Dr. Sophia Chadda Candidate Profile

Oct. 28, 2019

Description of Dr. Sophia Chadda

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I am forward thinking, proactive, collaborative, and diligent. I have lived in Bernards Township for 20 years and have a small business on Stonehouse Road where I have practiced as a periodontist for 16 years. I graduated from Columbia University and SUNY Buffalo Dental School and completed my Periodontal residency at Rutgers School of Dental Medicine where I later worked as an assistant professor of periodontics.

I have held leadership positions in my field, serving as president of the Tri-County Dental Society of NJ and vice-president of the New Jersey Society of Periodontists. I was awarded Top Dentist by New Jersey Monthly magazine in 2014 and 2015. I am on the board of trustees of a nonprofit organization called the International Foundation for Progress which provides free education and healthcare for 175 children in Pakistan with a goal of supporting children in impoverished countries worldwide.

I was a member of the Bernards Township Board of Health (2005), and am a current trustee of the ISBR. I volunteered at my children’s local schools over the last 20 years, am active with my alumni organizations, and am also very proud to be a participant in our county’s Leadership Somerset program whose goal it is to produce leaders who are dedicated to their communities.

Why are you running?

I am running for township committee because I would like to see local government that is more inclusive, transparent, AND innovative.

I am running because I’m concerned about our increasing property taxes and decreasing property values, and want to ensure Bernards Township continues to be a place where people want to live, work, shop, and bring their business. I’ve met with more than 100 business owners in town and propose creating an Economic Development Commission to stimulate our economy and protect our property values.

I am running because I have loved this town for 20 years and see opportunities for the township committee to be more innovative and forward-thinking, while maintaining our community’s charm and character. I will bring fresh ideas to energize our community, ensuring Bernards Township is the premier place to live!

What experience do you have that would help you serve?

As a local, small business owner, I understand the challenges associated with owning and running a business, providing service, managing employees, balancing a budget, and cultivating relationships. I have the business acumen that would benefit our town.

I believe leadership is about providing service, and I have been serving people professionally for my entire career. Our leaders should represent all of us and I’m confident my skills, experience, determination, and ability to motivate others would bring positive change. I’m eager to give back to our community and look forward for the opportunity to do so.

What issues would you like to see addressed if elected?

I would like our township committee to be more inclusive, transparent, and innovative. Elected office carries the responsibility of informing, listening, inviting dialogue, and collaborating with residents. Although residents are engaged and expect to be represented in the decisions that impact their lives, this has not been the case in Bernards Township. Over the last several years, residents have been left out of critical conversations only to be surprised by new plans for development, and have had to mobilize quickly to be heard at the very last moment. As a result, the township was involved in costly and often unsuccessful litigation, and suboptimal development. That is not representative government. I will give residents more opportunities to be informed and involved with critical issues so that township committee decisions are more collaborative and better meets the needs and desires of those served.

Residents are very concerned about over-development and the lack of transparency during the approval process for new housing developments. I will help ensure these projects are executed well and supported by our existing infrastructure. Contrary to current practice, I will work to proactively assess and address potential strains on traffic, schools, emergency services and public works ​before​ the projects are completed and, for future projects, before they are approved. Immediately upon my election, I will work on solutions to meet potential affordable housing mandates in the future so the township is not again forced to​ accept builder’s remedy, ​developing hundreds of market value units and only a small percentage of affordable housing units. In ​2018 the township committee had no plan to address the affordable housing mandate, and we were forced to accept builder’s remedy. I will ensure the township committee begins working now on innovative solutions so we are not stuck with builders remedy in 2025.

Residents are also concerned about our increasing taxes and declining property values, and rightfully so. ​Our schools, library, parks, police and public safety initiatives, and community programs certainly reflect the resources we dedicate to them, and not many people want to curtail those services and facilities. However, our township relies too heavily on homeowners for tax revenue. I propose creating an Economic Development Commission tasked with developing a strategic plan to revitalize our business districts. An Economic Development Commission would organize a coordinated effort to bring new and desired businesses to our township, and revitalize and support our business sector. This will ease the tax burden on residents while providing more conveniences at lower cost, ensuring Bernards Township is the place to live and work.

I want to preserve what we love about our town and will bring the needed forward thinking solutions. Our Environmental Commission recently started educating our residents, and we have a responsibility to do more. I’d like to start with our own facilities: our schools, municipal buildings, and pool. Our township facilities should take the small but impactful step to stop using Styrofoam and plastic straws that are not recyclable. I’d like to also look at how we can support our businesses in voluntarily reducing their use of single use plastics and motivating residents toward reusable options. We have one of our nation’s ecological treasures right here in Bernards Township, the Great Swamp, 7,000 acres of protected land that our own residents fought to preserve. We take great pride in preserving this natural wonder and I will work on the township committee and with residents and local agencies to extend our pride and concern for the environment throughout the rest of our township.

I will work with parents, schools and the community to effectively identify and address mental health issues as well as opioid and substance abuse. The suicide rate among our youth is at an all time high in 20 years, and researchers are pointing toward the opioid epidemic and social media as likely causes. As a healthcare provider and parent, this latest report is deeply alarming. We teach our children about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse, and have an active prevention and intervention programs. Yet we provide our children with smartphones equipped with an array of apps, social media, and information technology. We must also provide appropriate guidance and monitoring. I will advocate for more education and outreach to parents, schools, and the community on this issue. We need to work together and support one another.

We choose to live in Bernards Township because it is a wonderful community -- beautiful, conveniently located, friendly, and safe. But I challenge the idea that this is the best our town can be. The truth is our property values are on the decline. We cannot afford to continue doing the same old things month after month. I will question the status quo and work diligently to make sure Bernards Township is the most desirable place to live. That takes innovation, forward-thinking and collaboration! And that’s what I bring to the table.