SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- TAPintoSPF continues its profiles of this year's Scotch Plains Township Council candidates. This week's interview is the third in the series.
Name: Andrew Bondarowicz
Current Occupation: Attorney, Adjunct Professor, Business Executive
Education: BA, Rutgers University – Political Science/Human Ecology. MS, Rutgers University Bloustein School of Public Policy and Planning – Public Policy, Eagleton Fellow, Eagleton Institute of Politics. JD, Rutgers Law School-Newark.
Family: Married (Marianne), 2 children – Kailey, SPF High School student; Christopher, Midshipman at US Naval Academy in Annapolis
Years Living in Scotch Plains: 16
Why are you running for Town Council?
Community service has been something that I have been passionate about since my teenage years. I have been fortunate in my life to live in some very tight-knit communities and have always felt that we have a responsibility to make a positive impact in them. I have worked in the political arena before and I know how crucial it is to have good people in decision-making roles who are dedicated to doing things for the right reasons. It is easy to get sucked into the politics of it and I like to think that I bring a solid foundation of knowledge, skill, and temperament to make a positive impact on our community.
Tell us about your career and how your work and life experience will be beneficial in your role as a Councilperson.
While my career in recent years has moved away from the political arena, I have always stayed very close to policy discussions in this town, state, and even national issues. After completing my Master’s degree in public policy at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers, I spent several years working in Trenton where I eventually became the Legislative Director for the New Jersey Association of Counties and was tasked with representing the collective interests of the 21 county governments before the Legislature and working with the national association in Washington. Issues such as shared services were very important ones for us and we championed several big wins during my tenure there.
As a regulatory consultant for many large companies over the last two decades, I helped many companies navigate through the maze of regulations that exist on a local, national and international level and help them operationalize compliance measures.
My legislative experience also came in helpful with my sports law experience as I help lead the charge just a few years ago in participating in a national effort to update the laws and regulations affecting sports agents and reform the Uniform Athlete Agents Act model legislation. I have worn many hats in my professional career and I see it as one of the strengths of my background. I can bring many different vantage points to a discussion and analyze decisions and strategies from various viewpoints. It is one of the things that makes me effective in what I do professionally and something that I think serves me well in representing the Township of Scotch Plains!
What are the issues that you think are most important in Scotch Plains?
At our September 25 meeting, I voted with Mayor Smith and Deputy Mayor Spera in favor of approving our Downtown Redevelopment Plan. This is the furthest our town has ever come in addressing the commercial district of Scotch Plains. Over the next few years as development proposals come in, the Council will be tasked with evaluating those proposals and shaping the future of our community – this will not only affect our downtown but will also have a ripple effect into so many other areas of town. I welcome that challenge and want to be a part of it.
Additionally, New Jersey’s affordable housing laws have the potential to completely cripple our town. The town has already been sued in four different lawsuits by developers under the “Builders Remedy” provisions that the state Supreme Court established. Under those, provisions builders can essentially take a town hostage and force massive developments into the town regardless on the impact it has on the community, its infrastructure, and its ability to absorb large population swings. While I don’t think many people are fundamentally opposed to the principles of affordable housing, it is the failure of the Legislature to adequately establish a proper framework for enacting the goals of affordable housing that needs to be addressed. I will work with my Township Council colleagues and residents to put pressure on our legislators to reform the process and stop overdevelopment.
As a long time coach for not only soccer, but also baseball and basketball, and as the current President of the Scotch Plains Fanwood Soccer Association, I know first hand how stretched our recreation and public facilities really are and the growing deterioration they are facing as our population keeps growing. So, we have a responsibility as a town to manage our resources effectively and efficiently and ensure that they are getting proper attention. This includes partnerships with the Board of Education, county, and neighboring towns.
As in most industries, prices for government services do not go down. This makes it crucial on our township to stretch every dollar as far as it can go to help keep the municipal part of our tax bills down. I think Mayor Smith and the current Council have done a good job in recent years, but there will always be budget pressure and it forces us to be innovative and enterprising in maintaining a stable budget. We need to make sure we are getting proper value from our town contractors too – it should not be a patronage mill as we see in so many other areas. I think Scotch Plains has done a good job in that regard, but there is always room for improvement.
What should people know about you that they might not know already?
Many people in town know about my sports agent days. While, it was one of the things you do that define you, it was always only a portion of my overall work. While it can be fun at times, I loved the impact I could have on some talented young people and helping them make the most of some very unique opportunities.
As a Rutgers guy myself, I was really happy to represent many of the first wave of players who emerged during Rutgers resurgence in 2005, including QB Ryan Hart, WR Chris Baker, DB Derrick Roberson, DL Eric Foster and about a dozen others during my tenure. Many of my former football clients are still clients in different areas as they have moved passed their playing careers.
While my NFL agent days, might get the glory, I hardly consider any of that among my greatest accomplishments. But, it did open up a great deal of opportunities for me – including my teaching opportunities at Rutgers where I teach Sports Law related classes at the undergraduate, graduate and law school levels. Having a foot in the sports world has also helped me to leverage my contacts to bring of unique opportunities to Scotch Plains as well – such as hosting several pro and college soccer exhibitions in recent years.
What else would you like to say?
I am very proud of the accomplishments of our ticket. Between Jeff, Sonali, and me, we bring a great deal of experience, innovation, and personal dedication to the community. A year ago, none of us were probably thinking about running for town council, yet you can see all of us very actively donating our time and talents to the betterment of our community. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to already serve on the Scotch Plains Town Council and I hope to have the opportunity to continue for the next four years.