Democrat Challenges Incumbent Republican in Little Egg Harbor

A No-Cost Campaign for Township Committee
Oct 30, 2019

Little Egg Harbor Township has just one committee seat up for election this year, and there is a Democratic challenger to the all-Republican committee. Great Bay Democratic Club member Leona Weigele is new to campaigning as a candidate, and since she knows she is going up against a long-time player in the political arena, incumbent Republican Mayor Barbara Jo Crea, she spent no money on her campaign – you won’t see a sign around town. Still, the Democratic Club feels it has a good candidate who has the possibility of coming up from behind.

Leona Weigele has lived in Ocean County all her life and in Little Egg Harbor Township since 1985. She responded to a request for information and answered specific questions in paragraph form.

“I was born in Newark but we moved to Lakewood when I was 11 years old. I graduated from Central Regional High School in 1976. I moved to Little Egg Harbor in 1985 to raise my daughter here. I raised her as a divorced single parent.

“My daughter is a registered nurse/administrative assistant and is married to a local man with roots going back generations in Little Egg. He is an accountant. I have two incredible grandsons.

“I have lived in the neighborhood between the Acme shopping center and Tip Seaman Park since 1985 and I love my neighborhood and Little Egg Harbor. This is where I lived during Sandy and I was fortunate to be on the right side of Route 9 and only experienced minor damages. I am aware of the horror stories of residents who were not so lucky. Local officials need to address these issues for our residents!”

She is a communicant of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church and served on the parish council for three years before parenting and work schedules left little time for community involvement.

Weigele retired from the U.S. Postal Service in 2013.

“I started with the USPS in 1977 as a temporary employee and eventually obtained a career position. In my 36 years of employment I achieved the advancement from a PS-5 clerk/carrier position (I did both) to an EAS-22 position; a notable feat because I had no network to support/assist my effort.

“The offices I worked in are too numerous to list but I retired from being in charge of the post offices on LBI after I had been in charge of the LEHT/Tuckerton post offices – this was during the extreme growing pains from area growth and insufficient means for the municipality and the Post Office to answer to. Politics were not an issue and we all worked together to address the problems.

“More importantly, I have demonstrated integrity, a character often lacking in politicians. Managing growth and protecting our natural resources should be a priority in LEH, along with stopping the rate of municipal tax increases. LEH does many things right, and I am pleased with their direction, however we just exceeded the state maximum cap of 2 percent by 1.5 percent after several years of tax increases. I think we can do better than that.

“I also think it’s dangerous for any municipality to have only one perspective or political party for so long. Politicians don’t tend to ‘police’ themselves very well.

“A different perspective is my platform. I represent the working person’s perspective, a working committeewoman. Civil servants are working America.

“I also think we need to get the money out of politics. Honest people aren’t usually interested in politics (myself included) because of how often corruption exists. When entities invest money in politicians, they are owed ‘consideration’ in return. The local Democratic Club has meager assets and it wouldn’t have been a prudent financial investment to waste precious funds in a race against an incumbent that has such favorable support. I spent $0 on this campaign and owe no one.

“Back to (the subject) of my grandchildren. That’s why I’m in this. I could afford to ignore politics like most happy individuals but I feel I wouldn’t be able to look my grandsons in the eye with a clear conscience without doing everything I could to preserve the democracy I was privileged to have growing up.

“Lastly, I was not born in Ocean County. I am aware of the difficulties assimilating the different ‘groups’ of residents in our area. I hope to help bridge the often present ‘us against them’ attitude. When either political party is in control for too long a period they tend to lose their objectivity. One (Democratic) seat (on the all-Republican committee) won’t change a lot quickly but it’s a step in the right direction towards a more balanced committee. I think it’s healthy for any municipality to have a well-balanced committee – it’s unhealthy otherwise.”

Barbara Jo “Bobbi” Crea was a member of the township committee from 2002 to 2007, serving as mayor in 2006 and 2007. She returned to the committee in 2017 and was made deputy mayor. She was appointed mayor by the committee in January 2019, serves as a liaison to the senior advisory board and is a trustee of the Great Bay Regional Volunteer EMS.

Crea is a member of the New Jersey Conference of Mayors, Ocean County Mayors Association, member chairperson of the Regular Republican organization of Little Egg Harbor, and chairperson of the Ocean County Republican County Committee from Little Egg Harbor.

She was a recipient of the Southern Ocean County Girl Scout Woman of Achievement award.

She has been a Little Egg Harbor homeowner since 1983 and made the Mystic Island section her permanent home in 1995 after retirement. She retired as branch chief from the New Jersey Department of Treasury, Division of Taxation. As a certified public manager, she oversaw a large division with various locations in the state.

She was recently widowed after 41 years of marriage to her husband, Rich. She has two children and six grandchildren.

She is a member of St. Theresa’s Parish; Friend of the Little Egg Harbor branch of the Ocean County Library; trustee of the Italian American Social Club of Little Egg Harbor; and member of the Tuckerton and Barnegat chapters of the Order of the Eastern Star, American Legion Auxiliary Post 493 and the Ocean County Federation of Republican Women.

Crea answered the following queries by email:

What was your most memorable achievement on the committee this term?

“Ensuring fellow township members and municipal employees work together harmoniously to fulfill the public needs as effectively and efficiently as possible is paramount. The obligation of a public officeholder is to serve the needs of every resident. To do this effectively, it is imperative to work harmoniously with my colleagues on the governing body and in town hall. This I believe enables us to provide the best and most cost-efficient service to our community.

“As a result of always operating in this manner, and as mayor, I have been able to provide expanded community outreach programs for our residents such as the establishment of the OnPoint program in Little Egg Harbor; participation in a vibrant senior advisory board, which provides timely, valuable and pertinent information to our senior residents; and orchestration of monthly ‘Meet the Mayor’ meetings allowing residents of every age to express what matters most to them.”

Were you affected by Superstorm Sandy, and what did you do?

“During the catastrophic event of Superstorm Sandy, I was not a member of the township committee but was a victim of that ferocious storm. Although my house was elevated prior to the storm, 3 feet of water filled up the lower level of my home. While we lost a great deal, to move forward was not as difficult as those who lost everything. I can remember seeing my neighbors and fellow townspeople who had lost everything. And still having a house to live in, I did everything I could to make their lives easier. It was a very difficult time for everyone. And to this day, whenever a storm is predicted, I still recognize the effects of that terrible time. To assist those residents who have yet to return home, I chose to return to the township committee three years ago. We must hold fraudulent contractors accountable. It is imperative that we do all in our power as elected officials to bring that to fruition.”

How do you see Little Egg Harbor moving ahead in the future?

“We must ensure local government remains as efficient as it can be to keep our taxes reasonable, while providing services that our residents expect. We must maintain our quality of life by continuing to support the finest police department and its innovative programs. We must make room for vibrant, clean economic development bringing services to our citizens, while offsetting our residential tax base. And we must further support programs for our youth using our Community Center Recreational Complex, and value the contributions of countless volunteers.”

Any particular problems you hope to solve, or work on, if re-elected?

“The challenge of keeping taxes the lowest possible, while providing expected services, is paramount.  Additional concerns are the revitalization of neighborhoods with abandoned homes, and restoring our community; directing available resources to combat the ongoing opiate and drug epidemic; and ensuring residents of all ages continue to have their voices heard in Little Egg Harbor.”

What would you like to add to this inquiry?

“Hosting a monthly Meet the Mayor meeting has given me a greater insight to issues that face my neighbors each day. This casual forum offers our residents the ability to voice their concerns in a less formal manner, while providing me the information on those issues that concern them the most. Not everyone can attend our township meeting, yet they have issues that interfere with their daily quality of life. People have asked me why I choose to hold public office. I tell them there is no greater feeling of satisfaction from helping a member of the community – because you can.

“I have had the opportunity to serve the residents of Little Egg Harbor Township from 2002-2007. And with the support and confidence placed in me, I was given the opportunity to serve them again from 2017-2019.  I would consider it a privilege and an honor to continue to devote my work to the needs of the residents of Little Egg Harbor.”

— Pat Johnson

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