MILLTOWN, NJ - Mail-in ballots should have arrived in resident mailboxes and on the local side, Milltown voters will be choosing the next two members of the Borough Council. Democratic candidate Margaret O'Donnell is seeking one of the open seats along with her running mate incumbent Councilman James Pareti. O'Donnell was born in the Bronx and grew up in a small town in North Jersey. She has been a resident of Milltown since 1999. O'Donnell has been the Manager of Military and Veteran Engagement Programs at the Rutgers Business School since 2017. She is also a faculty mentor for STEM Veterans USA at Rutgers University.

In 2019, she was awarded the "To Infinity and Beyond" Award for her work with student veterans and alumni. She often speaks at conferences and workshops about "topics relevant to veterans and those military-affiliated in education and the workforce."

O'Donnell has served as a committeewoman for District Six and is a member of the Milltown Planning Board. In addition to her other volunteer work that includes the Milltown Recreation Department, she is a member and volunteer for the Rutgers Garden and the Rutgers University Alumni Association Charter Group.

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"I am running for Milltown Borough Council because, as they say, 'all politics are local,'" O'Donnell said. "Decisions made by the borough council affect home values, tax rates and our quality of life. I want to maintain the borough’s effective programs, while improving upon anything that’s not up to par. Prior to the budget just approved in August 2020, I witnessed a five-year trend of significant tax increases that concerned me. I didn’t see enough 'bang for our buck.' I want to join Mayor Trina Jensen Mehr in improving communication with residents and providing transparency, so that our fellow residents can have confidence in their local government."

O'Donnell loves the "family feel" of the borough.

"People who are raised here want to stay and grow their own families here," she said. "If they do end up living elsewhere, they return regularly for special events such as our Fourth of July celebration."

O'Donnell is confident her work as a committeewoman has helped her prepare to be a councilwoman if elected on November 3.

"My role as a committeewoman has thoroughly prepared me to serve as a councilwoman," she explained. "I observe issues, interact with my fellow residents and communicate concerns to the mayor, borough council, staff and professional services representatives at council meetings. That liaising led directly to my involvement in the 'Slow Down in Our Town' campaign."

"I relayed the traffic and pedestrian safety concerns of residents to the borough council and Public Safety Committee," she continued. "Milltown Police, in coordination with the Middlesex County Improvement Authority, graciously responded with speed studies, signage and strict enforcement."

O'Donnell thinks the major issues impacting Milltown residents currently are the tax and utility rates, communication and transparency as well as long-range capital improvements.

If elected, she has several goals in mind.

"I want to join Mayor Trina Jensen Mehr in improving communication with residents and providing transparency, so that our fellow residents can have confidence in their local government," O'Donnell said. "There have been changes to the website, as well as social media. Now it’s time to look at the effectiveness of those changes and consider additional improvements. I’d like to see a return to the use of interlocal agreements with the county. In the past, Milltown planned for the repaving of a few streets each year, so we were proactive in addressing quality of life issues such as pot holes before they were bad or even dangerous. Planning for expenses and being proactive also applies to plans for long-range capital improvements."

"My running mate, Councilman James Pareti, and I understand the priorities of our fellow Milltown residents," O'Donnell continued. "We share their concerns about tax and utility rates, communication and transparency and long-range capital improvements. We hope that the conversations about these topics, initiated through our campaign, continue. The input and opinions of our constituents are invaluable to ensure we are truly representing Milltown residents."

"We recognize that decisions made by elected officials are important because they affect home values, tax rates and overall quality of life in Milltown in both the short and long-term," she said. "With the right council members in place, Milltown can keep its great things great."

"In this 'anything but typical' election season, I encourage you to vote, either on Election Day or in advance, for my running mate, Councilman James Pareti and me," O'Donnell added. "We’re running for borough council because we have a focus on the future for Milltown."

O'Donnell will take part in the upcoming Milltown Candidate Forum on Wednesday, October 14. Unlike in years past, the public will not be invited to attend the forum due to COVID concerns. Instead, residents can view the forum live on Channel 15 and Milltown's YouTube Channel. The forum begins at 7:30 p.m.