a volunteer on the town’s finance committee what abilities I could bring to the table,” he said.

Gomez said it is important for short-term and long-term strategic goals to be set, and that more planning is needed for a town as large as Edison. In addition, he said leadership is needed, and that it is important that all parties work together.

“We need to create transparency and open lines of communications,” he said.

Gomez said he believes the finance committee did just that, with monthly variance reports from the business administrator and chief financial officer keeping council members abreast of the newest information.

“This way, we know how and where the money is spent,” he said.

Gomez is married to Darlene Piegdon- Gomez.

Shah, 37, has lived in Edison for 26 years. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Rutgers University and a law degree from Albany Law School, Union University. A former financial analyst, she is an attorney in private practice.

 Krupal Shukla Krupal Shukla A current member of the Board of Education, she noted that the board and council came together to work on the school budget after it was rejected by voters in April. Shah said she saw the potential for the governing bodies to work together on property tax issues.

“I would like to see more public-private partnerships made,” she said. “With a dwindling tax revenue, it is an upsetting struggle in Edison to not have a job. People feel stretched, trying to get their kids through college, and we also have a large senior population.”

Shah said more focus must be placed on creating jobs and revenue.

 Abiel J. Viruet Abiel J. Viruet As a graduate of John P. Stevens High School, Shah said she feels the need to give back to a community that has given so much to her.

“This town is so much more to me than the schools I went to — I am who I am because of the community,” she said.

Shah has been a member of the Edison Democratic Committee since 2009.

Your Independent Voice

Mohin Patel, 38, has lived in the township for seven years. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in finance from Rutgers University. He is a senior energy portfolio manager at Metro Media Energy in Eatontown, and previously owned the Blimpie sub franchise on Oak Tree Road.

Patel said he has noticed a lack of vision among the administration of the fifth-largest township in the state.

“No one is being taken care of when the people at Town Hall are acting like children and there is infighting,” he said.

Patel said he would like to see the creation of a department that would bring more commercial ratables into town to help lower taxes, with a focus on the Revlon Property Redevelopment Plan and the Ford site.

“This will help alleviate some of the problems,” he said. “People will be able to stay in town.”

Patel said he will utilize his business background, adding that he would like to see more public-private partnerships formed in the township.

“It will be a win-win situation,” he said.

Patel said he would also like to see more opportunities for kids in town.

Patel is married to Rechal and has two young children. He is currently serving his second term as committeeman for the Edison Democratic Organization.

Doherty, 54, is a lifelong resident of Edison. She went through the township’s school system and attended Middlesex County College in Edison. She is a health benefits coordinator.

She said she is running for council because she believes it is time for a change. Doherty said she has seen many changes over the years in Edison.

“I fight for what I believe in,” she said. “I try to do what is right and what will benefit others fairly.”

Doherty said one issue that she would like to work on is the response time to 911 calls. She said she was in a critical car accident 20 years ago, and fire-rescue saved her life.

“I was pronounced dead twice,” she said.

Doherty said she would like to see firerescue reinstated in the township.

“These firemen are trained and have the ability to react in an emergency,” she said, adding, “Now, I don’t know when I will be taken care of when an incident occurs.”

Doherty and her husband Gary have four adult daughters. She served as a committeewoman for two terms for the Edison Democratic Organization.

Nagel, 51, has lived in Edison for 44 years. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Montclair State University. He serves as a developmental officer for the Jewish Renaissance Family of Organizations in Perth Amboy.

Nagel said that as current chairman of the Middlesex County Community Organizations Active in Disaster and a committeeman in town, he is the go-to guy when there is an issue with infrastructure in the township.

“I get the call that there is a pothole and I call it into the township,” he said, adding, “They know they can contact me.”

Nagel said that, if elected, he would like to work on infrastructure and address the antiquated sewer system in the township. He said it is important to work on receiving federal funding for the repairs.

He and his wife Debra have an adult son. Nagel is involved in numerous organizations and has served as chair of the bylaws and planning committees for the Middlesex County Human Service Advisory Council, for which he was vice-chair.


Resner, 65, is a 25- year township resident. She holds Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees. Resner has been a real estate professional for 10 years, and a credit and collection manager in the New York City Garment Center for 30 years.

Resner said she is running because she wants to make a difference in Edison.

“Being a local realtor, [I] have seen firsthand how the high property taxes have chased families and seniors out of their homes here in Edison,” she said.

“It has been politics as usual, and [they] have delivered a nonstop barrage of scandals and embarrassments. This has made our town less affordable and has made Town Hall embroiled in endless controversy,” she said.

Resner said the township needs new people to clean up the township government. She said that starts with ending the “one-party rule,” shining a light on wasteful spending and shady antics, and forcing both parties to work together.

“We have to bring back businesses and stop others from leaving,” she said. “Edison is a great town, and I want my grandchildren and everyone to be proud they live here.”

Resner said she has given back to the community by volunteering for the youth baseball and soccer clubs. She said she collects nonperishable food from the local ShopRite stores to donate to food banks, and she has helped build homes with Habitat for Humanity.

Resner and her husband Morris have two children, Erica and Morris, and three young grandchildren.

Shukla, 29, who is seeking his first term, has lived in the township for 14 years. He is a senior account executive at Time Warner, and has a Bachelor of Science degree in technology management.

“As a newlywed, I want to make Edison a more affordable and attractive place to raise a family,” he said. “Politics as usual in Edison has left many families struggling to pay for high property taxes and embarrassed to call our town home, with the stream of scandals coming out of Town Hall.”

Shukla said he and his wife Juhi have chosen Edison as the place where they will start a family.

“I have the responsibility to fix the mess that politicians have made here,” he said. “I am ready to work with both parties to lower property taxes, attract job creators back to our town, and hold politicians accountable with a series of reforms geared towards increasing transparency in local government.”

Shukla said he brings years of business experience that is lacking on the council.

“As a senior account executive for Time Warner, I understand how important it is to operate under a tight budget and utilize long-range planning to outline a vision for the future,” he said. “I want to utilize my experience with forensic accounting to root out wasteful spending, promote shared services and streamline local government so we can provide property tax relief to the middle class families that call Edison home.”

Shukla said he has partnered with stakeholders as a member of several business organizations and through his involvement with Indian-American organizations in Edison.

“Making our town more affordable and instilling confidence in local leadership will help to provide stability and attract businesses and the jobs they create back to Edison,” he said.

Viruet, 39, is seeking his first term. He serves as a uniformed protection officer at government facilities in New York City. He has a criminal justice degree from Mountain State University and is studying political science at Ashford University.

Viruet said he is running because he believes the principle of “service before self” is lost on the politicians in town.

“This is something I learned serving in the United States Marines,” he said. “They are more concerned with sweeping the controversies at Town Hall under the rug and blaming each other for the mess they created than they are with taking responsibility for their actions and helping the people they serve.”

Viruet said property taxes have increased 136 percent in recent years, while many residents are forced to do more with less pay.

“I will weed out wasteful spending, take immediate actions to clean up the Police Department and other city agencies, and enact reforms to make our government more open and accountable to the people of our town,” he said.

Viruet said Edison needs someone with fresh ideas and a new perspective.

“We need a new team on council who will not shy away from tough decisions and who will work with both parties to provide tax relief and attract new businesses to our town that create jobs and offset residential property taxes,” he said. “We need to shine a light on the waste and mismanagement at Town Hall and eliminate taxpayer waste, fraud and abuse with a series of aggressive reform measures.”