SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - After a long and competitive election, Sheena Collum will be sworn in to a second term as village president this Monday, May 20, at the South Orange Performing Arts Center.
Collum was re-elected to the seat, defeating opponent Deborah Davis Ford by 2,358 votes to 759 votes. Davis Ford ran for village president in 2019, after having served on the South Orange Board of Trustees as a trustee since 2007.
Collum couldn't be reached by phone on Wednesday but says on her website, sheenacollum.com, that taxes and infrastructure, planning and development, public safety and emergency response, and community engagement and communication are the main issues she will focus on during her second term as village president.
"South Orange has unlimited potential to secure its position as a leading smart-growth town, leveraging financial investment, walkability, transit access, and a bustling restaurant, shopping and performing arts scene," Collum said on the site. "Communities can provide something for everyone when they are created by everyone."
Collum is the executive director of the American Planning Association, New Jersey Chapter.
Some of the projects Collum said on the site that she hopes to complete are the renovation of Village Hall into a destination restaurant and beer garden, lobby in Trenton on liquor license reforms, finalize and adopt South Orange's master plan called "Shaping Our Shared Future," and ensure that development and redevelopment projects adhere to strict planning and design standards.
She also plans to cap annual increases of discretionary operating expenses at no more than 2 percent and pursue commercial ratables from economic development to shift the tax burden from homeowners to the business corridor.
"In 2019, New Jersey led the country with the highest property taxes," Collum said on the site. "We cannot be competitive, attract investment, provide affordable housing, upgrade our infrastructure, or improve public education while subsidizing inefficiency at every level of government."
Davis Ford serves as chair of the Legal and Personnel Committee as a trustee and is a member of the Public Safety and Department of Public Works Committees, according to her biography which may be found on the South Orange municipal website, www.southorange.org.
She was appointed clerk of the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders in May 2009. She is currently on the board of Cinema Ed, a non-profit film organization that connects filmmakers with local high school students and teachers, according to her biography.
Keeping property taxes low, revitalizing the downtown area, and ensuring that the South Orange Fire Department stays in South Orange and doesn't give up its governance to Maplewood were issues in which Davis Ford ran her campaign.
"Although the election results did not turn out the way we had hoped, we are happy that they brought significant attention to issues facing South Orange residents and homeowners today," said Davis Ford.
"We hope the fire department will finally have a seat at the table in any talks regarding consolidation of services for the safety of our residents and their families," Davis Ford said.
Davis Ford said during her speech on Tuesday night that she's "not going away," noting that she is committed to be engaged in activities in town.