“The roots in my family go way back in Wayne,” said Arlene Sullivan, the Democrat candidate for Ward One. “My Dad’s family moved here when he was young. He lived in a tent while his house was being built.” This was in the early 1920s. “What’s interesting is my Mom’s backyard was near where my Dad’s family’s tent was setup and that’s where they met,” she said. 

Raised in Wayne, Sullivan went to Kindergarten through Sixth grade at Mountainview School which isn’t a school anymore. “I think it’s a bank now,” she said.  Sullivan then went to Anthony Wayne Junior High for one year but was transferred to George Washington Middle School before attending and graduating from Wayne Hills High School.

After graduation, Sullivan went to William Patterson College where she earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and a K-12 certification to teach.

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“I first started teaching at Sparta High School, but then I had three children, so I took a little break from teaching,” she said. Her and her husband moved to Oak Ridge after their marriage, then moved to Towaco when her husband’s mother became ill. 

For the past fourteen years, Sullivan has been teaching art and graphic arts at Morris Catholic High School in Denville, which has been her dream job.  The arts have also been an outlet for her charitable side as well.  Sullivan co-founded the Changing Images Art Foundation in 1997 after a family member that fell ill was sent to the intensive care unit for two months at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Paterson. “I’m so grateful he was sent there, because they saved his life,” said Sullivan.

It was there in the dull hospital intensive care room that she got an idea to use her art skills for good. “None of the walls at the hospital matched. They were like purple and yellow and green. You’re stressed out and there is really nothing to look at, you’re breathing to beeps that you don’t really understand, and you’re scared because its intensive care.”

Sullivan and her volunteers go into hospitals, nursing homes, shelters and talk to the patients, asking about their lives and what they would want to see on the walls where they are staying. 

“One woman at a nursing home told me she used to have a garden and work in it all the time, so we created a large mural of a garden on one of the walls in her room,” said Sullivan.

Each patient takes a part in painting the colors of the murals. “It gives them a sense of purpose and ownership.” Said Sullivan. “And, it just makes the room they must stay in more personable.”

Sullivan’s murals are in hospitals across the US and all over the world. Several of her murals were autographed by celebrities including Pavarotti and George and Barbara Bush, who then asked her to paint a mural at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Maine.

How did she get involved in politics?

In Towaco, Sullivan was heavily involved in the local PTO eventually becoming President.  Later she ran and was elected to the Montville Board of Education, since Towaco is a part of Montville Township.

It wasn’t until her own parents passed away that the Ward One candidate moved back into Wayne in 2015.  “I now live in the house I grew up in,” she said.

“My parents lived in the same house in Wayne for more than seventy years, without incident, until the house next door was sold and rented out,” said Sullivan. “One of the tenants that rented had the police there more times than not, and my parents were in their 80’s at the time.  I called the owner explaining it had always been a quiet neighborhood, and instead of apologizing; he wanted to know if my parents were interested in selling.”

What got her thinking of running for office was when her neighborhood was notified of an application for a variance involving the house next door and an entire section of wooded property was to be destroyed for the sake of an oversized building which would have been the size of all the neighborhood houses combined.  “If built it would conceivably have destroyed my house as well as the neighborhood below with storm water run-off,” she said.

Sullivan went on: “It was frustrating that such an application could be taken seriously by the zoning board and that the residents had to band together to raise funds for an attorney to protect their quality of life.  The town abandoned our neighborhood. It’s sad that this is happening in other parts of Ward One.

“There’s a perception of back-room deals happening and sometimes the perception is reality,” she said. “That led me to say, something has got to be done. Somebody has to speak up for our Ward.” So, she stepped up and agreed to run for the Ward One town council seat.

What is the job of a Wayne Town Councilperson?

 “I have been told the job of a council person is creating policy pure and simple, but policy created in a vacuum is worthless,” said Sullivan. “The council needs to remember that they are public servants, they need to treat the position and the people they serve with respect and dignity. I believe this involves restructuring the council meetings so people who come to voice their opinion or ask a question to know they have been heard and answered. The town council should represent Wayne at its best, as a wonderful place to live and work. They need to focus on the issues at hand openly and look to forming working relationships for solutions.

Why should people vote for you? 

“I bring change. I bring passion and respect,” she said. “There’s no open dialogue at the Town Council meetings and at the very end, maybe the town will answer questions, and maybe they won’t.  They pick and choose who they are going to answer,” she said referring to the existing council. “They don’t listen to other people’s opinions. They operate in a vacuum and I want to change that.”

What is the biggest issue facing Wayne?

“Flooding is a major issue in my Ward, and the issue is several fold,” she said. “Down at Hoffman Grove, the state bought up a lot of houses, and there are only a few left, and that’s going to be open space, but we also need to look to de-snag waterways on a more consistent basis.”

“We need to review and recommit to the master plan (reviewed and signed off on by council members in 2010) that mentions conserving what little undeveloped land we have, looking to renovate abandoned buildings, bring in development that works for us, maintaining a quality of life for Wayne residents,” she said.

What are some other issues facing Wayne?

Other issues that Sullivan mentioned include ensuring more transparency, forming working relationships with the county and state, and bringing in businesses that are right for Wayne.

Final Statement

The people I have met in campaigning have been wonderfully supportive.  Wayne is an amazing town – that is why we choose to live here.

The process this town council has taken is broken. 

I have been told that the priority of the town council is all about creating policy and seeing it is carried out – pure and simple. However, the reason for creating policy is to protect the quality of life for our residents.

It is also about being a public servant. Creating policy without respect for the very people it is designed for is worthless and disrespectful.

The present council chooses to work without input from the outside – residents trying to voice their opinions at public council meetings are often shut down, ridiculed or ignored all together. The process for public meetings needs to be revised - and it is an easy thing to do - they make the rules!                                                                                                 

In addition, the council needs to reach outside itself to create working relationships on the county and state levels. Towns that work with the county are able to save money through shared services. There are so many areas we share jurisdiction, like education, roads, and public safety.  The current council would rather play politics than save money.

It’s not about which party is in power, it’s about choosing people with the right priorities and judgment. I have been building those relationships as I have been out canvassing with Maria Cordonnier, candidate for State Assembly and candidates for Freeholder re-election, Terry Duffy and Pat Lepore.

I hope you will come out and VOTE on November 5th – Row A   All the Way!  Let your voice be heard!