FANWOOD, NJ -- Democrats Russell Huegel and Kevin Boris have announced their re-election bids for Fanwood Borough Council in November. The council consists of six members who serve three-year terms with two seats coming up for election each year.
Originally from Bergen County, Russell Huegel has been a Fanwood resident since 2005. He became involved in politics when he attended a fundraiser for Mayor Mahr during her campaign in 2007. The next year, she asked him if he would run for council. He is running for his for third term unopposed.
“It doesn't change what were going to do. We will still walk through Fanwood and talk to people,” he said. “Taxes are our biggest issue; everything we do has to be innovative to keep costs low and find new revenue sources. There is still plenty of work to do.”
Huegel was successfully in his bid for Council in 2008. In 2010, he helped spearhead an innovative program which utilized unemployed laborers for special projects within the borough at a cost savings for the taxpayers. After his re-election with over 60% of the vote in 2011, he was installed as Council President. Currently, Huegel serves as the Chairman of the Public Works Committee, which is responsible for maintaining the roads and other publicly owned properties within Fanwood. He serves on the Public Safety Committee and the Administration and Finance Committee where he helps develop and implement the borough’s $8 million budget.
In 2011, Huegel was selected by Mayor Colleen Mahr to serve on the Shared Services Committee with Scotch Plains to explore, and if feasible, develop and implement a merger of the Fanwood and Scotch Plains Police Departments.
“The police department merger would have saved $1 million. The two police chiefs worked together to develop an operational plan that would reduce costs, but not service,” Huegel explained over coffee at Mara’s Café. “The benefits were there, but we didn't have a willing partner. Both municipalities have to see eye-to-eye for it to work. We thought it was settled, but some members of the Scotch Plains Council changed their mind. We were almost there.”
Had it been created, the merged police department would have been the first of its kind in the State of New Jersey.
Huegel has practiced law since 1996 and started his own firm in 2009 in Iselin. In 2010, he was asked to join the New Jersey Supreme Court’s Ethics Committee for Union County. He is a graduate of Richard Stockton College in Pomona, NJ, and Pace University School of Law. Russell Huegel and his wife, Jenn, have two children.
Boris and his wife, Jessica, moved to Fanwood in 2007 following the birth of their daughter, Emma, largely because it is a great place to raise children. Previously, the couple lived in South Brunswick.
“There are a lot of young families here. It’s a nice town with a great train station,” Boris said. “The improvements to the downtown area have been better than I ever envisioned.”
He is an associate at the law firm of Shain, Schaffer & Rafanello, P.C. in Bernardsville and specializes in land use law. Six years ago, he contacted Mayor Colleen Mahr and expressed interest in sitting on Fanwood’s Planning Board and eventually became chairman. He was elected to his first term on the borough Council in 2011 and is seeking re-election for what would be his second term.
Despite the fact that Fanwood has been recognized by New Jersey Future, a group of professional planners, as one of four municipalities to win a 2014 Smart Growth Award, Boris believes there is still more work to do. Although running unopposed, he still plans to campaign and still want to hear what people have to say.
“We want a vibrant downtown. Coming from South Brunswick was a little bit of culture shock. I wanted to be able to walk through town and get coffee. Our downtown is an area where you can do that,” Boris explained in an interview with The Alternative Press at Mara’s Café and Bakery.
“The new building on South Ave. is expected to be completed in about eight months. Like the neighboring buildings, it will have retail stores on the ground level and residential unites on top,” said Boris, adding that the housing units are like to appeal to singles, young couples, and empty nesters.
“Our biggest issues in the election are taxes, taxes and taxes. We have to keep them low while keeping municipal services up,” Boris said. “We have been fiscally conservative and do our best to keep services. Of the money that we collect, 60 percent goes to the school system, 20 percent goes to Union County, and Fanwood keeps only 20 percent to provide its services.
Boris believes that the joint policing model would have worked well because the operational plan was developed from the two police chiefs.
“The merger could still be resurrected if the political will in Scotch Plains is there,” he said. “When I started on the Council in Fanwood, the Democrats and Republicans got along. It has never been contentious.”
One-Seat NJ Transit Service
While pleased that one-seat service on New Jersey Transit has begun, Boris believes that it should have happened much sooner and won’t be satisfied until “we get our fair share” of rush hour trains into and out of New York City.
“The state invested millions of dollars in duel locomotives,” Boris said. “The Raritan Valley line has ten percent of NJ Transit’s ridership. It’s about allocating services, and it is not complicated. Mayor Mahr has net with other mayors along the train line, and we are going to aggressively push the issue. We've gotten a little, but it's not what we want. The token is not good enough.”
Real estate experts believe that one-seat service into New York City during peak hours would be a tremendous boost to Fanwood property values. Some studies estimate that valued would go up by 30 percent.”
In his legal work, Kevin Boris specializes in the representation of planning boards and municipalities throughout the State of New Jersey. He studied law at the University of Texas at Austin and received his J.D. in 2003. He served as the judicial clerk to the Hon. Edward J. Ryan, Judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey in Middlesex County from 2003 to 2004.