NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ - There was good humor, snacks, JAX, and a few beers to keep the mood positive, but it was the energy and positivity that made the evening a success.
"It is a nice, informal get-together," said Councilman and mayoral candidate Jim Wendell of the lively gathering of Republican hopefuls and their supporters at the North Brunswick Pub last week. "We are meeting new, different people who are ready to check out what our platform has to offer."
Wendell saw the event as "invigorating," noting that it was all about East Brunswick and "not about people on the whole Republican line." He stressed that he wanted to "meet and greet" some new people in EB, rather than some "political people' at the relaxed event.
East Brunswick resident and American Idol finalist JAX was there, along with her mother Jill Miskanic, who said, "I am here to support my mayor. A great guy who will do anything for anyone." Her husband added, "Jim is one of the most genuine guys I know. He talks to you, not at you. He is always interested in what someone has to say." The Miskanics were also celebrating the upcoming graduation of their son Matt from Marine Corps Basic Training on Parris Island. Matt Miskanic, 18, joined the Marines to honor his father, a survivor of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.
Jane Mueller, candidate for East Brunswick Town Council, is "proud to support East Brunswick." Mueller has recently been named as one of the top 1% of Real Estate Agents in New Jersey and credits the people of East Brunswick: "I don't think I would have this success without the people of East Brunswick. They see you work hard; they give you a chance. It's not like that everywhere."
Her focus remains on the township - "I care about the taxes, the schools, the parks, not Trump or Hillary. If anyone calls me, I pull out my checkbook. Now I am ready to give back with my time, energy and service, too."
When discussing the need for the redevelopment of Route 18, Mueller had four ideas that she hoped would drive improvement. "Expectations are important, " said Mueller. "We can't make people wait forever to get contracts or licenses approved or cases heard." She stressed the importance of East Brunswick's being a good professional business partner.
Mueller also described the need to "streamline" the process of business negotiations and the requirement to "increase transparency." She wants the township to "move forward" and to be "result-driven."
A former bank manager, Mueller also considered the question, "What type of business do we want here in East Brunswick?" She went on to discuss the community's desire for an organic food store; more restaurants that are not chains; and improved retail variety. Mueller also discussed the possibility of an Asian food court, housing a new supermarket, an organic store, and several types of restaurants in a communal space. She also referenced H-Mart, the Korean food company, as a possible match for East Brunswick.
Finallly, Mueller focused on the need to promote East Brunswick. "How can we help you to make more money?" the candidate would ask of new businesses.
Mark Csizmar, formerly Officer Mark of the EBPD and the DARE officer in the schools, discussed another way to "open up" East Brunswick. He suggested training and education to increase the impact of community policing and to build relationships between the township and the people who live in it.
"I grew up here," said Csizmar, who remembers effective programs like DARE and Project 18 that strengthened police relationships with the community but ultimately fell due to decreased funding. "Very often some young police officers are isolated from the public. They need to be trained. People need to know you as a person." Simple, positive encounters are key, he suggested: "Hey, this the officer who said hi to me at WaWa."
"Many things become a problems because of a lack of communication. If law enforcement is not accessible, that's bad. We have a disconnect, a problem."
When discussing the escalating rate of opiate use, addiction, and death in Middlesex County, Csizmar had a similar response: "People need to be educated about the drugs that are being used now. We are in the realm of pills. People very nicely take their prescriptions to the pharmacy and become addicted. They are not injecting heroin. People need to get involved in the lives of people in their own homes."
Csizmar is enthusiastic about the promise held by the upcoming election. He said, "On the local level, one person can make a real difference. That's the beauty of local government." With a smile, he then added, "Oh, yeah, vote for me on November 8."