Name: Jay Morris
Occupation: Market Manager
Education: McGinn Elementary School | Terrill Middle School | Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School | Associate in Arts (A.A.), Business from Union County College in Cranford | Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Management with a Concentration in Supply Chain Management from Rutgers University (Newark)
Family: Lorraine Morris (Grandmother), Gary Morris (Father), Holly Morris (Mother), Jordan Morris (Brother), Emily Morris (Sister), Joshua Morris (Brother)
# Years Living in Fanwood: 23 years this November
Why are you running for Borough Council?
I am running for Council because we need diversity of thought in Fanwood. Being a young Fanwoodian who is fiscally conservative gives me a unique perspective as compared to the other council people. As residents of Fanwood, we can demonstrate how members of different political affiliations can actually work together and get along. It is time to open up the conversation. I am a product of Fanwood, as I have lived here since I was one. I was well-educated by the public school system and went to local colleges. I have now begun a successful career in business. I want to use the skills I have gained to serve the community, that enabled me to become who I am, in the best way I possibly can.
Tell us about your career and how your work and life experience will be beneficial in your role as a Councilperson (if elected).
I am currently a market manager at a Fortune 500 company where I run a $1.1 million business unit with three employees that directly report to me. I read financial reports every day and understand what I need to do to stay under my expense budget. I know how to make tough decisions and can organize people in order to achieve a goal. I have also learned great listening skills. I make sure that I maintain open communication with my staff and listen to their ideas and needs. In fact, implementing the ideas of my employees has helped my business unit become very successful this year. It all started with me being willing to sit down with my team and listen. This is something that I know will help me benefit the residents of Fanwood as a Councilman.
I worked multiple jobs throughout my college years and even landed an internship. I was completely debt free three months after graduation. I commuted every day to save money and made sure that I stuck to my budget. Finding a way to be debt-free in college is indicative of what I will be able to do as a Councilman when it comes to making fiscal decisions. I have balanced budgets in both my personal life and at my job.
What are the issues that you think are most important in Fanwood?
In no particular order, I believe the most important issues in Fanwood are:
Seniors: Our seniors are valuable members of the community and we need to make sure that we are doing right by them. My grandmother lives in Fanwood Crossing on South Ave. While the paver and stamped concrete sidewalks look nice, it is extremely difficult to maneuver with a wheelchair or a walker. My late grandfather used to have to go through the middle of the parking lot with his walker to get to his physical therapist because of the uneven surface. There are no ADA wheelchair accessible buttons to open the doors to the apartment buildings. This is a hindrance for our seniors and people with mobility difficulties. Going forward, I will fight to ensure all new facilities are ADA compliant and see what can be done about retrofitting existing apartment buildings. There are several other people with mobility impairments that would benefit from these changes as well.
The new Station Square project was advertised as having seven affordable housing units. Unfortunately, only five of those were made available to the public. All five units were on either the second or third floors, accessible only with stairs. This meant that these units were not an option for those not able to climb the stairs. Providing affordable/accessible housing to seniors would be a great way to meet the mandated affordable housing units while not adding a burden to the public schools and taxpayers.
Volunteerism: I will spearhead a “neighbors helping neighbors” program that connects with local communities of faith to help meet the needs of residents. I am a member of Evangel Church in Scotch Plains, and we have an event called Service for Service. Instead of having a church service, we go out and serve local communities. We rake leaves, power wash, cook meals, clean up clutter, visit veterans, paint, etc. for people in need. I want to take this idea and expand it across our borough. It will help those most in need and provide a better sense of community for all residents. We need to actively meet the needs of people instead of hoping they submit a request form online.
Redevelopment/taxes: We continue to see large buildings constructed in town and I understand that there are several more that will be going up in the next few years. The developers often get tax incentives to construct these buildings. As someone who lives on South Ave., I am directly impacted by this as are my neighbors. Several of my neighbors have already received offers from developers to buy their properties. Many people, from different political affiliations, have expressed to me that they moved to Fanwood to be in a peaceful small town and they are quickly seeing it vanish. These people are now considering leaving Fanwood. We need to strive to stabilize property taxes. This will attract more young people to come here to raise their families as well as encourage seniors to remain in town.
Transparency: Last year, Fanwoodians were blindsided by a sewer bill just days after the November election. I promise to make transparency a top priority. I also want to know what the cost is to now send out a separate bill to every homeowner in town. Why can we not continue to have it rolled into property taxes to make it easier for everyone? It is called a bill but it is really a tax. If left unpaid, you will lose your home.
One-seat ride and the impact on renters: I commuted to Newark for two years while I was going to Rutgers University. I still frequently use the Raritan Valley Line to go to New York. I understand the frustration of having to switch trains in Newark. I witnessed people missing trains and getting home late. The residents of Fanwood deserve to have peace of mind while commuting. This is a quality of life issue that I take very seriously. I will work with our mayor to put pressure on the right people to make the one-seat ride happen. That being said, I think it is important to consider the impact the one-seat ride would have on the renters in town. Due to an increase in demand, rent will go up when the Raritan Valley Line becomes a one-seat ride. Some renters live on fixed incomes. Increasing rent will hurt these people and drive them out of town. We need to make sure that we do not price current renters out of Fanwood.
What should people know about you that they might not know already?
Fanwood is my home and is part of who I am. I have lived here since 1996 with my family. I attended McGinn Elementary School, Terrill Middle School, and Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School. I played tee ball in the Fanwood baseball league before it merged with Scotch Plains. I played ten years of organized soccer in town. I even played a season of ice hockey my senior year on a SPF spring league team. I used to march in the Memorial Day Parade and still faithfully attend each year. I chose to attend Union County College in Cranford to study business, where I graduated with high honors in 2015. I then transferred to Rutgers University in Newark to study business management and supply chain management. I graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2017 and received the Department of Management and Global Business Award.
I know what it means to serve with everything. I have volunteered over one thousand hours over the past six years at Evangel Church in Scotch Plains. I have been and continue to be a youth leader at my church. I spend three hours every Friday night pouring into the lives of 15+ eighth graders. I attend retreats as a leader and have been on a missions trip to the Phoenix Dream Center where I ministered to the homeless. I also play a big role on the media team at Evangel Church. We stream our 11:00 a.m. service all over the world so that people who cannot make it to the church building can still participate. I have held several positions including camera operator, technical director, video director, host, and livestream producer. On Sunday, October 13th, I was part of a team that helped pack 118,000 meals for people around the world. Serving the community is in my DNA and it would be an honor to serve my hometown of Fanwood as a Councilman. My family and I are big supporters of adoption. I have 23 adopted cousins from all over the United States and the world. We may not look alike or have the same blood, but we are family. On a fun note, I won a superlative my senior year at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School. In 2013, I was voted “Most Likely to be Mistaken as a Freshman.”
What else would you like to say?
A multi-party system in our borough allows for more voices to be heard and keeps government accountable to the people. I have put out multiple requests for a public debate and my opponents have completely ignored them. This is why we need a new voice on council. I want to increase engagement in the community by encouraging people with different ideas to get involved. We have an opportunity here in Fanwood to show how different parties can work together for the common good. There is certainly a group of people in town that feel ignored and want to be represented. It has been incredible meeting people around town and hearing their life stories. I truly appreciate everyone that has been willing to discuss the things they care about. Being on council will give me an important voice on issues that impact our borough. I promise to always be accessible and transparent for the people of Fanwood. Please connect with me on Facebook: @JAYMORRISFORFANWOOD
I would like to encourage everyone to go out and knock on the door of someone you have never met. Introduce yourself, talk with each other, and share life stories. We need to get to know our neighbors better and understand the needs of one another. You might be surprised who lives a few doors down from you. It has been an absolute honor to meet with my fellow Fanwoodians. It is not about party, it is about building relationships and in turn making our community stronger.