BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - This interview is the beginning of a series of interviews with the mayoral candidates on The Alternative Press of Berkeley Heights. All candidates for mayor are being provided with the same opportunity to participate. The Primary Election is on Tuesday, June 3 -- polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Bob Woodruff's Candidate Platform for Mayor
It is only when the Mayor and Township Council work effectively together and work with the residents, volunteers, municipal staff, non-profit organizations, business and corporate community, along with School, County and State officials that we can effectively move forward and TOGETHER BUILD THE FUTURE OF BERKELEY HEIGHTS.
Why did you decide to run against an incumbent Republican Mayor?
"Residents and business leaders came to me and asked me to do this," said Woodruff. "Last year, the council voiced their displeasure -- I trust that they asked me to do this becasue they trust my leadership abilities."
"They trust my ability to get the consensus to bring different thoughts and ideas together," said Woodruff. "They trust that when I talk to each of them, it's for the better good of the group."
"Why would six members of a Republican Council not support the [incumbent] Republican mayor?" Woodruff said.
An incident occurred that was the last straw for Woodruff. "As far as I'm concerned, the handling of the Township's former Business Administrator Amy Upchurch was the last straw," said Woodruff. Each council member had articulated what their position was -- based on the facts of Upchurch's testimony and voted 6-0 on her termination.
"We handled that in executive session, we came out and honored the concept that we are not going to speak about it," said Woodruff, "out of respect for the process and the employee." Bruno proceeded to give his opinion [during the public meeting] which was contrary of what was said inside said Woodruff. "Now it becomes a trust issue."
"It would disturb me greatly if I didn't have the council's trust -- as an individual it would," said Woodruff.
What differentiates Woodruff?
Woodruff believes that the Mayor should act as the conduit between the council and the business community, the citizens, employees, and County and State Representatives.
"My position is that we follow our form of government. We have an extremely talented business administrator [Linda Cavanaugh], who we pay a substantial salary, she should be allowed to do her job," said Woodruff.
Woodruff doesn't believe in Bruno's "24/7" role as Mayor. "You can't micro manage. You've hired a business administrator and department heads," said Woodruff.
"We have very talented people on the council and in the town. I have no problem putting them on committees," said Woodruff. "A mayor should have oversight and accountability."
Woodruff disagrees with Mayor Bruno's approach in telling the residents that bulk pick-up may not be in the budget next year. "Until you have the facts, until time bares itself out -- don't tell citizens that they are not going to have something," said Woodruff.
How will you handle the budget while keeping services without increasing taxes?
"Let's assume we can keep growth at 2%, you can go to the well only so many time. Hopefully this year was an aberration with the weather and it caught us," said Woodruff.
"Maybe it's because what I do for a living, I really want to have the facts first. The facts as they exist in April 2014 may not be the facts as they exist one year from now," said Woodruff.
"The money that we allocated is necessary,'' said Woodruff. "The increased bulk pick-up quotes came in high because it has been two years since the last pick-up. This number was not the base line, so he needs to quote a lower amount."
We can not move forward on the backs of the taxpayer alone said Woodruff. "Such requires a Mayor to be diligent in identifying and aggressively pursuing monies available on a County and State level, and conducting the proper oversight, follow-up and requiring the appropriate accountability from those involved in the process."
Woodruff would like to sit and talk and have companies partner with the Recreation Committee and Rescue Squad. "We have to find collaboration with businesses."
The new hotel will generate a hotel tax that will go directly to the town said Woodruff.
The potential land swap could take the 10 acres of the existing municipal complex and convert the land into income developed property. "It's money that we didn't have," said Woodruff.
"The planner wants to push people to downtown. You have empty space and places that need help. Get people into town and get them to the restaurants. This [development of property and land swap] will be the biggest thing to happen to town."
"Some people are adverse to change. We need to put together the plan and take pride in it. We want people to come and voice their opinion."
Passaic River Clean-up
Woodruff has empathy for the residents that continue to face flooding due to the condition of the Passaic River. The river is the subject of the state grant that will not be paid until the state budget is passed.
"What answers can we give home owners now? They want an answer now," said Woodruff. "What can a town do with tax payers money? That's important, if we could wave a wand, we could fix everyone's problems -- but we can't."
"The river cleaning will provide some remediation, but it won't provide all of their needs," said Woodruff.
Woodruff looks at it methodically: What is the remaining problem; What does it take to remedy the problem; and How do we fund it. "There are short term [immediate] problems which may require long term solutions."
As a politician, Woodruff would defer to engineers and to people that know what they are doing. Marc Faecher was chosen by Woodruff and Councilwoman Jeanne Kinglsey as a running mate for Council due to his environmental background along with his connections in the field.
Working with Union County and Neighboring Towns
"I never said that we should stop meeting with the County," said Woodruff. "We had pared our budget to the bone and here comes the County. The County needs to be held accountable. I proposed discussing secession because I knew it would get attention."
The Governor hasn't made it easy to combine services said Woodruff. Berkeley Heights has combined court services that has saved a small amount of money said Woodruff. "We can see what we can do jointly with New Providence. There are County consortiums, i.e. with fixing the roads. From a business stand point, if you have a larger project where a contractor can make more money but provide a savings of the two entities combined."
What is in the best interest to the citizens of Berkeley Heights? Control is important, it is a component if you cede, you will never get it back, said Woodruff on combined services.
With the land swap, it could include a facility for residents to bring plastics and paper. "This idea is very premature, but it would be nice if we could be more self sufficient along those lines," said Woodruff. "The land swap may allow for us to do that".
"We must make sure Berkeley Heights remains positioned for the many years to come to be a safe, efficient, and productive community which treats all of its citizens with dignity and respect. I am prepared and passionate to serve as your Mayor," said Woodruff.
Bio provided by Woodruff for Mayor:
Bob Woodruff has been a Berkeley Heights resident for 27 years. In 2010 he served as interim Mayor of Berkeley Heights for 9 months when then incumbent David Cohen assumed new duties in the Christie Administration. During the difficult times of the financial crisis, Woodruff led the township through numerous fiscal challenges while instituting the restructuring of vital services.
As Mayor, he appointed Michael Mathis as Police Chief. Together with Chief Mathis, he oversaw the restructuring of the Police Department to better serve our township. His tenure as Mayor saw a decrease in Municipal taxes and a reduction of operating expenses. Bus service was expanded to all Senior citizens.
Elected to the Township Council in 2011, Woodruff has been a lead negotiator on union contracts.
Through his team approach to leadership, the Council has made significant strides addressing hard issues with a commitment to work with and respect all citizens and points of view. This spring will see the return of Spring Clean-up. Seeking the best interest of the taxpayer, Bob Woodruff introduced to the Council that it consider secession from Union County in favor of Morris County if it would be in the best interest of Berkeley Heights residents and if it offered a more favorable tax environment. This led to a referendum on the topic which was approved by the voters. Such action has brought about a different dialog with Union County concerning fiscal practices and management. The County recently decided to sell Runnells Hospital which will be advantageous to the Berkeley Heights taxpayer.
He is committed to maximizing taxpayer dollars by aggressively seeking alternative sources of funding including county and state grants, as well as ensuring that every dollar available from the county and state are pursued by Berkeley Heights. Raised in Union County, Bob Woodruff is determined to keep taxes in check so that all residents can afford to live here. His ability to work with all citizens, regardless of political affiliation, has established a solid foundation on which to continue building a strong and prosperous Berkeley Heights.
A long-time Berkeley Heights volunteer, he was Chairman of the Recreation Commission, served on the PAL Board, and was a coach and the PAL Football Commissioner. He has been an 8th grade Sunday school teacher at Faith Lutheran Church for 25 years. An attorney in Morristown specializing in litigation, labor, and employment, Woodruff previously served as an Assistant Prosecutor in both Union and Mercer Counties. He and his wife Patti have five grown children.
Editor's Note: This interview is the beginning of a series of interviews with the mayoral candidates on The Alternative Press of Berkeley Heights. All candidates for mayor are being provided with the same opportunity to participate. The Primary Election is on Tuesday, June 3 -- polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.