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Q&A: West Caldwell Council Candidates

Four candidates vying for two open seats on the West Caldwell Council.

Councilmen Stanley Hladik and Thomas O'Hern, both Republicans, are seeking second terms on the West Caldwell Council. The incubments are being challenged by two Democrats, Frank Mondsini III and Marc Driggs. 

The following questions were posed to the candidates by Patch. The highlighted names above will take you to the candidates' individual profile pages.

Republican Incumbent Candidate Stan Hladik

What do you feel are your biggest accomplishments from your first term?

There are many accomplishments that our team recorded during my first term.  There are two that stand out. The first would be the redevelopment of the Oval, which coincided with a new multi-year shared services agreement for recreation with the Boro of Caldwell. This enabled the children that go to school together to continue to play together. The second is that our governing body was able to put together a budget for 2012 that has a 0% municipal tax increase. This is a group effort on the part of many people working to make difficult budget cuts without removing any essential services. I am proud of all the services we have maintained for our residents, and will continue to strive to help our residents through reduced taxes during these challenging economic times.  

What do you hope to accomplish in a second term?

I look forward to a second term to continue implementing the philosophy of the current governing body. That focus is on maintaining the character of our community, promoting public safety, and offering recreational programs for our residents. To maintain a conservative budget, I want to focus on growing shared services opportunities with our neighboring communities, as well as our Board of Education. This will enable our Township to maintain existing services, continue to invest in infrastructure projects, and reduce our tax load.  

What are the concerns of voters in this town? What do you hear about most when campaigning?

Whether it be on the blacktop of the school playgrounds, at the pool, or at recreation events, the interaction with my neighbors is what I love most about being a Councilman. The common theme that I hear among voters is that they love the character of our community and the positive direction of our governing body. They approve of our infrastructure improvements, the delivery of services such as waste/recycling pickup, and our recreation programs. Most notably, everyone truly appreciated our team’s effort to maintain a 0% municipal tax increase.

What are your ideas for attracting businesses to the town and helping the existing ones to thrive?

While we are a bedroom community of mostly single family residential homes, we have a great proportion of small, medium, and large corporations to help support our revenue base. It is this business mix that enables our residents to enjoy a favorable tax rate when compared to similar valued homes in our neighboring communities. I am very happy with our planning board and zoning board that promotes the growth of business in town, while at the same time protects the character of our community. I hope to continue this same philosophy and complete a formal review of our Township’s Master Plan.

Are there any areas where you think the borough is spending too much or too little?

A lot of time and effort is spent each and every year closely reviewing all lines items within our budget to decide where we are investing our revenue. It is my belief that at the end of the day, we come together in agreement as a team to spend the right amount of revenue for this current cycle. If there was one area where I would like to spend a little more, it is on our public roadways. I believe that we can implement our road maintenance program as well as accelerate the replacement of the roads/curbs that critically need it over the next few years. 

What would you like voters to know about you?

I would like every voter to know how much I love West Caldwell. The opportunity I have to represent them as their Councilman is an honor and a privilege. I take my oath very seriously, and serving is one of the ways I can give back to a community that continues to do so much for generations in my family. My wife, Megan (Shannon), and I are raising 5 young children in town (ages 2 through 10). I promise to work as hard as humanly possible to protect the future of West Caldwell for my family and yours. 

Democratic Council Candidate Marc Driggs

Why are you running for West Caldwell Council?

I have witnessed good, dedicated, and qualified people removed from the republican ticket because they dared to disagree and stand up for what they felt was right for West Caldwell. I feel that our current governing body's wasteful spending is leading us down a path where we will all be saddled with debt. 

What do you hope to accomplish as a councilman?

I want to make town government more transparent and give the voters more input in how their money is being spent. I feel the majority of the residents should have the ultimate approval on what projects, that are outside the normal scope of town maintenance, are approved. 

What are the concerns of voters in this town? What do you hear about
most when campaigning?

They mostly talk about the spending on firehouse addition. I don't know the what the actual numbers are as of yet. I requested this information via O.P.R.A. from Town Hall and I am still waiting. But the sentiment that I am getting from the residents is that this project went well beyond what they were told its original intended purpose was, fireman safety.

What are your ideas for attracting businesses to the town and helping
the existing ones to thrive? 

I would keep the local businesses in the public eye by praising its contributions. 

Are there any areas where you think the borough is spending too much
or too little? 

We are bonding too much money for projects that are not absolutely necessary. We are spending too much money on legal fees.

What would you like voters to know about you?

I will always tell them the truth, even when it's not easy.  

Republican Incumbent Candidate Tom O'Hern

What do you feel are your biggest accomplishments from your first term?

The last 3 years on council have been extremely productive. Aside from infrastructure improvements such as the multi-purpose field at Kiwanis Oval, a new firehouse and updates to roads and water infrastructure, a new road management program was developed. This allows us to better manage infrastructure and increase our return on investment moving forward. Most notably, we held municipal tax increases to less than 2% per year since 2010, and delivered a 0% municipal tax increase in 2012. 0% was achieved through reducing expenses, shared services, sacrifice and tough decisions, and while not reducing municipal services our residents enjoy and expect.

What do you hope to accomplish in a second term?

If re-elected I intend to continue to follow a plan that has made West Caldwell the great community it is to work, live and raise a family. This requires a proactive approach to public works and infrastructure, an all-inclusive approach to recreational activities, continued investment in public safety and a conservative approach to finance and budgeting. All of this coupled with sharing services with neighboring communities and taking advantage of grant opportunities, is a recipe for continued success.

What are the concerns of voters in this town? What do you hear about most when campaigning?

Residents typically want to discuss their desire to keep our community safe, clean and affordable, as well as the importance of maintaining services including recreation activities. What residents have expressed to me is how they want to keep West Caldwell the way it is, and their concern has been the risk of taking a different path than we are on. I appreciate the confidence our residents have in the current administration including Stan Hladik and myself, and I also appreciate the constructive feedback we constantly receive from constituents. We will continue to listen, and do what is right for all of our citizens.

What are your ideas for attracting businesses to the town and helping the existing ones to thrive?

West Caldwell is a well-planned community with mostly single-family residential homes. We also have dedicated space for industrial complexes, and of course small businesses that have been owned and operated by entrepreneurs. The great selection of small businesses attract residents of other towns while also keeping our residents business in town. Some businesses also provide employment opportunities to residents, which is another advantage. I’ll continue to encourage residents to keep their business in town whenever possible. It is up to our Governing Body to continue to adopt policies that attract new businesses, while also supporting existing businesses and most of all protecting the character of our residential community. We have strong planning and zoning boards to manage this process, and I continue to support policies that are in line with these principles.

Are there any areas where you think the borough is spending too much or too little?

The Governing Body works collectively each year to plan and deliver a balanced budget to our citizens. We have reduced expenses in many areas already, and continue to fine tune as needed. In any budget cycle, some areas may require additional funding while we are able to reduce spending in others. Over the last year we have developed a road management program, which will allow us to more aggressively maintain our roads and related infrastructure. In this area, as well as water, sewer and drainage improvements, I believe is a great investment with substantial return and positive impact on our neighborhoods.

What would you like voters to know about you?

I am passionate about my work in the Township as a councilman, a firefighter and a coach. I am humbled by the opportunity to serve as a councilman in the town where I was born and raised, and you won’t meet anyone prouder than I am to live in the best town in the world: I love West Caldwell. It is a privilege to be able to live here with my wife, Edite, and raise our children (ages 1-8), and I am eternally grateful to my parents for choosing West Caldwell as their home over 50 years ago. I pledge my dedication and commitment to every citizen in town, and promise to make the best decisions for all residents.

Democratic Council Candidate Frank Mondsini

Why are you running for West Caldwell Council?

I want to bring a new approach to our government, an efficient business type of government. We are in a depression like economy, with an uncertain future. What we do today will affect us in years to come. I will propose a cap limit on non infrastructure spending. Any non infrastructure projects should be decided by the people and tax payers in the form of a referendum vote, giving West Caldwell residents a voice in government.

What do you hope to accomplish as a councilman?

I will question and watch every penny being spent to insure we are running as efficient and profitable as we can. I will run the Township as a business, keeping a close eye on our account payables, fighting to create a surplus to protect our future. My ultimate goal is to prove we can lower our taxes, without cutting services. I will work hard to insure that all residents have a voice in our government.

What are the concerns of voters in this town? What do you hear about
most when campaigning?

High taxes are a major concern. The economy is a huge concern, our town pools are and have been an issue for far too long and a decision needs to be made. They have expressed concerns about their future ability to afford and continue to live and retire here.

What are your ideas for attracting businesses to the town and helping
the existing ones to thrive?

I would offer tax incentives for existing businesses, as well as incentives for new businesses that hire locally and want to set up shop in our business districts. Additionally I will seek corporate sponsorships to assist with Township projects and encourage residents to shop and do business, with businesses that support our community.

Are there any areas where you think the borough is spending too much
or too little?

I am a firm believer that a deal is a deal. I don’t understand how projects are allowed to run over budget. I also know that on a national level, we must learn from what history has taught us, excessive bonding/borrowing money will hurt us severely in the future and will cause taxes to skyrocket. Eventually interest rates will rise and we will have to pay this money back, its basic economics. Our parents, grandparents and generations before us would save up for non essential items. It has become too easy to buy now pay later.  

What would you like voters to know about you?

That I am a man of my word and am in no way shape or form a politician by today’s definition. I am very honest, hardworking and dedicated businessman that will always have time to listen to any residents concerns. I believe every problem has a solution. I will work extremely hard for each and every resident to insure a fiscally strong West Caldwell for many years to come.

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