Oldham, Gerkens Challenged in Harvey Cedars Election

Five Candidates for Three Seats
By ERIC ENGLUND | Oct 30, 2019

Harvey Cedars — The Harvey Cedars Borough Commission race on Tuesday, Nov. 5 will pit two incumbents against three newcomers for all three seats on the panel.

Mayor Jonathan Oldham and Deputy Mayor Judy Gerkens, who have been in office since 1991 and 1987, respectively, are seeking re-election to four-year terms. They are challenged by John Imperiale, Paul Rice and Kathleen Ries.

Borough Commissioner Michael Garofalo declined to seek re-election to a sixth term.

The election is in a nonpartisan format, where candidates run without any political party identification.

“I think people in town are pleased with what has been happening for the past 32 years,” said Gerkens, a retired schoolteacher.

Gerkens said she is most proud of starting the Harvey Cedars Activities Committee shortly after taking office.

“We’ve sponsored concerts and other family-fun activities throughout the summer,” she said. “We wanted to offer something besides going to the beach. We’ve had concerts, sports camps, art shows – a lot of fun things for people to do, most of it at Sunset Park.”

Gerkens said she also pushed hard for passage of an open space preservation tax, which voters approved two years ago. The tax is 1 cent per $100 assessed value, or a $100 tax on a home assessed at the borough average of $1 million.

She said proceeds from the tax would be used to purchase properties and keep them free from future development.

“While we don’t expect anything to change with any properties soon, there’s always the possibility that they could be sold, she said. “If that should happen, we would look to purchase the property with open space tax funds to keep them that way.”

Gerkens said that when former Mayor Harry Marti died in 1995, she was elevated to the mayor’s chair.

“I did it for a year and I found I wasn’t really comfortable being in front like that,” she said. “Plus, Jon (Oldham) has been such a great mayor, it was good to keep it that way.”

Oldham said the borough’s biggest accomplishment in recent years was the beach replenishment project in 2009.

“That was extremely important because we’ve seen since then what damage severe storms can do, like (Superstorm) Sandy,” he said. “We’ve also had some follow-up mitigation with the beaches, and have kept our infrastructure as up to date as possible without burdening the taxpayers.”

The director of the Harvey Cedars Bible Conference for the past 25 years and a longtime member of the High Point Volunteer Fire Co., Oldham wanted to run again because “I still want to stay involved in serving the town.”

“My experience as an administrator (with the Bible Conference) has helped me in trying to get things done at the town level,” he said. “I remember how it was when I first ran. At that time, Harry Marti and Judy (Gerkens) encouraged me to run because they thought of me as being someone young and up-and-coming. I was serving on the planning board (now land use board) and they thought of me as someone who would make a good commissioner. I feel I still have some more work to do before I leave.”

Oldham said a key component with the commission is that “everyone has respect for each other.”

“We work together well because if we disagree on anything, it never becomes personal,” he said. “I hope it will always be that way.”

Imperiale was a senior vice president and director in the JPMorgan Chase Community Development Group. In his position, he was responsible for the national Corporate Street Banker Program, whose mission was to evaluate the needs of a community and develop products and programs to meet those needs. He also handled marketing and communications for the Corporate Community Development Group.

Locally, he assists the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences in its business and community outreach. He is currently a member of the Harvey Cedars Open Space Committee, served on a Harvey Cedars ad-hoc committee to evaluate parking and seating needs for town businesses, and has served as a board member of the Harvey Cedars Taxpayers Association.

“I believe my extensive managerial experience, especially in the field of community development, along with my total commitment to the town and people of Harvey Cedars, will allow me to successfully fill the role of commissioner,” said Imperiale. “Harvey Cedars is an amazing, wonderful town. And I look forward to having the honor of bringing my experience and my dedication to the role of commissioner.”

Imperiale is running under the slogan “Your Neighbor, Your Advocate, My Honor.”

“I will fight for what is right for you and for Harvey Cedars,” he said. “Being an advocate starts with listening to you, your ideas, your concerns. It means following through and it means hard work. It means understanding the system and getting things done.”

Rice, who is a partner in the Harvey Cedars Marina, said he is running  “because I feel a deep attachment to this community.”

“I grew up here in the summers since 1967 and moved here full time after graduating from Villanova in 1988 with a degree in finance and a minor in sociology,” he said.

He said being an owner of the marina has given him the opportunity to get to know a significant number of the residents in town and to understand their wants, needs and what they value in Harvey Cedars.

“I believe you should manage a town like you manage a successful business, efficiently with cost benefit analysis providing the proper solution,” said Rice. “Since 1996, I have been a pilot for United Airlines, where I currently hold the position as captain on a Boeing 737. These responsibilities, like those of a commissioner, I do not take lightly. The experience of seeing the world has shown me how people can view similar things differently, allowing me to keep an open mind in all situations.”

Rice has served on the land use board and is financial secretary and chief engineer of the volunteer fire company. He also has a real estate license at Oceanside Reality (Harvey Cedars office) since 2002.

“Serving on the board has given me experience dealing with the local government regulations and the changes we have seen in them in past years,” he said. “I believe that of all the new candidates running for commissioner, I have the will and the most experience to help keep the small town feel Harvey Cedars now enjoys,” he said.

Ries has served more than 13 years on the Harvey Cedars Taxpayers Association in a variety of roles, currently a vice president.

“I’ve had an opportunity to better understand the all-important balance between the needs of an absentee homeowner, a full-time resident and a local business owner as well as the requirement to responsibly run a municipality on a year-round basis,” Ries said. “This concern is not only for those who reside and do business here but also for the proper enjoyment of everyone – including the visitors who support our economy – when the busy season arrives each year.”

Her interests lie in ensuring everyone has a voice. “It’s important for me to be running for a leadership position in this election because the issues that matter to our taxpayers continue to require unbiased attention and open, two-way communication: safety, school taxes, open space, tourism, beach status, fiscal responsibility, long-range planning and more.”

Ries said she is well versed in tourism’s economic benefits as well as its political and infrastructure challenges locally and on the broader county and state levels.

“My practical skills and professional experience center primarily in public outreach, communications and marketing,” she said. “Most of my professional career has been in leadership and liaison positions within the tourism industry, working with nonprofits, member-based organizations and with the media. I’m known as an active listener and relationship builder, able to offer a compromise solution when needed. It would be an honor to serve Harvey Cedars with any of the candidates running in this year’s election. My years of dedication in the trenches here at home, listening and taking action, have provided me opportunities to serve our town from many perspectives. If elected, I’ll work tirelessly to continue earning our taxpayers’ trust every day.”

ericenglund@thesandpaper.net

 

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