BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Registered voters are reminded to mail in your ballots for the Tuesday, July 7 Primary Election. As mandated by State of New Jersey Executive Order No. 144, vote-by-mail ballots for the primary election were automatically mailed to all registered Democratic and Republican Party voters. Unaffiliated and inactive voters received an application to vote-by-mail. Ballots and applications will include a pre-paid return postage stamp. Sample ballots will not be mailed this year. Vote-by-mail ballots must be postmarked on or before Election Day, July 7, and received by Tuesday, July 14 to be counted. 

Four Republican candidates are vying for their party's nomination for Township Council in Berkeley Heights. The candidates running are incumbent Jeanne Kingsley with running mate and first time candidate Jeffrey Varnerin, and fourth time candidate Edmund Tom Maciewjewski and second time candidate George de Luna.

Two Democratic Candidates will also be on the primary ballot for Township Council, incumbent candidate Susan Poage and running for the first time Bret Sayre. They are running unopposed in the primary.  

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Click herepdf to view sample ballots.

Get to know your candidates running for Berkeley Heights Township Council.

Questions asked of the candidates:

  • Why are you Running for Office?
  • What unique skills or knowledge will you bring to the elected office you are seeking?
  • What do you think the major issues facing your town are at this time?

Responses of Republican Candidates in alphabetical order by last name.

George de Luna

I’ve been interested in politics for quite some time. I met Tom [Maciewjewski] in Berkeley Heights a few years back. He reached out to me after knowing we had some similar thoughts on politics. We met, and he asked me if I would join his team. We talked and I agreed. We had discussed the municipal building, the $28MM initial cost and how the money had to be borrowed to pay for it. It seemed to me that the people who had to pay that debt should have a say so in whether or not it should happen and if so, in such a big way. The denial of any kind of referendum as well as a complete ignoring of our requests to debate in the last primary suggested to me that there may be more here than meets the eye. I wanted to find out what it might be. In running, I also want to help bring transparency and honesty to the process. I would like to make myself available to all the Berkeley Heights residents, not just our supporters and not just Republicans. It seems to me that council members should represent the town’s people, not just themselves.

The skills I bring are quite an array of life experience including being a Wall Street FX broker and manager of one of the trading desks, a self directed trader of commodities, a personal trainer, a ski instructor, an NCAA Volleyball referee, I also spent four years as Secretary Treasurer of the NJ Board of Volleyball Officials, a realtor, to give some vocations that have taken my time over the years. In all of them, I’ve had to deal with people. I have learned to think critically, and that involves dealing with life as it is, not as I think it should be.

The major issues facing Berkeley Heights now I believe are high and ever-increasing property and municipal taxes, an influx of new housing that seems to be motivated by builder deals rather than what the residents want. I think the current pandemic and how the state is dealing with it is having profound effects on our children and their ability to learn and socialize in the school environment. I have a 13-year-old daughter going to Columbia middle school. It also seems to me that local businesses should have as few local restraints on them to do business as they see fit and that may be a way to attract more local business to central Berkeley Heights.

Jeanne Kingsley

Berkeley Heights means so much to my family. We have lived here for over 25 years, and I am always looking for ways to give back. With a background in accounting (CPA), finance and strategic planning, I knew I had something to offer our local government. I have been determined to have an impact on our town, specifically pursuing sound fiscal management.  My focus has always been on providing the highest value to our residents for their tax dollars.  

This election is important for Berkeley Heights as it’s critical that we have a council with the skills and experience to continue the forward momentum for our town. Our homes are one of the largest investments in our portfolios and it is important that we do everything that we can to protect our property values. Preserving the quality of life we have in Berkeley Heights is essential because it affects each and every one of us.

I have deep experience serving our community on local government and a record that I am proud of. 

The biggest priority we must focus on is fiscal discipline and maximizing residents tax dollars. I have been a leader in working to secure hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money for Berkeley Heights to provide the enhanced services for our community such as education and recreation for our children and beautification of our downtown. I have also focused on increasing shared services to deliver efficient, high quality services while keeping municipal taxes down. 

The major issues facing Berkeley Heights at this time:

  • Creating a diverse and inclusive environment where the concerns of ALL residents are heard, acknowledged and incorporated into policies and actions taken by the township of Berkeley Heights. The Town Council should be the voice of our community.  This starts with being open to all voices and then turning those voices into sustainable and meaningful long-term change.
  • Economic Recovery and long-term viability of our downtown post COVID-19. Ensuring our businesses can thrive in the downtown area is not only critical to provide a robust and engaging experience for residents but also a key element to the financial stability of our budget. Strong local businesses are good for both.
  • Transparency in government to ensure outside interests do not have unfair influence such as in the case of ensuring wise use of limited tax dollars through local control of spend. Stop giving control of our spend to Union County where our ability to influence the effectiveness of our dollars is significantly limited and look to partner with adjacent townships and private businesses where it makes sense for the long-term. 
  • Completion of Municipal Complex. This multi year, multi administration project has experienced delays due to certain unforeseen issues but now is not the time to be pointing fingers – now is the time to do what we were elected to do – which is to manage the project closely to get the project to the finish line as quickly and as cost effectively as possible.   

Edmund Tom Maciewjewski

I am running because I do not believe that it is healthy for Berkeley Heights to have the equivalent of career politicians with people serving 10+ years running our town. Local government should be run by the community, and have a flow of people representing different experiences and opinions. 

The Incumbent has already served three terms and is asking for a fourth. I believe that is too much. 

There is a large portion of Berkeley Heights residents who have voted for me in the past and would like me to be on the Council to be their representation. 

I pledge that I will be honest and transparent, read all contracts, resolutions and ordinances and pledge a fiduciary duty to the residents on all decisions.

I have followed the township council for the past four years and have worked to share the township information with the residents, providing a level of communication and transparency that has not been in Berkeley Heights since the last printed newspaper that covered local politics was around.

I also have a unique perspective as I have spoken to thousands of people in Berkeley Heights over the past four years, from all demographics and sections of the town. I have had deep conversations with many of them and realize what they are looking for in a Representative.

Municipal Building - Municipal building is WAY over budget. Started out as a buildout of the existing Little Flower school building, then to a $28,000,000 project, then to a $32,000,000 project, then new change orders and asbestos problems, and key items pushed out of scope to be billed to the residents in the future.  

The Council needs to come up with ways for this building to provide revenue to the town. Some ideas are renting out the majority of the office space. Using the larger areas as a for profit arts center, dance troop practice / performance area, PAL or other sports group training facility. Offices could be rented to other government entities, such as a college, state, BOE etc … or to small businesses. 

The point is that we are millions over, this building needs to provide revenue.

Overdevelopment  - Berkeley Heights is taking on 1408 new apartments and condos. Many of the developers have been offered PILOTs, which are tax abatements which subsidize developers profits with current BH Businesses and Residents tax dollars. We should NOT be subsidizing developers profits in Berkeley Heights.

Lack of Representation - I believe we have many people on the council who are nice people, however I question if all of them can check off the following:

  1. Read everything they are passing
  2. Independently evaluate what they are passing and the bigger impact on Berkeley Heights 
  3. Are non-beholden to special interest groups in town, to the point where they would cast a vote that they felt was in the best interest of the town but may irritate their group. 

We need someone in there that will fulfill their fiduciary duty to Berkeley Heights and Respect the Taxpayers. 

Jeffrey Varnerin

I was raised to be humble and to always give back to my community. As the youngest child in a large family, I was taught that “volunteers make a town a home.” My wife Debbie and I have lived in this spirit as Berkeley Heights residents of more than 14 years.

As the son of a WWII veteran, public service is in my blood. I volunteered as an altar boy at St. Mary’s Stony Hill church, served as a cadet for the Watchung Rescue Squad and was a volunteer member of the Mt. Bethel Fire Department in Warren, NJ and a founding member of the Watchung Rescue Squad’s Extrication team which provided highly skilled emergency technical rescue services across New Jersey. I am not a stranger to public service and I know how important it is to a community.

I want to give back to Berkeley Heights, and in these trying and uncertain times, I believe I have something to offer. 

As a highly distinguished scientist and project manager working at one of the largest healthcare companies in the world, I am able to solve complex problems. My team was directly responsible for turning around its’ pharmaceutical division. I am solutions focused and have a keen eye for details.  I routinely manage multi-billion-dollar projects that leverage thousands of resources across six continents. My team is currently working on a variety of solutions to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Major issues facing Berkeley Heights at this time are:

  • Creating a diverse and inclusive environment where the concerns of ALL residents are heard, acknowledged and incorporated into policies and actions taken by the township of Berkeley Heights.  The TC should be the voice of our community.  This starts with being open to ALL voices and then turning those voices into sustainable and meaningful long-term change.
  • Economic Recovery and long-term viability of our downtown post COVID-19.  Ensuring our businesses can thrive in the downtown area is not only critical to provide a robust and engaging experience for residents but also a key element to the financial stability of our budget.  Strong local businesses are good for both.
  • Transparency in government to ensure outside interests do not have unfair influence such as in the case of ensuring wise use of limited tax dollars through local control of spend. Stop giving control of our spend to Union County where our ability to influence the effectiveness of our dollars is significantly limited and look to partner with adjacent townships and private businesses where it makes sense for the long-term and not just short-term budget gimmicks. 
  • Completion of Municipal Complex and limiting the impact of 18 months of mismanagement by the Democratically controlled town council.  A project that was under budget and on time as of January 1, 2019, is now in poor shape, while those elected to manage the project closely, publicly provided no insight into the delays or issues until almost a year after the problems began.  This is not acceptable.   

Get to know the Democratic candidates for Berkeley Heights Township Council.

Susan Poage

I am running for my second term on Town Council. I am a 27-year resident of Berkeley Heights. This is my 18th year teaching in Berkeley Heights. Even before quarantine, I could go a few weeks and never leave Berkeley Heights. Which is a good thing, because I love this town.

While I love this town, I know there are some issues we face. The municipal complex must get finished. We must continue to fix our aging infrastructure- from the wastewater treatment plant to our roads and drainage issue. We must learn again to speak to our neighbors with civility and work together for a common goal. When civil discourse is practiced, work gets done.

Governing requires varied skills. I have a range of work experiences that bring different skill sets to my work on the council. As a journalist, I learned how to effectively communicate. As a salesperson, I learned how to work with people and do whatever needed to be done to get the job done. Working for my family business, I learned the importance of managing employees and the art of balancing receivables and payables. My longest career to date is as a teacher. To become a master teacher one must have strong leadership abilities, which include having strong communication, critical thinking, and technical skills, having passion and creativity and learning to evolve. This year, my work in a teacher leadership cohort expanded my understanding of how to effectively work in groups and how people gather, create, represent and pass on knowledge.

Having served on council for one term already, I truly understand how much local government impacts people in their day-to-day existence and I want to continue the work I started, making changes that positively impact residents.

  • Change in government structure: The creation of the Grants Committee was successful in its rookie year, securing almost $100,000 and received the Municipal Innovation Award. I support the new advisory boards Mayor Devanney has thoughtfully added to the structure of governance which tackle issues such as economic development both pre and post Covid, looking out for our senior citizens who just want to age in place, and racial healing.
  • Change in local law:  After analyzing outdated ordinances for our sewer department and working with the director, an updated system for inspections was developed that also saves the township money. Additions to the ordinance, as well as public service information for residents, are helping protect one of the most valuable infrastructures in the township. I worked with the Township Attorney to update our Peddler and Solicitor Ordinance and this spring the No Knock Ordinance was passed, which will enable residents to sign up so for-profit solicitors will not be allowed to knock at their residence.
  • Change in long-term vision: As a member of the Planning Board and a member of the Master Plan Sub-committee, I have had the opportunity to give input on how Berkeley Heights looks for the next 10 years; those decisions are not always easy, but I committed myself to doing what is right. A lot of development is coming to Berkeley Heights from our Affordable Housing requirement and smart planning can ensure that the projects are developed with the whole community in mind.
  • Change in vision: I am a big proponent of sharing services between the county and the Township, between towns within the county and other counties. Shared services in a state of 565 municipalities is the one of the most effective ways the township can save money. Some examples of shared service agreements I supported: The municipal court services shared with New Providence, the Union County 911 dispatch, the DPW director shared with Union County and the new Salt Dome is shared with Union County which will also generate $1 million in revenue over the term of the agreement. 

According to business philosopher, Jim Rohn “The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not a bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.”  

I believe my work on the Council and for the residents of Berkeley Heights represents what Berkeley Heights needs: Fiscal responsibility, honesty, vision, passion, energy, creativity, and transparency. They are Right Priorities for Berkeley Heights. 

Bret Sayre

I am running for the Berkeley Heights Town Council because I want to use my dedication to our community and my strong financial professional skill set to position our town for prosperity in the coming years and decades. I have lived in Berkeley Heights for nearly a decade, moving here when my daughter, Alyson, was less than two months old. And whether it has been the Moms Club delivering meals to our doorstep when our infant son had surgery or neighbors helping us run extension cords to their generator after Hurricane Sandy, we have been continually awed and inspired by the way regular people in our community help each other out and lift each other up.

I am a finance professional by trade and a small business owner in my spare time. I have spent the majority of my post-college career working in either accounting or compliance and have nearly twenty years of professional experience managing and balancing budgets, making tough decisions as the leader of a company and navigating complex regulatory environments. The financial and managerial experience I bring to the table will be extremely important as we face the tough task of revitalizing the Berkeley Heights economy post COVID-19. Susan Poage and I have already laid out a multi-point plan for this, and it’s appropriately called THRIVE. The five goals of this plan are to support proprietors, incentivize new businesses, create collective visibility, reduce empty storefronts and build community connectivity. We encourage you to read about it in more detail here. When our local businesses succeed, Berkeley Heights succeeds.

Additionally, taxpayers remain concerned about the gap between the amount they are paying in taxes and the services they receive in exchange. I want to use my financial experience in order to close that perceived gap, undo the consequences of the prior administration’s  poor long-term financial planning and ensure that we do not continue to unduly burden our town with debt. We need to have real fiscal responsibility, which can be achieved by exploring more shared services, potential grants and other sources of revenue that can help augment what we collect in municipal taxes.

Over the last several years, Carolyn and I have been deeply involved in giving back to our community through various outlets. I have dedicated countless hours through volunteering as a youth sports coach in softball, baseball and basketball. As “Coach Bret,” I do my best to bring a positive attitude and a lot of smiles to the field because I understand that in elementary school developing a love for the game and appreciation for your teammates is more important than developing picture-perfect throwing mechanics.

My family is also incredibly passionate about supporting emergency services in town. Despite having young kids and a growing small business, a few years ago, Carolyn made the choice to become a Nationally Registered EMT because she saw an important need in our town. As a riding member of the Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad, the example she sets is inspiring to us all and through her work, we have also gotten to know many members of the Berkeley Heights Fire and Police Departments. It has opened our eyes to their incredible sacrifice and dedication to our community.

We know how important it is to have a plan to help BH emerge from the economic effects of the pandemic in a strong financially stable position. But it also can’t be our only focus. There are many issues that are particularly important in our town from improving recreation to helping our seniors age in place to downtown development to sustainability and inclusion. So many people in our great town grew up in Berkeley Heights and are now raising families of their own here. It is now our turn to ensure that this generation of kids has a town they would be proud to return to when it is time for them to start a family.

The future of Berkeley Heights is ours to safeguard, and we can move forward in the most successful way by having a town council that represents the diversity and interests of all its residents. Seeing a familiar face from my active community involvement—whether it’s the baseball and softball fields, the latest school concert or a local emergency services event—with an active voice in our town government is important so that they feel their concerns can truly be heard. I am running so that face and that voice can be mine, and we set the right priorities for Berkeley Heights today, tomorrow and beyond.

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More information on Primary Election Voting Locations and Drop Box Locations.

Executive Order No. 144 also requires polling locations to comply with New Jersey State COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions. Maintaining a physical distance of six feet from other voters and wearing a mask will be required in all polling locations.

The Union County Board of Elections has designated two polling locations in Berkeley Heights for in-person voting, with each open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on July 7. Voting machines will be available for voters with disabilities.

The following polling locations are open for Provisional Ballot Voting and Disabled Voters (who cannot vote on a paper ballot): 

  • Districts 1 - 4, 6, 10: Recreation Center, 29 Park Ave. -- Main Meeting Area. 
  • Districts 5, 7 - 9, 11: Gov. Livingston High School, 175 Watchung Blvd. -- Media Room.

Primary Election Ballot Drop Box Locations:

  • Cranford – Cranford Community Center, 220 Walnut Avenue
  • Elizabeth – Union County Administration Building, 10 Elizabethtown Plaza
  • Plainfield – Plainfield Municipal Building Parking Lot, 515 Watchung Avenue
  • Union – Union Township Municipal Building Rear Entrance, 1976 Morris Avenue
  • Westfield – Fraser Building, 300 North Avenue East

For more information about the County Clerk’s election services visit unioncountyvotes.com or contact the Elections Division at 908-527-4996 or ucvote@ucnj.org.