Karen Dowicz-Haas grew up the fifth of eight children in Jackson Heights in Queens. “One of the most diverse places in the country, if not the world,” she said.
Her father was born in Poland and during World War II, spent eighteen months in a Soviet prison camp before escaping and eventually making his way to America. He married Karen’s Mother and then lost his leg due to a fall when he worked as a window washer. After that he had eight children. “I never knew him with two legs,” said Dowicz-Haas who, as an adult wrote a novel based on her father’s life.
She graduated from the Dominican Academy in New York City and went to College at Both Fordham University and CUNY at Queens College with a degree in English. After college she worked in sales as a district Manager, calling on CEOs for Test, Measurement and Electronic Equipment Companies in her territory of New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
She met her husband, Bruce in Washington DC while she was working as an intern for Congresswoman Geraldine Ferrara. Bruce Haas is a lifelong Wayne resident and graduate of West Point. After they married, it was Bruce that convinced her to move to Wayne.
“He sold me on the community, and I just fell in love with the place,” said Dowicz-Haas, having moved here in 1988. “It’s like a little slice of heaven. I was always so taken with the community spirit here; it was like nothing I saw in Queens. There were so many people, so happy and eager to volunteer and make the community a better place. It was so wonderful to me, like something right out of Leave it to Beaver.”
The mother of three children (her oldest will soon be a Lieutenant Commander in the Coast Guard, having graduated the Coast Guard Academy), took up the Wayne volunteer spirit by helping as a Library Mom at school, leading her daughter’s girl scout troop and staying involved with her Sunday School, teaching the young adult class there for many years. She volunteered for United Givers of Packanack when her children were younger, helping to raise money for charities.
“Whenever anybody needed any volunteers, I tried to help out wherever I could,” she said.
Why did she run for Town Council?
“I’ve always had an interest in public service,” said Dowicz-Haas who worked on Congresswoman Mike Sherrill’s campaign. “I enjoyed it. I met a lot of people and found out what was on their minds.”
Through this, the would-be Ward Three Councilwoman got on the radar of the local Democrat organization who were seeking good people to run for the seat. “I was asked to run, and after some consideration, I agreed because I care about the community. I love it here and I want to see it thrive.”
I know some of the problems because I’ve been talking to people about it when I went around for Mike Sherrill’s campaign and I’m hearing the same problems now.”
What is the job of a Wayne Town Councilperson?
“To represent their Ward and fight for what’s important to the residents. Also, to help the town thrive.”
Why should people vote for you?
“I’m a very good listener, and I care. I want to see the town thrive, and I have ideas on how it can be improved. I’ve been listening for a long time and a lot of the ideas I have came from the people I’ve been talking to.”
“I’m very aware of what’s going on in our community. I’m very concerned that what’s happening now is unsustainable. Not only environmentally unsustainable with the over-development, but unsustainable tax-wise. Taxpayers are fleeing New Jersey, but there are people who are leaving Wayne to lower-tax communities in New Jersey. We need to find a way to stabilize because its unsustainable and very worrisome.”
What’s the biggest issue facing Wayne?
“Taxes. People are concerned that the taxes are only going up and up and people are worried. There are a number of different things that can be done to lower taxes and we should be doing every single one. I don’t know if the current council understands the urgency of the matter.”
“Wayne has wonderful schools and families are lucky to live here. It’s a great place to bring up kids and I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. But once the kids leave the schools because some have to figure out how to continue to live here with the taxes the way they are. It’s one thing when your kids are in the school and you’re paying the high taxes because your kids are getting a fine education, but once the kids are grown, then people think, well maybe it’s time for me to go. It’s one thing to leave because you want to go, but it’s another thing when you have to go because you can’t afford it.”
What are some other issues facing Wayne?
“Wayne is not commuter friendly, and I think it needs to be so that commuters can get to the jobs that will help them pay for those high taxes. There is a transit center on 23 that doesn’t have enough parking spaces. A lot of the commuters who use the facilities aren’t from Wayne and yet we pay our police for security and I think there should be a priority there for Wayne Residents.”
“The traffic in the morning is difficult and there are things we can do. We can encourage carpools and mass transit usage. Parsippany, a town slightly smaller than Wayne has a bus that goes around the town and they don’t even charge for it. Wayne used to have a bus like that but now it’s gone. A number of things, along the same line, has gotten worse. Every year the commute has gotten just a little bit worse. There’s a lot that can be done if we think about it, if we think about what our residents our enduring and just put on a different mindset.
Wouldn’t it be nice if a township allowed a coffee shop to set up a coffee truck there for the commuters? A little thing like that can go a long way.”
“I know there are a number of challenges coming up in Ward Three in terms of future development. It’s a little nebulous now because we don’t know what’s going on with the GAF property, and there’s a proposal to put in a Wawa on Route 23 that’s in an environmentally sensitive area. That’s a concern to me because we really don’t need three gas stations in a row there.”