Freehold Township Democrats Run on Platform of Transparency, Fiscal Responsibility
Jennie “JJ” Jeannette Mistretta and Edward Horigan are challenging Republican incumbents David Salkin and Eugene Golub.
The Democratic candidates seeking two three-year Freehold Township Committee seats hope to bring a fresh perspective and more transparency to the governing body. Jennie “JJ” Jeannette Mistretta, 63, and Edward Horigan, 63, are looking to unseat Republican incumbents Mayor David Salkin and Deputy Mayor Eugene Golub in the November election.
“I’ve always been a crusader. It just bothers me when people run unopposed. The Republicans have been [the majority on the Township Committee] for 38 years and for a very long time they had no one running against them. We feel we can make changes. I don’t want to be a spectator, I want to be a participant,” said Mistretta, a real estate agent who raised two sons and has resided in Freehold Township for 12 years.
Public participation in government is of particular importance to Mistretta. The former Marlboro Township Board of Education member regularly attends Township Committee meetings, asking questions about agenda items and offering suggestions for potential cost saving measures when the floor opens to the public. Mistretta and Horigan believe Freehold Township can do more to make government accessible to residents.
“I would like to see committee meetings streamed on the Internet,” said Horigan, a four-year resident of Freehold Township and married father of two grown children. He is a U.S. Air Force veteran who has worked in information technology, mergers and acquisitions, and financial planning. He would like to see the municipality make use of social media, transition to paperless operations within departments, and update the Web site to include quarterly spending and budget information by department.
“In the business world, they rotate people every three to five years. They don’t do that here. Some committee members have been there 15, 17 years. We need to have new ideas. We need to use new technologies,” Horigan said.
Mistretta said there is a lack of discussion among the governing body during Township Committee meetings and a lack of interest in engaging the public.
“I had presented a model to have a Citizens’ Day where everybody comes in from the township and people can volunteer for things. They told me the (volunteer) committees are full,” Mistretta said.
The Democrats contend that while no candidate can legitimately promise to reduce taxes, more can be done within the township to stabilize the tax base. Mistretta and Horigan would like to see longevity pay eliminated for new hires. Under the municipal salary ordinance, certain unionized and unclassified employees receive an additional $1,200 per year after five years of service and up to $3,000 per year after they reach 26 years of employment. The candidates would like to place a cap on municipal employees’ sick time and the amount of vacation time that can be rolled over into the next year.
“In the 1970s when salaries weren’t high enough, people tried to encourage professionals to be in government with policies like longevity pay. Well, that’s changed. People make more money in government and you don’t have the need for longevity pay any more,” Horigan said.
In addition, Mistretta would like to see professional service contracts, such as those governing insurance coverage, reviewed for potential savings.
The Democratic candidates believe getting their message out to Freehold residents will provide much-needed discussion about ways of making municipal government more efficient.
“You know the Simmons commercial, ‘An educated consumer is our best customer’? An educated electorate is our best customer,” Mistretta said.
Freehold Township is organized under the township form of government. The five-member Township Committee is elected directly by the voters. Partisan elections are held in November. The mayor and deputy mayor are selected by the governing body during its annual reorganization meeting. Committee members serve three-year terms. The members of the 2011 Freehold Township Committee are Mayor David Salkin, Deputy Mayor Eugene Golub, Anthony Ammiano, Robert McGirr and Barbara McMorrow. All are Republicans.