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Committee Candidates Eye Better Land Use, Stronger Community If Elected

Township residents Matt Murello and Ron Edwards will battle on the ballot in Tuesday's Primary Election.

Matt Murello, left, and Ron Edwards have both volunteered in Washington Township over the past decade.
Matt Murello, left, and Ron Edwards have both volunteered in Washington Township over the past decade.

Two men have thrown their respective hats into the ring and will battle for township resident’s votes on Tuesday, June 3 in the Primary Election. To the winner goes a spot on the November General Election ballot and the likelihood of a three-year term on the Washington Township Committee.

Ron Edwards, 50, and Matt Murello, 42, will both be on Tuesday’s ballot in the Republican Primary. Edwards, a law enforcement officer, has lived in Washington Township for 21 years, is married and has two children. Murello, an engineering consultant, has resided in town for 10 years, is married and also has two children.

Neither has been elected to public office, and either one would be the youngest member of the township committee if elected. Murello currently volunteers as a coach in the Long Valley recreation soccer program and is a leader with Cub Scout Pack 36. In the past he has coached in the Long Valley baseball program.

Edwards has also volunteered by coaching girls recreation soccer in town for 13 years and has conducted public K-9 demonstrations.

Long Valley Patch caught up with both candidates and asked a series of questions. The following answers are unedited.

Long Valley Patch: Why have you decided to run for election?
Ron Edwards: To help the community and be part of the township's growth.
Matt Murello: I have been involved in the Township through my kids’ activities for several years. With the decision of long-time Committeeman Tracy Tobin not to re-run, I felt it was the time to try my hand at political office. As a small business owner, I have been advocating for small businesses at the State and National level for years. In addition, with my background as a Professional Engineer, I have worked with over a hundred Municipalities. I hope to bring a new skill set to the current Committee.

LVP: How do you plan to keep the town’s services intact while abiding by the state’s 2-percent tax levy cap each year?
RE: By working closely with the present elected officials, they have practice fiscal responsibility and I feel that they have been on the right track. I will search for other options and research how other towns are doing the same. I would also like to form a committee to determine if a Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) could be applied for through the State, as the Township would then be able to maintain (over a period of time) any/all taxes collected, while offering sales tax at half the rate of neighboring communities, which will encourage purchases in our Township.
MM: I believe that the Committee has done a good job in managing the tax dollars that they have responsibility for, holding tax increases to under the 2% cap for the last few years, even with the unexpected winter we just had.  I will work to continue that trend.

LVP: What is the biggest issue in town that needs to be addressed by the governing body? How will you propose to fix it?
RE: I feel the biggest issue in the town is that we are losing the tight community that the town was known for. And that our children won’t be able to afford to live in the town that they grew up in. I want to introduce Festivals and Fairs to our community again. I would also like to develop a committee to provide a Strategic plan to increase the rental property.
MM: I believe that one of the biggest issues in the Township is smart growth. I plan on using my 20 years of experience as a consulting engineer, much of that time as a Professional Engineer working with applicants and municipalities for land use applications, to develop a good master plan for the future of Washington Township.

LVP: What service, product or business would you like to see more of in town?
RE: I would like to encourage retail expansion, as this will increase the tax base while providing employment opportunities while not causing an increase to our school systems. These results can be achieved more easily, and with a greater incentive in conjunction with the creation of an Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ), as outlined above.
MM: I don’t think that it’s necessarily government’s job to make decisions on what should and should not succeed in private practice. However, personally, I think that the Township is lacking in commercial office space. Office space is a relatively low impact on the utilities and the school system and, if planned well, can have a minimal impact on traffic while increasing the non-residential tax rateables and draw people to the Township.

LVP: Where can the town cut costs to save in the budget?
RE: I feel that a comprehensive review of the overall budget is necessary to determine what, if any budgetary cuts can be made to increase efficiency without a reduction of services.
MM: I don’t think I can give you a good answer to this question yet without going through the process of the budget development. If elected, I will work to look at areas of the budget that we can continue to do more with less if identify the potential for future cost savings.

LVP: Considering this is currently being handled by government officials, what is your stance on the proposed feasibility study being pursued by four of the five towns that send students to the West Morris Regional High School district?
RE: I feel that it is imperative to maintain a Regional High School District, as the cost associated in this type of a “Shared Service Agreement” are far less than each of the municipalities operating independently, inasmuch as the cost associated with each Township employing a “Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Principal, Vice-Principal, as well as additional Administrative staff would be astronomical.
MM: As this process is ongoing with the Mayors of the 4 adjacent towns, I don’t think I have enough information to take a position on the proposals. I think that we should look at all options for consolidation and shared services that make the most sense for the residents. If there is a proposal that best serves the students of Washington Township, I would certainly support it.

Polls will open at 6 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, June 3, 2014.

Guy Patterson May 29, 2014 at 08:53 AM
Our Mayor will have one of these rookies voting to spend down the surplus to cover his fiscal incompetence in "short" order.
Harmoni Trimmer June 02, 2014 at 10:03 AM
People !!! People !!! Sure, there are issues and wishes we all have, but ! - there were questions to the candidates and they were answered only by one of them ! You folks did read the transcript, did you?! New members to the comity are the way life happens, what gives here ? If one thinks they can do better, stand up, be questioned and put your hat in the ring ! Further, attend the meeting and vent there. Meanwhile support the Man who will keep this town what it is and should be : friendly to business, neighbors and stay rural, but sober and stick to its conservative values !
longvalley1952 June 02, 2014 at 11:22 AM
They both seem like good candidates, but Ron lost me on the rental property and UEZ comments....one is financially insane and the other politically impossible. I'm voting for Matt.
Paul Gallagher June 02, 2014 at 11:55 PM
I liked Mark's comments about "smart growth". It would be nice if there could be some more white collar business opportunities without altering town's essential character. Obviously, that is not easy but it would be nice for college students and recent graduates to have some opportunities in town. I don't know either candidate and I'm not criticizing Ron in anyway. Volunteering is a big time committment and I appreciate people willing to do it.

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