RARITAN, NJ - A resident of Raritan since the early 1980s, current councilman Pablo Orozco said he has always felt a sense of community in Raritan – and is now hoping to be elected the newest mayor of Raritan Borough.
Running on the Democratic ticket, Orozco is running for mayor for a four-year term.
Orozco has served on the council since being elected to a three-year term in 2017, and has served as liaison to the board of education, recreation and finance.
A graduate of St. Ann School and Immaculata High School, Orozco reported to Parris Island, South Carolina, for USMC Bootcamp and was sent to communications school. After that, he was assigned to the Somerville Recruiting Station, working as a recruiter’s assistant, before being assigned to his reserve unit “G” Battery 3rd Battalion 14th Marines.
Orozco later started a career in sales, working as an Internet manager for high end brands like BMW, Jaguar and Volvo. He started his own business in 2009 using a sales technique he learned on the floor and translating it to the online marketplace, before selling it to Redline Automotive Merchandising in 2014.
Then, in 2017, he was elected to council.
“I have always felt a sense of community here and I am proud to say that feeling still exists,” he said. “In an age when people tend to be more connected to their phones and social media accounts, it’s great to have a close-knit community. In August, my street brought back block parties, and other streets have contacted me about hosting one in the fall. I remember these parties when I was a kid and it is great to see that my children are also growing up in the kind of community that wants to get together and be social.”
For improvements to the town itself, Orozco said he would like to see more events that showcase what Raritan has to offer.
“The Economic Development Committee and its volunteers have done a great job of showing the local businesses that the residents are behind them,” he said. “The ‘Discovering Raritan’ event that was held Aug. 10 was a success.”
Orozco said the EDC has proven to be a motivated group of volunteers looking to get things done, and he would like to empower them to continue.
“I think that this will not only show all the borough’s volunteers that we support their good work, but it will also show the small businesses in town that the borough government is also on board to help our small businesses thrive,” he said.
Orozco said he also believes exploring more municipal parking is key to the growth of the borough’s small businesses.
“In speaking with business owners over the past few years, I have heard this complaint over and over again,” he said.
A chamber of commerce is also important for the borough, Orozco said.
“Chamber of commerce is not a government entity, so the borough government cannot just will this into existence,” he said. “Now that the business owners see that the local residents have formed the EDC, hopefully the local businesses will see that a Raritan Chamber of Commerce will be in everyone’s best interest.”
As for development in town, Orozco said he does not consider it to be a bad thing. He said he supports development that is done right and keeps with the traditions of the borough.
“I would like to see our downtown be the subject of development,” he said. “There are many areas of our downtown that have much more potential than is currently being utilized.”
That includes additional parking, Orozco said.
But, Orozco said, he does oppose developers using government programs to avoid paying school taxes, which then passes the additional taxes on to the residents.
“I am not wiling to sit back and watch our school taxes increase just to give developers incentive to build in our borough,” he said.
Also of importance, Orozco said, is the condition of the borough roads, and, under his administration, he would want to see an expansion of the Department of Public Works to include a road crew.
“A few years back, equipment was purchased for just this purpose,” he said. “This equipment is currently underutilized.”
“Our DPW employees have proven time and again to be loyal, dedicated and hard working employees,” he added. “I would like to see this previous resource used more effectively.”
In addition, Orozco said, it is inexcusable that the DPW has been without a superintendent for three years.
“Our borough employees and residents deserve better,” he said. “Our DPW employees have performed brilliantly without a superintendent, which is a credit to their work ethic. The superintendent responsibilities are currently being handled by our engineering firm and our DPW foreman, but this is just a band-aid. Filling this position will free up our foreman to perform his responsibilities and save us from having to pay our engineering firm for the man hours needed to cover the vacancy.”
“I thank all the people who have stepped up to help us in our time of need, but it is time for the borough council to fulfill its duty and find a full time superintendent to lead our DPW and take the superintendent duties off the plates of everyone who has been covering,” he added.
For the coming term, Orozco said, the borough is in a unique situation because both he and his opponent, Republican Zachary Bray, are current council members.
“There being a new mayor in Raritan is very exciting,” he said. “Our form of municipal government mandates a strong council and weak mayor, meaning that the mayor only votes when there is a tie that needs to be broken during a council vote.”
“I plan on honoring this as I believe in this form of government,” he said. “I think it best represents the people’s wishes. I will not be a mayor that dictates terms to the council.”
If elected mayor, Orozco said, he will share his vision, and sell it to the council and residents by explaining the benefits.
“I will listen to the critiques and find the common ground that best suits the needs of our borough,” he said. “Making mutual respect the starting point will ensure a smooth transition even during disagreements.”
When he first ran for council in 2017, Orozco said, he hoped to be able to bring more transparency to the municipal government by communicating with the residents on social media.
“I’m sure that everyone would agree that the borough use of social media has exploded since I have been on council,” he said. “The borough now uses Facebook and Instagram, as well as texting platforms to communicate road closures, town events and any other pertinent information.”
Orozco said this does not mean they can rest on their laurels because communication is constantly evolving, and municipal government needs to have representatives who understand these new technologies.
In addition, Orozco said, he has a goal of bringing back street fairs, and the first one is planned for May 19, 2020, at minimal cost to the borough.
“I also promised to give residents more access to their borough government,” he said. “Residents have used all communication technologies to contact me about concerns in town and to share ideas. I welcome this interaction. It allows me to accurately represent the wishes of my constituency, as well as giving me the chance to communicate with residents and still hold down a full time job, be a father and husband.”
Orozco said that during his time on council, he has also seen the council show distrust in its employees.
“I find that simple things are missing, like employee reviews are not part of our municipal culture,” he said. “This is a failure of leadership that I am currently working to rectify. Every employee needs to know that they have a future in the organization, and that they are not working a dead end job. These are things that I have learned in my years of managing employees both in my own business and throughout the rest of my career.”
Orozco said he is willing to learn and course correct based on information he gathers and learns throughout his time.
“I feel that as mayor, I will be able to work with the council to bring 21st century efficiency to our borough government,” he said, “and have it more accurately represent the wishes of borough residents.”