By Amy Batista, Special Writer
EAST WINDSOR – Eight candidates are vying for four, four-year term seats open on the East Windsor Township Council.
East Windsor Township candidates are Democrat incumbents Mayor Janice Mironov, who is looking to serve her 20th consecutive year as mayor if she wins this fall and council members re-elect her to the position; her running mates, Deputy Mayor Marc Lippman and Councilmen Peter Yeager and John Zoller. Republicans are Paul “PJ” Hummel and his running mates Steve Uccio, Darren Feist and Sean O’Connor.
Each of the candidates provided some background and answered some questions.
Mayor Janice Mironov is an attorney.
“I received my B.A. in political science from Wellesley College in Massachusetts and my law degree with honors from George Washington University Law Center in Washington, D.C.,” Mayor Mironov said.
She said her past professional experience includes serving as a N.J. Deputy Attorney General, Assistant Director in the N.J. Department of the Treasury, and research assistant for a congressional group in the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.
“I have an extensive history of government and community involvement and have received several community awards and recognitions,” she said.
She serves as a Planning Board member, East Windsor Green Space Board Member, as well as liaison to the Township Economic Development Committee, the Clean Communities Advisory Committee, and the volunteer Fire Companies and Rescue Squads.
“Among other involvements, I hold leadership positions in the N.J. League of Municipalities and N.J. Conference of Mayors, a Member of the New Jersey Highway Traffic Safety Policy Advisory Council, Board Member of NJ Shares, past Board Member of the Boy Scouts of America Mercer Area District,” she said.
Deputy Marc Lippman said that in addition to being a member of council for almost 20 years, he has been an active member of East Windsor Rescue Squad for more 15 years.
“I am a partner in a real estate management firm in N.Y.C., responsible for managing staff, annual budgets, and union negotiations,” he said. “I feel these skills have made me understand the qualities needed and the knowledge to tackle the operations to make East Windsor Township, a township to be proud of.”
Councilman Peter Yeager said he has lived in East Windsor since 1997 with his wife Shari and two daughters.
“I have previously served as a soccer coach in the EWPAL (East Windsor Police Athletic League),” he said. “On council, I serve on the Environmental Committee and Green Team and coordinate the East Windsor Municipal Alliance for the Prevention of Substance Abuse and have previously served on the Recreation Committee.”
He said that he has worked at Educational Testing Service since 2001 and currently serves as the national director for client relations in its Teacher Licensure program.
“I graduated from Rutgers University with my Master’s Degree in political science and have served in various positions in Rutgers alumni associations,” he said.
He said he is a veteran of the U.S. Navy where he served from 1998 through 2006 as an Intelligence Specialist with the U.S. Navy Reserve and received the Navy Commendation Medal for his active-duty service at the Navy’s Fifth Fleet Headquarters in Bahrain during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Councilman John Zoller said that he has lived in East Windsor with his wife Bonnie since 1979.
“I was a manufacturing executive in the cosmetics and specialty chemicals industries and I am now director of corporate compliance at Shiseido America on Route 571 in East Windsor,” he said.
He said he earned a Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering at NJIT and Masters in Business Administration at Rider University.
“I serve as liaison to the Economic Development Commission, a member of the East Windsor Green Team for Sustainable Jersey, a former member EWT Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment,” he said.
He said that he is resident and member of Architectural Review Committee for Riviera at East Windsor adult community.
Paul “PJ” Hummel said that he is a lifelong resident of East Windsor.
“I am a rteal estate salesman licensed in NJ and PA that has just completed schooling and just recently passed the test for my real estate brokers license,” he said. “I have been an apprentice at Independent Appraisal Services in Hamilton over the past year. My apprenticeship should be over by mid-2016.”
He graduated Mercer County Community College with an AAS in Accounting and Management.
“For many years after that I was a collections specialist for a couple of different companies before moving on to real estate,” he said.
This is not his first time running for office.
“In 2013, I ran as the Republican candidate for Mercer County Freeholder in an effort to curb unnecessary borrowing and spending at the county level,” he said.
Steven Uccio lives in Twin Rivers with his wife and 19-month-old son.
“I have an associates degree in criminal justice,” he said.
This is also not his first time running for an office. “I ran the last two years for state assembly and freeholder,” he said.
He said that he previously worked about five years in his family’s restaurant where he did everything from waiter, bartender, cook, and manager.
“Currently, I’m working for a meat distribution company and I oversee that company’s sales in Manhattan,” he said. “We sell mostly to independent delis and some supermarkets.”
Sean O’Connor said he has run for elected office twice both, for the school board and for the state assembly.
“I have spent more than 10 years providing customer service, in both the restaurant industry and the retail industry,” he said.
He said that he will be receiving an Associates Degree in liberal arts from Mercer County Community College this fall.
“I will be attending William Paterson University this coming spring, where I will be pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in liberal arts with concentrations in political science and history,” he said.
Mr. Feist said he holds a Bachelors of Arts in liberal studies from Thomas Edison State College, broadcasting credentials from Columbia School of Broadcasting, and is actively pursuing teacher certification in elementary education with Middle School Mathematics Specialization.
He is married with one stepchild who is currently attending Hightstown High School.
“I spent eight years in Washington, D.C. at the Committee on House Administration within the United States House of Representatives,” he said. “As administrative director, I managed the committee budget, had direct oversight of the Parking Security Office, and provided guidance to members of Congress on the regulations pertaining to official office expenses.”
The candidates answered the question why they chose to run for council (or again) and what particular skill set they would bring to the job.
“I have a substantial background educationally, professionally and through public service which enables me to work effectively with residents and other officials to help provide competent and responsive government and to get things accomplished in a positive professional environment for the benefit of our residents,” Mayor Mironov said.
She said that she has lived in East Windsor for many years and cares about making the community a great place to live and do business.
“I also have a great enjoyment of working with and involving young people in our government and community,” she said. “I hope that I have been able to earn the trust and support of our community as a caring and pro-active and effective leader.”
“Whether it be improving parks, preserving farms and open space, building a senior center or keeping municipal taxes flat, watching these things evolve, from conception, doesn’t get old,” Deputy Mayor Lippman said.
He said that he believed that his overall management experience, along with his budgeting skills, combined with the experience of the mayor and council, help him bring all the right skill sets to the table.
“While we’ve accomplished a great deal over the past four years, I want to continue to work on behalf of our residents over the next four years,” Councilman Yeager said.
He said that he is particularly proud of his work on the Municipal Alliance for the Prevention of Substance Abuse and involvement in the Green Team and Environmental Committee.
“As someone raising a family and facing the challenges that comes with that, I try to bring that perspective to my council work and look for opportunities to expand our recreations services, bring new businesses into town and keep our taxes low,” he said. “I also greatly enjoy meeting and speaking with our residents at our township events such as our recycling days, concerts in the parks or events in our schools or at EWPAL and will continue to make myself accessible to the community.”
Councilman Zoller said that he wants continue working on the programs and activities that he has contributed to including business development, farmland preservation and environmental programs.
“These areas are a good fit to my business management education and experience, and environmental compliance profession,” he said.
Mr. Hummel said that his main reason is that he loves and take pride in his hometown.
“I am volunteering for this position and I have turned down any salary involved with this position,” he said.
He said he has been successful and he wants to give back to his community by helping the taxpayers keep more money in their pockets while still receiving the same, if not better service.
“What I feel the current administration is lacking in is transparency and I believe that can be improved upon immediately,” he said. “The skill set that I plan on bringing to the job is my full knowledge of the real estate market.”
He said that he has facilitated in marketing, selling and the valuation of residential, commercial and land lots while also handling commercial leases for many companies.
“It is important that we have representation on council that has knowledge in marketing and sales for potential deals for the township in the future,” he said.
Mr. Uccio said that everyone complains that New Jersey is so bad, everyone wants to move, yet we keep re-electing the same people.
“Since I’ve moved to East Windsor, every single incumbent who has run for re-election has won,” he said. “Everyone except Frank Lautenberg and Rush Holt and they did not win simply because they did not run. I have been asking for the chance to prove that I can govern more effectively than the people we currently have.”
He said that he has been studying state, county, and township issues for the past few years.
“I understand what homeowners in New Jersey are going through and their frustrations, he said.
Mr. O’Connor said that over the past several years he has learned a lot from college professors, East Windsor residents, elected and appointed officials, and anyone else with an opinion on how the quality of government services can be constantly improved.
“I brought questions and comments to council meetings, for members of council and the mayor, based on things I learned and was wondering more about,” he said. “The lack of responsiveness and professionalism disappointed me.”
He said since the present members of council and the mayor were so disinterested in dialogue on issues such as these, which he knows matter a great deal to residents, he decided to challenge them more formally by running against them for council this year.
“After working almost eight years in Washington, D.C., and eliminating a tremendous amount of wasteful spending, I believe I can eliminate even more in a township budget that is over four times the amount of the committee’s,” Mr. Feist said.
Another question the candidates were asked was what are the two biggest issues being raised by East Windsor residents and how they respond to them.
“Residents are interested in current and future development plans in the township, frequently inquiring and expressing thoughts about bringing in new stores and restaurants and businesses,” Mayor Mironov said.
She said that residents in general are pleased about the many new shopping opportunities provided over recent years and always have suggestions about what they would like to have in East Windsor.
“At the same time, residents are very supportive of our extensive pro-active efforts to preserve open space and farmland, which has been a top priority and will remain so,” she said. “These important efforts help “green” our community and retain some of the valued rural character, maintain farming in our township and provide an important and healthy balance to development.”
She said that residents also talk about taxes, but also do quickly compliment township services as excellent and superior to other area towns.
“Many already are aware, and if not, we review that only about 15 percent of the total tax bill goes to the municipal government and the remainder is collected for the county and school district, and that keeping costs and taxes low is always a priority,” she said.
Deputy Mayor Lippman also mentioned taxes.
“I feel the two biggest items on the minds of residents, are two topics that this council have already made and will continue to make priority,” he said. “The first is taxes. All residents want to be assured that spending is closely monitored and money is spent wisely.”
This mayor and council is proud of the attention they have given to spending and budgets, he said.
He said this practice has resulted in holding township municipal taxes flat for the last three years, with the smallest portion, only 15 percent of the municipal budget.
“Other topics of conversation, spoken about in a most positive way, are the township’s public works department and police department,” he said. “This council has been able to keep township municipal taxes flat while keeping these departments tops in the state.”
He said that they are constantly approached with comments from residents complementing their public works department, in particular, how they handled Hurricane Sandy, snow removal, leaf removal, etc., as well as the professionalism, and expertise of their police department.
Councilman Yeager said that he has been encouraged by the positive response they have received as they go door-to-door during their campaign.
“Residents are quick to mention the high level of services they receive, whether it be with our public works, recreation, or public safety,” he said. “They are also pleased that we’ve continued to provide this high level of services while keeping taxes level over the past three years.”
He said that they also mention how we regularly keep our streets in good shape and thank us for the paving of major roadways this year.
Councilman Zoller concurred with his running mates on taxes and the annual Township Road Improvement Projects.
“I have heard questions about the total level of taxes and about how the annual Township road improvement projects have been coming to their neighborhoods recently with much appreciation,” he said.
Mr. Uccio also concurred on taxes.
“It’s been property taxes every since I started asking people,” he said. “Unfortunately, that is mostly the responsibility of the county and state. As council members we need to put more pressure on the county to get its budget under control and the state to get rid of these educational mandates that are driving up the school budget.”
Mr. O’Connor also concurred with taxes and said the second issue is emergency services.
“When it comes to emergency services, it is clear that the present members of council, and the mayor are squandering our resources,” he said. “They terminated an entire volunteer rescue squad and they’re seeking to get rid of our police dispatchers. This is extremely irresponsible.”
Mr. Hummel said the two biggest issues being brought to his attention after talking to residents are taxes and representation.
“While campaigning door-to-door and at events it seems as though the number one complaint is that the taxpayers/citizens of this township have no one that listens to them and that is not right,” he said. “They feel that if they have a question, complaint, or request and they bring it to attention that nothing is done about it and they are met by blank stares from our current administration. People need answers.”
He said that he himself myself can attest to this.
“There have been multiple times that people have stood up during council meetings and asked a question or had a request and the current just responds by saying thank you for your concern and then moves on to business as usual,” he said. “After talking to hundreds of residents in the township, my running mates and I have been told that we were very easy to talk to and they look forward to voting for us because we hear them out and want to work with them.”
Mr. Feist also talked about how some residents are complaining and questioning how the council meetings are being run.
By Amy Batista, Special Writer