RARITAN, NJ - A fifth generation Raritan resident whose family has a history of giving back to the town, Zachary Bray is parlaying experience on the planning board into a bid for council.
“My family has a history of service to the town,” he said. “My grandmother served on the board of health for 20 years. My father served on the recreation board for over 20 years. I think it is important to give back to a town that has given so much to my family.”
Bray’s family has lived in town since the early 1900s. His father, he said, is one of five children raised on Anderson Street, where he still lives.
Bray graduated from Bridgewater-Raritan High School in 2008, and attended Quinnipiac University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history and master’s degree in secondary education.
Bray worked for Wegmans Food Markets for six years in various positions. Now, he is a preferred substitute teacher in the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District while he looks for a full-time teaching job, and is also a co-coach of freshman softball at the high school.
When he returned to Raritan after graduating from college, Bray said, he began attending council meetings to see what was happening in town.
“I have always been interested in history and politics starting at a young age, which led me to become a history major in college,” he said.
From there, Bray said, he was asked to serve as an alternate member of the planning board, which he has been doing since January 2015.
Bray said he is ready to continue giving back to a community that has meant so much to him.
“I love this town, and am ready, willing and able to do my part in making Raritan a better place for all of its citizens,” he said. “Because of my background in history, the opportunity to serve on the council is the perfect vehicle for my community service.”
Bray said he is looking forward to talking to residents about what makes Raritan great, and what improvements can be made.
“My running mates, Bryanna Danyluk and Chuck McMullin, and I are enjoying our walks through Raritan as we introduce ourselves to new faces and reacquaint with old friends, while all sharing the common goal of improving the living standard of our town,” he said.
“Every single candidate, whether Democrat or Republican, should have the town’s interest in mind, rather than their egocentric goals,” he added. “My running mates and I want to be part of beneficial change in town, where there should be no room whatsoever for personal gain.”
One of the main issues in town, he said, is improving business opportunities, particularly along Somerset Street.
“Somerset Street is a project in dire need of attention,” he said. “There are too many vacant stores on a street that should be the highlight of Raritan. There just simply is not enough happening on the main street of Raritan to attract customers from neighboring towns.”
Bray said he believes they must attract successful businesses to town and let them know the borough’s government will help them thrive.
In addition, Bray said, they must hold landlords accountable for the conditions of their buildings, particularly where the businesses are located.
“It is equally as important that we maintain a high standard of appearance for businesses and residential buildings in town,” he said. “We must act swiftly to ensure that fallen-apart buildings are repaired and not left untouched for over a year or two like the building on 202.”
Bray said he was referring to the “eyesore” on Route 202 where Golden Wok used to be before snow caused the roof of the building to collapse a few years ago.
“There are far too many dilapidated, run-down buildings in town,” he said. “Whether they are businesses or residential buildings, they need to be renovated to improve the overall aesthetics of Raritan.”
“We must also hold landlords accountable for the condition of their buildings, making sure they are always making necessary repairs and improvements to their properties, as well as keeping them clean and properly habitable,” he said.
Finally, Bray said, he understands that residents are concerned about how their tax dollars are being spent in town.
“Lawsuits have and are continuing to cost the town a lot of money, which should instead be used for improvements to the quality of life in Raritan for its citizens,” he said.
“We must make sure that every tax dollar is being spent in the best interest of each citizen of our town,” he added. “Wasting money on frivolous lawsuits instead of creating and supporting programs that make Raritan a better place for families is very frustrating and will not happen if we are elected.”
Bray said there are a number of factors that make Raritan a great place to live, including being easily accessible to New York and Philadelphia, and being part of one of the best school systems in the state.
“Quite simply, the town motto, ‘A friendly town of friendly people,’ sums up why Raritan stands out among other towns in the county,” he said. “It is a small town, where generations of families have grown up together and have remained friends for over a century.”