BELMAR, NJ — Five candidates are vying for two seats on the Belmar Council in this year’s November 5 general election: Republican incumbents James McCracken and Thomas Carvelli, Democratic newcomers Maggie McBride and Cheryl Russo, and Independent James Bean.

TAPinto Belmar/Lake Como asked them about their qualifications, important issues facing the borough and their top priorities if re-elected or elected to a three-year term on the five-member governing body. Here is what they said.

JAMES MCCRACKEN

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Republican James McCracken, 51, of Second Avenue has been a Belmar resident for more than 10 years. He currently is president and CEO of LeadingAge New Jersey, a Hamilton-based association of nonprofit senior care organizations dedicated to "advancing quality aging services in New Jersey through advocacy, education and fellowship."

His family includes his wife, Lisa, and stepson, Brady.

Service to Belmar

McCracken is seeking re-election to a full term on the Belmar Council after being elected to a one-year unexpired term last November. In his role, he currently serves as liaison to the Public Works Department, Belmar Fire Department and Belmar First Aid Squad. He also is a member of the Belmar Shade Tree Commission and Belmar Housing Authority, which oversees the operations of the borough’s senior and handicapped residence facility on Eighth Avenue.

What are your qualifications for elected office?

I previously served on the governing body of Fredon Township when I lived in Sussex County and am a former mayor. I served in a senior role in state government for over seven years before accepting my current position as president and CEO of LeadingAge NJ. I have a bachelor of arts degree in religion from Denison University (Granville, Ohio) and a master of health administration degree from the University of New Hampshire.

Most importantly, I care deeply about Belmar and want to see the town succeed. My experience as an elected official, employment with state government and my business experience uniquely qualify me to continue my service to Belmar.

What are the most-important issues facing the borough (up to five)? And if you're re-elected, how do you plan to address those issues?

We must encourage smart investment in our community, balancing the interests of the business community, tourism, recreation and our resident’s quality of life. Irresponsible budget gimmicks, and costly lawsuits, have had a negative effect on the financial health of Belmar. I will continue to work in a bipartisan fashion to streamline municipal services and prepare responsible budgets. Our conservative approach to operating government, cutting waste and attracting smart development in town will negate future tax increases.

Transparent and open government is also a top priority as many residents have felt disenfranchised. We have been committed to that across the past year and will continue that openness moving forward. We must also ensure that our public safety entities are supported by the town so that necessary services are not compromised.

Belmar is a geographically and demographically unique community with many natural resources. We must protect our coast and ensure Belmar remains a great place to live, work and visit for generations to come.

Our opponents offer no tangible solutions or vision for Belmar’s future. Their approach is to mislead the public and instill fear. These tactics are unethical. Please vote for the team that is responsible, honest and experienced on November 5. McCracken and Carvelli.

THOMAS CARVELLI

Republican Thomas Carvelli, 45, is a 15th Avenue resident who has lived in Belmar for 12 years. He and his wife, Erin, lead the Shore Mortgage Team — the Spring Lake branch of Greenway Mortgage Funding Corp., a full-service, direct mortgage lender.

Service to Belmar

Carvelli was appointed to the Belmar Council in January to fill the one year remaining on Mayor Mark Walsifer’s unexpired council term. In his post, he serves on the Belmar Harbor Commission and American with Disabilities Act Committee, as well as council liaison to the Belmar Business Partnership and Police Explorers Program.

What are your qualifications for elected office?

Having lived in the area since age 9, Belmar has played a central role in my life — from a childhood spent at the beach and then growing to appreciate the downtown dining and entertainment. Twelve years ago, I was able to plant my roots in Belmar and make it my home.

With an electrical engineering degree from Stevens (Institute of Technology), an MBA from Monmouth University, 17 years as telecom software engineer, and as a licensed real estate agent and mortgage originator, I believe my education, experience and leadership positions have given me a toolset and perspective that makes me uniquely qualified and an asset to the residents, taxpayers, property owners and businesses of Belmar.

What are the most-important issues facing the borough (up to five)? And if you’re elected, how do you plan to address those issues?

The self-serving and questionable practices of the previous administration put Belmar in a precarious situation. The fiscal, legal and infrastructural challenges we faced this year have been the focus of our efforts to fix Belmar’s problems.

We have balanced the budget, generated additional revenue streams, reduced full-time and part-time head count, scrapped unused equipment, enforced accounting and spending policies, and eliminated 3,000 hours of overtime. We are settling litigation that has plagued the borough for the past six years, ensuring beach safety and aggressively attempting to recoup lost grant monies. We have addressed infrastructural issues such as repairing the Route 35 sewer pump ending the flow of raw sewage into Shark River, opening the 10th Avenue Pavilion in time for summer, and performing overdue maintenance on town hall to fix the leaking roof and repair the heating and cooling system.

Belmar needs a council that is transparent and committed to working in the best interests of its residents, taxpayers and businesses. I will continue these conservative policies and aggressively seek responsible solutions for our town.

MAGGIE MCBRIDE

Democrat Maggie McBride, 32, of E Street has lived in Belmar for the past four years. She is employed as a marketing coordinator.

Service to Belmar

This is McBride’s first time running for office.

What are your qualifications for elected office?

I am a concerned Belmar resident eager to listen to the concerns of other residents and make sure everyone has a voice on the council. My marketing background makes me uniquely capable of identifying and confronting problem areas and giving them the attention they need.

What are the most-important issues facing the borough (up to five)? And if you’re elected, how do you plan to address those issues?

The biggest issue the town is facing right now is a 21.7 percent property tax increase passed by the council earlier this year. It has affected everyone in town, from renters to homeowners to small business owners. If elected, I would vote against further tax increases and work to bring some of the beloved programs we lost, such as movies on the beach, back to Belmar. There are families that have been in this town for generations, and they should be able to stay here.

CHERYL “CHERI” RUSSO

Democrat Cheri Russo, 50, has been Belmar resident for five years. An avid animal lover, she lives on Briarwood Road with her dogs and serves as adoption coordinator for Rescue Ridge, a 'last-chance' animal rescue organization based at the Jersey Shore.

Service to Belmar

Although she has not held any elected offices, Russo has volunteered with veterans and other organizations.

What are your qualifications for elected office?

I believe that each and every homeowner knows the difference between right and wrong and should bring that knowledge with them. I am very moderate and always listen to both sides of the table, and believe that we should do what is best for the residents of the town

What are the most-important issues facing the borough (up to five)? And if you’re elected, how do you plan to address those issues?

The most important issue right now is the 21.7 percent tax increase. Going door to door, residents have expressed how they are not sure they will be able to stay in Belmar. Between beach utility, water/sewer utility, parking utility, revenue generated from the marina, revenue generated from shared service agreements, court revenue and increasing property values, there was no need for a tax increase.

Free beach access for veterans should always stay in place. We need to bring back movies on the beach. We pay for a high quality of life in Belmar and that includes neighborhood events like movies on the beach. We'll bring back free movies on the beach, so residents can enjoy our beaches and sense of community.  We will bring transparency to the Belmar Council and never hit residents with the sticker shock of massive tax hikes, and we need to stop divisive politics.

My father was USMC and USAF, and we were taught patriotism growing up, and the importance of a two-party system. We all need to be able to sit down with those on the other side of the table and make decisions to bring the community together again.

JAMES BEAN

Independent candidate James Bean, 46, of 16th Avenue has lived in Belmar for 21 years. For the past 17 years, he has served as director of information technology for Tinton Falls-based Stavola Companies, a family-owned group of businesses consisting of four major divisions: construction materials, asphalt and recycling, contracting and real estate.

He and his wife, Tracy, have two children, Max and Alex.

Service to Belmar

Elected as a GOP member to the Belmar Council in 2011 for a three-year term, Bean ran unsuccessfully against Democratic incumbent Matthew Doherty for mayor in 2014.

What are your qualifications for elected office?

Bean cited the following: his service as a noncommissioned officer in the Marines Corps, his bachelor of science degree from York College, more than 20 years in the private sector and three years on the borough council.

What are the most-important issues facing the borough (up to five)? And if you’re elected, how do you plan to address those issues?

(There are) three major issues: borough spending\tax revenue, quality-of-life issues and future tax increases. My platform covers all three:

-- First, no additional PILOT (payments in lieu of taxes) deals, unless property values stagnate. Belmar is on an upswing with property values. There is no reason a developer would need incentive to build. PILOT programs add more residences but not more tax income, forcing it on the shoulders of existing taxpayers.

-- Second, Belmar has three new alcohol establishments — Beach Haus (Brewery), 9th Ave Pier and Marina Grille — and New Jersey has extended seasonal licenses. I propose making liquor license renewal fees proportional to the number of emergency responses to each establishment. Liquor license holders should help shoulder the increasing cost of these services. Once an establishment starts paying for alcohol-related emergency responses occurring in their vicinity, hopefully that establishment will take steps reducing such incidents. This also adds revenue to help with policing costs.

-- Third, I’ll propose an ordinance to mandate the Belmar chief financial officer to publish quarterly revenue and appropriations reports, so Belmar citizens can see first-hand the town’s fiscal picture in real time. No more of elected officials hiding how the borough is doing financially (out of five elected officials, not one said a word in four years). A 21 percent tax increase should never happen again.

 

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