PEAPACK-GLADSTONE NJ - In this sleepy little bedroom community nestled in a northern corner of Somerset County, candidate announcements are not quite the event that they are in Jersey City or Hoboken or Atlantic City. Candidates decide to serve, and begin their campaigns without the pomp or melodrama that accompany campaigns in some other parts of the state.
Befitting that tradition, without a press conference, Republican Borough Councilman Roy Smith announced this week that he will seek a second term on the Peapack-Gladstone Borough Council. Councilman Smith has been part of the new wave of councilmen that have arrived on the dais over the past five years. He has enjoyed serving with his colleagues, whom he sees as dedicated and very capable.
Part one of two articles about Councilman Roy Smith.
TAPinto Somerset Hills interviewed Councilman Smith about his first term on the Council and the challenges Peapack-Gladstone will see in the coming years.
Smith was elected to the Council in 2015, along with his running mate Anthony Suriano. He lives on Forest View Drive with his wife, Carol Smith, a pharmaceutical company executive in their home of twenty-one years. The Smiths have two children and five grandchildren. Smith retired from Exxon Mobil Corporation as an employee benefits manager. He holds a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering and Chemical Engineering from N.J.I.T. and a M.B.A. in Corporate Finance from Fairleigh Dickinson University.
"I love this town and its people and the friendships that we have made here," said Smith in an interview with TAPinto Somerset Hills. "Peapack-Gladstone is very liveable, and I would like to keep it that way."
When asked about the challenges that the borough will face in the coming years, the Councilman did not hesitate to point to affordable housing. Earlier this month, the state Superior Court unanimously ruled that municipalities must meet affordable housing needs left unaddressed between 1999 and 2015, stating that during this 16-year period, the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) failed to meet housing quotas for towns. Under the ruling, a total of 200,000 units are needed statewide, through rehab, conversion or new construction, by 2025.
"Peapack-Gladstone has been co-operative and honest players in meeting our affordable housing obligation," said Smtih. "The current allocation of affordable housing - 300 units in Peapack-Gladstone over the next ten years - is unreasonable for a town of 2,500 residents."
Smith indicated that the borough is willing and able to provide affordable housing, but he is concerned that the borough does not have the infrastructure to accomodate 300 new housing units over ten years. "Three hundred new housing units will bring close to five hundred new neighbors to the town. Those new neighbors will need fire protection, police protection, sewer capacity and many other services that the borough provides," he said.
Smith also recognized the continuing challenge to find efficiencies in the borough government and to explore more shared services. "The borough entered into a shared court agreement with Bedminster in 2015, which Bernardsville joined in 2016. The shared court has been a big success that has saved the borough taxpayer real dollars."
The first step in the re-election process is for Councilman Smith to seek the Republican nomination for one of two three-year terms on the council. The primary election will be held on June 6. The winners of the Republican primary will face any independent candidates and any Democratic Party candidates in the general eleciton. Smith plans to seek the endorsement of the Peapack-Gladstone Republican Committee and the Somerset County Republican Organization for his primary run. To that end, he will interview with the Republican committee on March 27.
Part Two of this article will appear the week of January 30 on TAPinto Somerset Hills.