CHATHAM, NJ - Shalini Gagliardi has withdrawn from the Democratic ticket for Chatham Township Committee and was replaced with Tracy Ness on Thursday night by the Chatham Democratic Committee.
Ness will join Stacey Ewald on the Democratic ticket, which will be trying to unseat incumbent Republicans, committee member Mike Kelly and Deputy Mayor Karen Swartz, in the November election. Gagliarid had qualified as a write-in candidate during the June Democratic Primary.
"Running for Township Committee has been on my mind for a while and now seems like the right time to step in and offer residents a real choice," Ness said. "Stacey is a terrific person, has run before and has a strong presence in the community through her work with the Chatham Education Foundation, Municipal Alliance Committee and more. We make a great team."
Ness, a 22-year resident of Chatham Township, spent 11 years as a writer/editor for the Chatham Independent Press attending every committee meeting and writing about the issues affecting the township.
"You name it and I have probably researched and written about it from affordable housing, side yard setbacks, road improvements, open space purchases, recreation to senior services, pot holes, parking and sidewalks," she said. "I enjoyed informing residents and reaching out into the community for input and feedback, something that I believe is missing on the committee."
Ness previously attended committee meetings and expressed her concern over the lack of a dedicated recreation director and the canceling of the Southern Boulevard School Summer Camp. She also cited "lack of inclusiveness in the Chatham Pride proclamation" in her decision to run.
"A committee representing all residents should want input on whether we need a dedicated recreation director or solicit other ideas, should have had a forum before abolishing the Summer Camp, included residents who asked for a Community resolution when the Chathams hit the national news and not just written up a proclamation about how proud we are and have the best community pool in the county," Ness said. "Other towns like Chatham Borough and Madison have open dialogues and I want that for our residents."
Ness recently finished her term as President of the Chatham Athletic Boosters, which donated almost $100,000 to the Cougar Field Referendum project and raises money annually to provide additional coaches and new sports to further participation for student athletes.
"When you lead a volunteer organization, you work with many different people and you find the best ideas come up when you ask for them," Ness said. "And that creates a better experience and better results. And as a realtor in town, I am out in the community listening to the needs of current residents and hear what people who are moving into town like and don't like. It gives me a great perspective that I can bring to the Committee."