MONTVILLE, NJ - Morris County Freeholder, Hank Lyon, born and raised in Montville Township, is seeking political office in the NJ State Assembly in the primary election on Tuesday, June 6.
Lyon grew up in the Towaco section of Montville Township when the township was less developed. It was a place where kids could play in the woods and build forts with their pets running free. He remembers playing by the brook, building a tree fort, and sledding down the hill near his house.
“The township is more developed now. There is a house on the property where we built our tree fort. Back then there were only about ten houses in our neighborhood, and now there are about twenty.”
Lyon went to Cedar Hill School, Lazar Middle School and graduated from Montville Township High School (MTHS) in 2006, where he ran track and cross country. As a freshman, he played football and was a pitcher for their baseball team. Lyon said, “I was not much of an athlete, but my strength was in track and cross country.”
He said, “If you knew me back then, you would never think I would be running for the state assembly.”
After graduating from MTHS, Lyon went to the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, graduating with a double major in physics and economics.
On campus he was a member of the Young Republican Club, involved in the Right to Life Movement, and wrote for the school’s conservative student newspaper.
He is currently a part time student at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in public administration.
Lyon has three older brothers who are all married with children. His parents, Robert and Suzanne, who moved to Montville Township in the 1980s, are grandparent to his brothers’ four children.
Lyon is not married yet, but he is dating Ksenia Lebedeva, a 2010 MTHS graduate. They did not meet in MTHS but through politics. Lebedeva is the president of the Somerset County Young Republicans.
Lyon said he got into politics because his family always watched the news, and they would talk about it. “I love to read political books and philosophy,” he stated.
When he got out of college he asked himself, “What do I want to do?” He decided to run for Morris County Freeholder. “I went door to door – A lot of going door to door. I had no experience, and lo and behold, I won,” he said. He ran on the platform of reducing taxes, and he did.
He was elected in Nov. 2011, and in 2012, he was the only Morris County Freeholder to vote against the county budget. It did pass six to one, and it did raise taxes. For the next year, the freeholders made him chairman of the budget committee, and they were able to lower taxes by 2 percent. “This was the first time in 15 years that taxes did not increase,” said Lyon. There also were no increases in taxes on 2014.
He said, “I learned a tremendous amount about county government in general. I grasped how government works and learned how agreements were made. I learned just how necessary it is to convince my colleagues of my point of view.”
He is most proud of his accomplishments on lowering taxes. He said, “It was necessary to break the cycle of increasing taxes. It was a challenge to lower them, and I did it.”
He lowered taxes by reducing the cost of health benefits and privatizing four county golf courses that were costing the county a lot of money. “It reduced expenses and also brought in revenue. It saved the county millions,” he said.
He believes in the necessity of “long term financial planning” to relieve the tax burden on residents, young and old, who are migrating out of the state because of the high taxes and the high cost of living. People just don’t want to live in New Jersey.
We have a beautiful state and county, and the government should make it affordable for people to stay here believes Lyon.
If elected to the assembly, he would reverse the 23-cent per gallon gas increase and cut spending to fund crucial infrastructure investments.
He spoke about the state and federal government prevailing wage requirements. He believes changes need to me made here. As it is now, in government contracting, a prevailing wage is the hourly wage, usual benefits and overtime paid to the majority of workers and mechanics within a particular area. Prevailing wages are established by regulatory agencies for each trade and occupation employed in the performance of public work.
He believes the government should reform prevailing wages. Lyon believes high quality and cheaper labor can be negotiated allowing the county and state to save money, but it would take legislation.
Lyon believes that we need to reduce government regulations and mandates that hurt job creators and taxpayers.
With the passing of the gas tax hike, the cost goes from 14.3 cents on a gallon to 37.5, which is an increase of 23 cents. The 23 cents would be divided into 11 cents going to pay past debt, and 12 cents going for new roads, highways, and infrastructure.
Of the 37.5 total tax, 22.5 cents goes to paying back past debt, and 15 cents goes for new work. With New Jersey voters saying yes to Ballot Question 2 in the Nov. election, every penny of the state's 37.5-cent per gallon gas tax should go exclusively to transportation costs in the Transportation Trust Fund.
There was much controversy over Ballot Question 2. Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno opposed the question arguing a yes vote would amount to $12 billion in state borrowing over eight years.
And this is what is happening. In order to pay for the new construction and infrastructure projects, NJ has to borrow more money causing its bond rating to decrease. Lyon said that with one more decrease, NJ bonds will fall from an investment-grade bond rating to a speculative-grade bond rating. “This all hurts the fiscal stability of the state,” stated Lyon.
He supports school choice and vouchers and would fight for school funding reform that would provide property tax relief. He said that our tax money goes to fund 31 Abbot districts that include Hoboken and Jersey City, two cities that have undergone major restructuring with some residents owning million dollar homes, including Jon Corzine, a former NJ governor. And facts seem to prove that even with an increase in money going to Abbot districts, the achievement gap between economically advantaged and disadvantaged students persists or has widened.
“Those who think there is enough money for all this funding are “pie in the sky thinkers,” stated Lyon.
As for pensions, Lyon stated that municipalities, counties and boards of educations have always paid their share toward pensions, but the state has not. The state stopped paying when Governor Christie Whitman suggested a “Pension Holiday.”
Lyon said, “First you have to address the pension scams. There should be no double dipping.” As example, legislators should not be able to collect a pension from the state while simultaneously collecting their legislator salary. He stated that if you were guaranteed a pension, you should keep it, but if you are recently hired, you should not be promised as generous a pension. He also said that the state has to stop missing pension payments. The “Holiday” should be over.
Last week Lyon was accused of suspected finance breaches by a challenger, but Judge Stuart Minkowitz dismissed the lawsuit against Lyon before Lyon’s attorney even had time to file a defense. The judge said the jurisdiction to hear allegations of campaign finance violations lies with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC). ELEC may make a determination if anything illegal took place.
As for leisure activities, Lyon loves to read, and recently because he spends a lot of time driving, he has been listening to audio books. He also likes to hike. He has a cat and two dogs; one a golden retriever, the other an Australian Cattle Dog named Belle. He got Belle from his uncle who lives on a ranch in Texas. Lyon said, “The dog has massive energy.”
Lyon also is an active member of Emergence Church in Totowa, a non-denominational church that was affiliated with the Jacksonville Chapel.
Lyon said that he doesn’t travel much, but when he was 27, he went to Peru with Rotary International in a young adult exchange program. He lived with local Peruvians for a month, and he got to experience a wide breath of culture. He said that he would love to travel more.
When asked what one thing most people do not know about you, he answered that he is related to a pilgrim, John Billington, who came to America on the Mayflower. This relationship comes from his father’s side. On his mother’s side, he is related to Davy Crockett. Lyon’s grandmother’s maiden name is Crockett.
Lyon said that he is happy with his accomplishments as Freeholder. He said, “I have accomplished much of what I promised in my campaign, and I am happy with my work.”