The crowded Monmouth County freeholder race features six candidates vying for two seats on the board. Incumbents Lillian Burry, a Republican, and Amy Mallet, a Democrat, are seeking another three-year term on the board.
Burry’s running mate is Spring Lake Councilman Gary Rich, while Mallet is joined on the Democratic slate by retired New Jersey State Trooper William Shea. Tom Markowski, a self-described fiscal conservative, is running as an independent candidate. Brookdale Community College student Patrick Noble on the Socialist Party ticket.
The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders is comprised of five seats. A freeholder director and freeholder deputy director are selected from among the board members. The governing body oversees a . Freeholders receive a salary of $27,000, and the freeholder director receives $27,900, according to county spokesperson William K. Heine.
Lillian Burry (R)*
Freeholder Lillian Burry, a Colts Neck resident and owner of Colts Neck Realty, is seeking her second full term. Burry served on the Matawan Borough Council and the Colts Neck Township Committee before her election to the freeholder board.
Burry considers herself a student of history and, as the freeholder liaison to the Monmouth County Board of Recreation Commissions, she is proud of the strides the county has taken in preserving land and Monmouth’s historical legacy.
“To put it in perspective, 50 years ago, we had 30 acres in our park system in Monmouth County. Here we are, 50 years later, and we’re over 16,000 acres, 35 parks and beautifully run. There’s something for everyone here,” Burry said.
She noted that she worked closely with the parks system and the state Green Acres program to bring about the purchase of the 2,000-acre Princeton Nurseries in Allentown.
Burry has also taken an active interest in the fate of Fort Monmouth, serving as a member of the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Planning Authority and later the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA). Burry chairs the FMERA Veterans’ Sub Committee and has recently brought the Soldier On program to the attention of her fellow board members. The program helps provide housing and services for homeless and soon to be homeless veterans and assists with their transition back into society. Burry hopes to bring the Soldier On program to Fort Monmouth.
Burry wants to see the revitalization of Fort Monmouth not only help veterans, but become an economic asset for the region.
“What we’re doing with Fort Monmouth begins with the veterans but it certainly doesn’t end with the veteran. We want to get companies in there that will want to make it a viable community. The emphasis is on community,” Burry said.
Amy Mallet (D)*
Freeholder Amy Mallet, 55, is a Fair Haven resident and the owner of a marketing company based in Neptune. With former Freeholder John D’Amico (D) voted out of office in November 2010, Mallet has served the last year of her first term as the lone Democrat on the county board.
“I’ve been called a watchdog on that board,” Mallet said. “When I want to put up a resolution, the challenge is, unless I have a second, it isn’t going anywhere.”
She noted she was unable to find a second freeholder to support a resolution for term limits on county advisory boards. Mallet began advocating term limits after the county discovered former Brookdale Community College President Peter Burnham received a housing allowance, a new car and had his country club membership paid for through a contract approved by the volunteer members on the board of trustees.
Mallet explained appointed members of advisory boards are not elected but influence how tax dollars are spend.
“Term limits provide a healthy rotation. It’s something that would serve the county well,” Mallet said.
The Democratic freeholder said she is particularly proud of the Monmouth County Veteran’s Service Office, which was established less than a year ago using existing staff and office space.
“This was done at no cost to taxpayers,” Mallet said. “We’ve been able to do this in an efficient way and the demand is huge. We’ve been able to bring in approximately $200,000 into our community for a veterans in terms of benefits they didn’t previously have.”
Mallet said she is an advocate of clean energy and increased transparency in government. She sees herself as a citizens’ advocate on the freeholder board.
“I stand for the people—people before politics. Whatever the situation is, I address it.” Mallet said.
Tom Markowski (I)
Spring Lake Heights resident Tom Markowski, 52, is a registered Republican but is seeking election as an independent because of his dissatisfaction with how the county is being run.
“I’m a registered Republican and have been my entire life. Unfortunately, certain candidates and committees have run away with the core ideology,” said Markowski, who has worked in the computer industry for 25 years.
He considers himself a fiscal conservative, explaining that the core of his philosophy is to not only be efficient, but to spend fairly.
“To me, if there’s ever a time to be fiscally conservative, it’s now. We have people losing jobs. People are struggling. They’re getting hit by taxes on a lot of different levels,” Markowski said.
He found the revelation of the Brookdale Community College president’s contract and spending of particular concern.
“The Brookdale situation really was a fiasco and I think it might be the tip of the iceberg with how the county is managing funds. Only a few simple questions were asked in the Brookdale situation and all this waste was uncovered,” Markowski said.
He also believes the process of acquiring open space needs to be looked at more closely to ensure politics aren’t playing a role. He pointed to concerns raised about Manalapan Mayor Andrew Lucas’ stake in a property being considered for open space preservation.
“I think what we need to do, given the last couple expenditures approved, is take a pause and see if all Monmouth County residents are receiving the benefit. Until we know the process is fair, we need to take a pause,” Markowski said. “Everybody loves open space. We want to see our fair share of it.”
Patrick Noble (S)
The November election marks Red Bank resident Patrick Noble’s first run for office as well as his first opportunity to cast a general election ballot. The 18-year-old is secretary of the Socialist Party of New Jersey and co-founded the Socialist Party of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Noble graduated from the Monmouth County Academy of Allied Health and Science in June
“I’m running to provide a Socialist alternative to the people of Monmouth County. I think that our electoral system is flawed in all levels of government. I’m running to give voters an alternative and different ideas that they won’t find represented in other candidates,” Noble said.
He believes public opinion on socialism is on the rise with the recent Occupation Wall Street protests and related community activism.
“I believe Monmouth County is ready for not only a third-party candidate, but for a Socialist Party candidate,” he said.
Noble would like to encourage the growth of new businesses with alternate corporate structures, such as a collective business models with employees having an ownership role.
“I’m not a standard candidate, I’m not the status quo. I’m not a career politician. But I do offer a lot of alternative solutions to the problems the county is facing and the problems the people are facing. I do think they are solutions that resonate with a lot of people,” Noble said.
Gary Rich (R)
Gary Rich, 58, is a Spring Lake resident and works in the technology industry in a sales capacity. He served as a Lake Como councilman in the 1980 and is completing his third term on the Spring Lake Borough Council.
Rich believes his business experience and understanding of local government will be valuable on the freeholder board, especially with the fiscal challenges of recent years.
“The first thing we have to understand is the years of government spending money has to change. We have to re-look at what government actually provides. There are things government has gotten into that perhaps it shouldn’t have,” Rich said.
He explained that current economic difficulties provide an opportunity for public officials and taxpayers to take a hard look at the roles government has taken on. He noted overreaching laws and regulations can stifle economic growth.
“The reason this country is so great is that we've allowed people to step up and do things. We need to get out of the way of our entrepreneurs and allow them to focus on growth,” Rich said.
The Spring Lakes Councilman said he was impressed with the county’s Grow Monmouth campaign, a regional initiative that seeks to retain existing business, entice new companies, and encourage job growth. Rich believes with his background in business, he can assist in speaking to corporate executives and promoting Monmouth as a location to expand or establish new companies.
“We have good schools, parks and libraries--we have so many things to offer,” Rich said.
William Shea (D)
Howell resident and retired New Jersey State Trooper William Shea, 32, hopes to bring new energy and enthusiasm to the freeholder board.
“I always wanted to get involved with government when I was younger but the opportunity didn’t present itself,” Shea said.
When he was injured twice on the job and had to leave law enforcement, however, he looked at his change in circumstance as an opportunity and decided to pursue government office. The former Keansburg resident says he has an understanding of the challenges most Monmouth County residents are facing with the troubled economy.
“I’m very frightened of what our futures hold,” Shea said. “We need oversight to make sure expenditures are in check. I’m running on a platform of fiscal responsibility, accountability and infrastructure.”
Shea found the controversy involving the former Brookdale president’s contract evidence of wasteful mismanagement. He supports his running mate’s call for term limits on autonomous boards and believes the county should establish an ethics board to stamp out potential conflicts of interest.
Shea believes the county needs to investigate duplicative services among various departments and pointed to public relations as an example.
“We have four PR people. Why does the library need a PR person? Why can’t it be handled by the county?” Shea said. “I know we have great parks and libraries, but I don’t live in a park and I don’t live in a library. We need to be worried about the taxpayers.”
Shea said his experience with the state police trained him to make sound decisions.
“I will work hard to be an independent thinker. People are fed up with ideologies. They just want to see things get done,” he said.
The 2011 general election will take place Tuesday, Nov. 8. Check with your municipal clerk on poll locations and hours.