MADISON, NJ – The scene has shifted for Madison's council candidates, following the devastating snowstorm over Halloween weekend. Schools were closed and ‘trick or treat’ activities were postponed until Friday, Nov. 4. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.
In the race for mayor are incumbent Republican Mary-Anna Holden and Democrat and Councilman Robert Conley. On the Republican team for council are Martin Barbato, a former council member and president, and Bob Landrigan, who has been coordinator of the Madison Office of Emergency Management.
Joining the Democrat’s team are Bob McDowell, Vice President of JP Morgan Chase and Carmela Vitale, who serves on the Planning Board and is a real estate agent with ReMax. Sam Cerciello, elected to council in 2009, is running for council as a write-in candidate.
Mayor Mary-Anna Holden has been more caught up in pushing JCP&L for power in the borough during the last week rather than the usual campaigning activities. She said she was told that, although Madison has its own electric utility and linemen, feed lines were needed to restore power. A line from Summit Traynor substation to Madison Kings Road substation was the key.
“We still have some spot outages,” Holden told the Alternative Press a few days ago. “Our crews are out on 16 to 18 hour shifts. People need to understand that this wasn’t our fault.” Holden said she has gotten some angry calls and emails from residents who say they pay for the borough’s electric utility and 'why isn’t it working?'”
When Holden finally reached a JCP&L spokesman, she was told that Madison was seen as one customer so it wasn’t a priority. “I explained we have four major corporations, 16,000 residents, a university with 2500 students.” She estimates the borough has lost $250,000 is business from retail, doctors, dentists and more. Stop and Shop was the only store open in town during the power outage, as it has its own generator. Holden said she has been all over the community to assess the damage. “I tell people to be patient. We’re clearing the streets and making safe pathways. We’re handling removal of branches and debris in a systematic way.”
Republican Martin Barbato, Assistant General Counsel with Forster Wheeler AG, emphasized the importance of communications. “It’s a matter of giving the most significant expected services for property taxes,” he said. “What’s more challenging now is the quality of communication.” He said there are two aspects: disseminating information more fully and making the details more available. “We need an easier way to attain feedback,” he said. Barbato noted that Madison, like many municipal councils, introduces ordinances at one meeting, then two weeks later holds a hearing and votes. That really doesn’t give the public time to absorb the issue. He recommends meetings with residents and council members between the two sessions, allowing opportunities to digest the ramifications of any piece of legislation.
Robert Landrigan, also on the Republican ticket, said last week’s snow storm has definitely had an impact on the campaign. “We’re back to basics,” he said and noted that, although the candidates are out campaigning, the real thrust is keeping the community together. “This was unprecedented,” he said. “We’re trying to get the message out, any way we can, that we’re here for the residents.” Landrigan has an extensive record of community service and negotiated reimbursements for Madison following Hurricane Irene. He has also been active with the Madison Volunteer Ambulance Corps for 15 years and was president for six of those. “Madison is my home,” he said and bases his campaign on a sound business approach, a thrust to expand revenue, and transparency and teamwork. Landrigan and his wife of 29 years have three children, all graduates of Madison High School.
Sam Circiello, running as an Independent, urges Madison residents to vote for him. “It’s easy to do,” he said. “Just press write in and type in my name, Sam Circiello. I’d appreciate the opportunity to continue to serve you. I will keep taxes under control and listen to you. I will do my best to serve you, regardless of party. I promise to respect every citizen and I will be a conscientious and responsible councilman.” The candidate added, “And vote for Bob Conley for Mayor. You can trust him.”
Bob Conley, who served as borough council president in 2008, is Vice President of Operations for the Madison Area YMCA. Conley has been engaged in a host of Madison organizations in leadership positions, including Rotary Club, Recreation Committee, Association of YMCA Professionals and Grace Counseling Center Board of Trustees.
Conley has lived in Madison for 50 years, since childhood and raised his children here. “As your mayor, I pledge that I won’t mortgage our future, I pledge to lead with an open mind, and I pledge to make the most of our dedicated volunteers,” he said.
Carmela Vitale, Democrat who serves on the Planning Board, Madison Rotary and Trustee for Madison Affordable Housing, among her many community commitments, said. “You work as hard as you can. We’ve made a commitment to the town. Win or lose, our biggest thing is to listen to everybody in town and encourage residents to bring their solutions forward.” Vitale noted that, “We’re all residents. We’re in this together.” She said of last weekend’s snowstorm and aftermath that it didn’t hurt to be silent and “it may have been good for some people.” She explained she always has some sort of noise going on and children, especially, are connected to their ‘gadgets.’ So this experience brought people back to basics. “We’ve been out walking in the neighborhoods,” she said, spreading the word about the Democratic ticket. “There have been a lot of phone calls, but this latest storm was beyond our control.”
Bob McDowell, who joins the Democrat’s team, sees himself as a consensus builder McDowell emphasized his extensive economics background with JP Morgan Chase, his experience in financial planning and international projects. McDowell has said “you don’t build a team with a steam roller” and said cooperation and respect are the key.