To the Editor:

As a former Chatham Township Committeewoman and a moderate Republican, I am supporting Stacey Ewald and Celeste Fondaco. Why? Stacey and Celeste are smart, think about our future and are truly dedicated to serving residents.  They have each worked for years in important volunteer positions and I’ve seen them in action working effectively and humbly as a team with other community volunteers.   They know their neighbors, have the ear of residents of all ages, from seniors to the middle-aged and young families, and they know how the Township Committee is supposed to work. 

On the other hand, their Republican opponents prefer talking about their ideology over real solutions for the Township and have very little connection in the community.  I was shocked at Mr. Hamilton’s letter to the editor that used buzz words from the Nixon election campaigns like “silent majority” and “law and order” to imply that Stacey and Celeste would go against what is good for the majority of residents and disrupt the order of our community.  Similarly, I was appalled at the letter to the editor supporting Ms. Estevez that implied that two Democrats like Stacey and Celeste would send Chatham Township on a path to social, economic and educational decay.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Stacey and Celeste are the epitome of keepers of the traditional order of Chatham Township, which is a place where they and many people I know make friends by working together as volunteers to bolster our schools, our public safety, our outreach to the needy, and our sense of neighborly interconnectedness.  

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I was on the Township Committee in 2012-2014, just as the 5-member Township Committee began to be ruled by a right-wing group of 3 led by the famously oppositional Bailey Brower.  Brower for decades from the sidelines had enjoyed maligning moderate Republicans or the rare Democrat through an election season mailer called the “Brower Watchdog Report.”   I, too, came under attack by Brower as I reran for Township Committee in 2014.  He made up ridiculous stories about me such as that I tried to put a public path on private property or that I was trying to “freeze” babies in cars during the PTO’s “idle-free” clean air campaign at the schools. Brower’s scurrilous, twisted accusations undoubtedly contributed to my loss for re-election in the Republican Primary by 13 votes.  When this divisive, highly political Mr. Brower arrived to the Township Committee in 2012, he apparently realized he could control the mayoralty by backing 2 candidates who when elected could keep rotating the mayoralty (elected each year from within the Township Committee). 

In 2013-2017, a string of right-wing Brower-backed candidates was elected who were willing to shut out any Township Committee member who wasn’t under Brower’s sway. Brower’s right-wing club wasted time on the dais repeating the talking points of national far-right TV rather than focusing on their municipal duties. The neglect by those far-right officials included lack of long-term financial planning, failing to update the Master Plan in a timely manner, and mismanaging the Recreation department.   I saw for myself that the group did not communicate well even amongst themselves, and were most active during the “fight” of elections. It seemed they had little curiosity about what best practices they could implement or what they could learn from other towns or from the other Township volunteer committees such as Planning Board, Open Space, Environmental Commission, etc. 

The two current Republican candidates, Estevez and Hamilton, are backed by this same overly-politicized, divisive former leadership, have little to no experience as volunteers on municipal or public school committees, and are fond of spouting right-wing, critical generalities rather than discussing specific municipal problem-solving.  Vote for moderates like Ewald and Fondaco for real, honest work for all of us. 

Kathy Abbott

Chatham Township