RARITAN, NJ - Born and raised in Raritan, Republican candidate for council Michael Patente has served the borough in all different ways over the years, through recreation, government and more.
“I love our community and totally enjoy the wonderful people of Raritan,” he said. “Raritan has such a rich history and many multi-generational families, such as my own. It is fun to see old friends and families, and talk about all the memories made here in our town.”
Patente has been active in town over the years, having learned to swim at the Frelinghuysen Park pool and playing baseball at some of the Raritan fields where he later coached his girls in softball. He coached Peewee Pop Warner football and worked the Italian food stand at the St. Ann Festa for many years.
“In my younger years, I was a part time bartender at the Old York Inn and Bucky’s in Bridgewater,” he said. “I was an Altar Boy growing up at St. Ann Church, and was recently the chair of their Pastoral Council. I am entering my second term as the Grand Knight of the Sgt. John Basilone Knights of Columbus Council.”
Patente has also served as the chairman of the Raritan Board of Adjustment, and was a charter member of the Raritan Economic Development Committee before joining the borough council this year to fill a vacancy.
Patente graduated from Middlesex County College and Livingston College, Rutgers University.
“I began my work career as an investigator with the Somerset County Department of Consumer Affairs, and then moved to customer service at National Starch and Chemical,” he said. “I recently retired from Henkel after 39-and-a-half years as the North American pricing manager.”
Patente has been married to his wife, Dilette, for 43 years, and has two married daughters, Nicole and Erica. He has three grandchildren – Manny, Alexia and Enzo – and another baby girl on the way.
As a former charter member of the Raritan Economic Development Committee, Patente said he is looking forward to continuing to support the organization as much as possible, particularly in today’s pandemic conditions.
“Their mission was to help create a sense of community within the town, as well as serve as a source of information and finally to advocate for current and new businesses,” he said. “This year, our town relaxed outdoor dining ordinances for COVID-19, and the work this Economic Development Committee has done is something I am very proud of.”
Since its inception, Patente said, the committee has given information to businesses on all executive orders; helped businesses with local paperwork to aid them in setting up outdoor dining as quickly as possible; helped businesses with marketing communications; highlighted businesses open during the pandemic on the committee’s Facebook page; and ran giveaways and raffles to get people to frequent struggling Raritan businesses.
“I also think we need to actively apply for grants which can be helpful, like the current Somerset Regional Partnership 2020 Resiliency Grant, which could bring us up to $40,000,” he said. “I would like to search for other grants and services that might be available.”
“Another thing I would like to look into would be setting up sidewalk plank structures in town to allow more people to enjoy outdoor dining,” he added.
In terms of development in town, Patente said he wants to work with the riverfront area of town to address a number of possibilities. The county, he said, is currently actively working on a pathway along the river and several areas of Raritan.
“I can envision this area being a great thing for waterfront recreation,” he said. “I would also like to see some unique small shops, a quaint old-style pub or possibly an art gallery in our loved Duke Castle.”
Patente said the borough received an NJDOT Transportation Alternatives Program grant in 2017 for more than $1 million to improve the area from the train station to the riverfront. The current plan, he said, is for improvements to include pedestrian safety measures, trees, landscaping, lighting and wayfinding signs and kiosks.
“Another thing I would like to ensure is that our historical commission is included so that all relevant town history is incorporated,” he said. “I would like to see the same quaint theme abounding along all of Somerset Street, which is our main street. And lastly, pedestrian safety is something that I would like to audit all over town and develop an action plan to make the whole town the safest it can be.”
As the town continues to manage through the COVID-19 pandemic, Patente said he has been a part of the team that has managed it through the borough with extreme safety for workers, residents and businesses.
“Even with COVID-19, we were able to work through a budget which allowed us to keep our municipal taxes flat with no increase and without reducing services,” he said. “Our conservative approach has included innovative scheduling with our essential workers in police, department of public works and other workers in town hall. We have also worked closely with our professionals in determining strategy, and have continued all services without major issues.”
“I must say that all of our workers have been true heroes,” he added.
Patente said major construction in Raritan has continued, including the apartment complex on First Avenue and the Lab Corp. expansion.
“By paying attention to the executive orders and our professionals, it has been quite a learning experience,” he said. “We are also challenging our recreation and events teams to develop safe activities for people of all ages. Proper planning and scheduling are especially important, which should greatly improve in recreation and activities next year, post COVID-19.”
Patente said he wants to make sure Raritan remains a great place to live.
“The reason I am running for council is to ensure that the many current and new residents of Raritan have a great place to live and to safely raise their families,” he said. “I want to make sure that they have access to the great vibrant community and childhood I was able to enjoy while growing up here. I am excited about the future of my hometown of Raritan.”