CLARK, NJ – It’s an election year for three Clark Township council positions and the mayor’s seat.  Incumbent Republicans Angel Albanese, Al Barr and Bill Smith face challenges from Democrats Jerry Fogle, Michele Miller and Patrick Murphy.  Republican mayor Sal Bonaccorso, seeking reelection to a fifth term, is challenged by Democrat Dario Valdivia.

TAPinto Clark will profile each of the candidates in the days leading up to Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016 with a series entitled "Five Questions with..."  Look for a new profile every three days.  This is the first profile in the series:

Name:  Jerry Fogle (D)

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Current Occupation:  Police Lieutenant, Township of Union

Education: High School and some college

Family: Married to Elizabeth for 21 years; 2 daughters: Lauren, 13, and Rebecca, 11

Years Lived in Clark:  5

1. Why are you running for office?

I am running for council for many reasons. I am invested in Clark and want to give back to the community and move us toward a more affordable future. I’m committed, resourceful, and communicate well. I will put the taxpayers, who work hard and follow the rules, first because they deserve elected officials to do the same. I have watched too many times as our current Mayor and Council choose what’s best for them, not the hard working taxpayers of Clark.

I believe public service should be about service to the residents and not using an elected position for personal benefit. I will not take taxpayer funded health benefits for part time work, or look to use the council position to get jobs for family and friends and put more of a burden on the taxpayers of Clark.

I was previously vice president of my local Police Benevolent Association during tough times and have been involved in many negotiations. I have found, written, and have been awarded numerous grants and will bring that experience with me as your Councilman.

2. Property taxes never go out of style.  Discuss the state of property taxes in Clark. 

This is obviously an important issue for all of the hardworking residents of Clark. We must work hard to develop budgets that reflect the needs of the community, continuing all the essential services that residents are used to.

We must run an efficient town operation staffed by qualified professionals, and end the practice of hiring friends or family without the proper qualifications over other more qualified applicants. Township services should be examined to see if there are more cost effective ways to provide these services. The taxpayers spend over $170,000.00 a year for benefits that go to the part-time elected mayor and councilmembers. This money can be better used to ease the residents’ tax burdens.

With all the recent developments in Clark (Clark Commons, numerous new townhouses, new 55+ rental units, etc.), taxes should at least stay static if not go down. When officials are in office for an extended term without worry about term limits they become complacent.

All of these issues need to be looked at with a fresh set of eyes and fresh ideas. I have researched, written and was awarded many grants, I would like to carry this experience with me on the council to help alleviate the tax burden.

3. The Westfield Avenue corridor is a concern to businesses and residents.   What do you think can and should be done along Westfield Avenue and how can you shape its future?

The Westfield Ave corridor has been ignored far too long by the current mayor and council. The promised revitalization work that was not completed by the current mayor and council is an affront to the hardworking taxpayers of Clark.

The current mayor and council receive taxpayer-funded health benefits costing hard working taxpayers approximately $170,000.00 per year as part-time elected officials. These benefits funded by the taxpayers of Clark would be better spent revitalizing Westfield Ave.

Unlike the current complacent elected officials, I would actively seek new businesses to help revitalize Westfield Ave., rather than sit back and wait for them to come to us.

4. What other issues do you think are important to the people of Clark? How would you impact them?

While campaigning and speaking with residents, I find there are many issues important to the residents of Clark. One of the taxpayers overwhelming issue is that they don’t feel that the current mayor and council listen and/or deal with their complaints. They feel they will be penalized and have services denied to them if they speak out about their complaints.

Every hard working taxpaying resident needs to be heard. I firmly believe in open communication and will make sure every taxpaying resident has a voice in their government. I will not be complacent, belittle or instill fear of reprisals. I will always be the voice of the hardworking taxpayers of Clark.

I don’t think anyone deserves the job. Some municipal officials have come to think that they are entitled to their position. I want to earn this position by earning your trust. I have been walking around talking to residents about issues. I will not alienate, belittle or patronize any resident, but I do promise to listen and honestly work on any issue that you may have. 

5. Besides running for office, what other ways are you involved in the town?

I have been actively involved in our town since the day we moved to Clark. I am a travel basketball coach, recreational softball coach, travel softball coach, and a member of the Clark Girls Softball Executive Board.

I am currently in my third term as a member of the Kumpf PTA Executive board, served 3 terms on the Valley Road School PTA Executive Board (serving on both boards simultaneously for 2 years). I am also a UNICO member.

I feel public service is just that, service to the public, and not a vehicle for personal financial entitlement. I will not have the hardworking taxpayers of Clark pay for my health benefits, as your current elected officials. A vote for my running mates and me is a vote for honest government, public servants willing to serve the hard working taxpaying residents of Clark.

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