HAMILTON, NJ -- In what will likely be the only event in which both candidates for Hamilton Township Mayor – Kelly Yaede and Jeff Martin – appear in public side-by-side, the two presented their backgrounds, agendas, and views on critical issues to the residents on Wednesday.
The candidates kept their composure despite a hostile undertone that has enveloped the township’s primary and general election cycles this year. Critical issues such as taxes, crime, the municipal animal shelter, water service, fire district consolidation, and economic development were front and center.
No direct questions from the public were permitted. Instead, Pastor Dr. Joseph E. Woods served as the forum moderator, posed the questions and held each candidate to time constraints.
offering opening comments Yaede listed her resume highlights including working for various elected officials and holding elected positions on both the Hamilton Board of Education and Township Council. Yaede has served as mayor for the past seven years.
“Vicious and negative attacks that have fallen upon Hamilton Township” recently," she noted.
Martin, first elected to the Township's legislative body two years ago,noted his four years serving in the United States Air Force as a Judge Advocate General (JAG) where he was stationed in England. Upon marrying his wife, Scarlett, Martin said they “could have chosen anywhere in the world to live, but (we) chose to live here in Hamilton” where he currently works for an insurance brokerage agency.
The forum also featured two of the four council candidates running for two open seats: Democrats Pasquale “Pat” Papero and Nancy Phillips and Republicans Richard Balgowan and Vinnie Cappodanno. Papero was at a conference in Tennessee in his role as national delegate to the Police Benevolent Association and could not attend while Capoddanno was absent due to what was termed a "medical condition."
Phillips, who moved to Hamilton when her first daughter was just two weeks old, said her 17 years as a public school teacher give her a unique perspective and that her interest in serving in local government began when he received a letter from Trenton Water Works regarding contamination in the water that she had been giving to her then two-year old. Now, she said, both daughters attend Hamilton Township Schools and she believes that “we must come together as one community.”
Balgowan noted that he had served as Hamilton Township Director of Public Works under both former Mayors Glenn Gilmore and John Bencivengo. After retiring, he said he started seeing things going on in the community under Yaede and “gained enthusiasm.” He says he is running to continue to create a small and efficient local government.
A crowd of more than 200 individuals attended the annual candidates forum held at the Saint Phillips Baptist Church which also streamed the event live on Facebook.
A deeper dive into the candidates forum to come on Thursday from TAPinto Hamilton/Robbinsville.
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