SOMERSET, NJ -- The Franklin Township Board of Education interviewed two candidates looking to fill Michelle Shelton’s vacant seat on the board at a special meeting last night. Shelton resigned from the board in August, citing her move out of the township.

With three months left in the term, former board member Christine Danielson is contending with Dennis Hopkins for the position, which they’ll ultimately vacate Dec. 31 following the November election. Both candidates see the role as an opportunity to help give back to the township during turbulent times. 

A newcomer to the board, Hopkins offered his 30 years of service in the Navy, as well as his medical background as a dentist and educator -- having taught at Rutgers School of Dental Medicine, formerly the University of Medcine and Dentistry of New Jersey. 

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“I can bring diversity to the board in the sense that I’m an educator -- I’ve taught at two dental schools -- and I’m a leader,” Hopkins said. “I started off in the Navy as E1 and progressed to O6. I’ve been down on the deck and on top as a leader. Dealing with logistics, dealing with engaging the community -- whatever the board needs me to do, I think my diverse background would aid with that.” 

Unlike Hopkins, who would be making his first appearance on the board should he be appointed on Sept. 24, Daneilson was a board member from 2013 to 2019, opting to forgo reelection when her term ended last year.

It’s those six years on the board that she says will allow her to help the district keep pace with the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I think that the board could benefit from me being able to hit the ground running,” she said. “I’m familiar with the procedures, the policies, the budget. I’ve chaired the personnel committee; I also chaired the facilities committee, and I was a member of the finance committee.”

Neither of the candidates looking to take the position are running for one of the three seats up for election in November.