MONTVILLE, NJ - “Montville is a great, great, great town! Did I say ‘great’?” said Gary Lewis, chairman of the Montville Township Planning Board, with his unique sense of humor.
Lewis grew up in the neighboring town of Fairfield and moved to Montville in 1998 with his wife Lisa and young daughter Kayla. They were living in a Wayne townhouse and expecting another child, so they were looking to find a bigger home with a bigger yard, and they were looking for a place that would be an easy commute to work for both of them. Lisa, at that time, worked in Teaneck, and Lewis worked in Summit, where he still works after 25 years as a construction official.
Lewis has two children. Both are Montville Township High School (MTHS) graduates. His daughter Kayla is majoring in accounting, and his son Alec is a freshman, who has not declared a major yet. Both are in the Smeal School of Business at Penn State University.
Lewis’ fondest memories of his early years in Montville are of watching his “very athletic children” excel in sports. He admits that his children got their athletic abilities from their mother Lisa. She was a gymnast in high school in Pennsylvania.
As for Lewis, he wrestled at West Essex High School and likes to play golf, but admits he has limited ability. However, his children have excelled. Alec holds a single season record from MTHS in lacrosse, and Kayla was an All-North Jersey All Star in field hockey.
When speaking of his children, Lewis said, “There is no way not to be proud of these kids.” He continued to say, “Honestly, I would not have wanted to raise a family anywhere else.”
Lewis stated, “Montville is a great community with the best people. It has great schools, and I must say that the people will come to the aid of their neighbors. You can’t say that for every town.”
In his youth, Lewis went to St. Thomas More (STM) Grammar School in Fairfield and went on to high school at West Essex. After high school, he went on to Rutgers and majored in history. As for post graduate study, he went one year at night to NJIT in the industrial engineering program.
His late parents Joann and Walter were very involved at St. Thomas More Church. His mother was a homemaker and involved in the STM Rosary Society, and his father was a truck driver and an usher at STM.
Lewis speaks highly of his parents saying, “They were important character builders. I owe a lot of what I am today to both of them.”
When asked how Montville Township has changed since he moved here, he said that Towaco has changed the most. He said he is happy to see the revitalization of that area of the town.
“It makes me ecstatic to see Towaco jammed on a Friday and Saturday night,” said Lewis. He also said that when the weather is nice, tables are set outside at Rails and 900 Degrees Wood Fired Pizza where people can enjoy their dinner. With the revitalization, comes a “greater sense of community,” stated Lewis.
Lewis got involved in public service around 2002 when he was appointed to the Economic Development Committee. A few years later, former Mayor Art Daughtry encouraged Lewis to seek appointment to the planning board, and Lewis has been on the planning board since then and has been chairman of the board for the past three years.
He said that at the meetings he tries to make everyone feel at ease, and he tries not to be confrontational. He has been on the planning board for nine years.
When asked about what he is most proud of, Lewis said it was being involved in the development to Montville Township’s master plan. He said it took a lot longer than anyone expected because there were so many study areas to be considered.
Lewis said there have been many changes in the township in the last 15 years. “It isn’t a sleepy farm community anymore,” he stated.
He is happy to say that many of the vacant buildings on Changebridge Road are now mostly tenanted. The township is working on getting tenants for the vacant Bayer site since Bayer moved their plant to Whippany.
As for the future of Montville Township, Lewis spoke about the redevelopment program at the Route 46 corridor, including the Pine Brook Motel site. People in town have expressed wanting Montville Township to be a “destination” site, where people can do their shopping without having to go to Parsippany or elsewhere.
Another plan under review in Montville is to take the GI auto salvage center on Route 46 and construct residential housing with about 350 units with no age restrictions. It will include an affordable housing component where as much as 20 percent of the new development will be in compliance with the affordable housing laws. That project requires many variances, as it has been zoned only for age-restricted residential and retail.
Lewis spoke about many millennials not having a “burning desire to own a home.” These new rentals, if ever approved, along with rentals in the Towaco district, would be a draw for young adults to live in Montville.
As for hobbies, Lewis likes to cook and play golf. He and his family are big sports fans and are season ticket holders for Rutgers. The family also likes to travel and have just returned from a week in Rome and Florence. One highlight of their trip was going to a soccer game between Rome and Naples.
When asked about what most people do not know about him, he said that he is not as serious as people might think. He likes to have fun, and he added that he likes to make his fellow volunteers on the planning board feel that their volunteering can be fun. Lewis said that the planning board is terrific and is a place of great service to the community, but he wants the experience to be enjoyable.
Montville Township Committeeman Richard Conklin, and member of the Montville Township Planning Board, said, “Professionally Gary runs a very organized and professional meeting.”
Another little fact about Lewis that most people might not know is that when he was in high school he was the lead guitar in a band called Hypnosys.
Lewis loves living in Montville and wants to continue to serve not only his family but his community as well.