Name: Leonard M Luciano
Current Occupation: Freeholder 2011-Present, Newark Public School Teacher 2003-Present
Education: Ed.S. Seton Hall University; M.A Thomas Edison State College; B.A. Montclair State University; NJ Teaching Certification Rutgers University
Years Lived in Essex County District 4: Entire life, West Caldwell/Livingston
Q: Why do you feel you deserve the job? What qualifies you for it?
A: Over the last three years our County tax increases have been very minimal. We are the third lowest county out of 21 New Jersey counties for tax increases since being elected in 2011 and the other counties with less of a percentage of increase are only a fraction of our size.
I am very proud of the Essex County Turtle Back Zoo located in West Orange which is in Freeholder District 4. The zoo has several new natural habitat themed exhibits; a first class education building built during my tenure as Freeholder for students, and was recognized by NJ Monthly magazine as the number one zoo in NJ.
Essex County’s Environmental Center located in Freeholder District 4 in Roseland is an epicenter for environmental learning. Its classrooms extend beyond the state-of-the-art facility into the nearby woods and Passaic River to provide an interactive atmosphere. Verona Park, located in Freeholder District 4 has seen several upgrades including new bocce ball courts, a beautiful flower garden, and undergone upgrades to the boathouse.
The all new boathouse and deck was refurbished, new paddle-boats, and a new snack bar/vendor at Verona Park make it even more appealing for our residents. Grover Cleveland Park located in Caldwell has also had my attention. In 2013 we built a handicap accessible picnic area, included the park as one of our summer concert series locations, and stocked the pond with trout for an annual children’s fishing derby.
Q: What do you believe is the most important issue in this freeholder election? How would you change it?
A: We need to continue to maintain county property tax with minimal increase. This can be done by finding innovative ways of bringing in revenue to offset skyrocketing costs of employee health care as we do have over thirty five hundred county employees.
Our Sheriff’s Department and Prosecutor’s Office is going to continue to focus on public safety through raising resident awareness of auto theft, carjacking, and burglary, while continuing to partner with the local law enforcement to provide road and traffic assistance where needed.
Q: What other issues are important?
A: I am extremely proud of our South Mountain reservation complex located in District 4. We’ve worked to enhance quality of life for all our residents and visitors in District 4 by adding a new paddle boating dock and 1.7 mile walking path around the Orange Reservoir.
The county generates a significant amount of revenue while also providing a great eating atmosphere on the water at our Mcloone’s Boathouse restaurant.
In Cedar Grove we cut the ribbon two months ago to a brand new public works building. This building will house our vehicles and serve our employees 365 days a year, especially during winter months with snow removal when our employees have long days and nights. The new building also has the aesthetics a residential community would want, rather the eye sore the old facility was after years of aging.
Essex County has partnered with conservancies, community groups, corporations and philanthropic groups to improve every county park. Our parks system is amongst the best in the country, and our Branch Brook Park Cherry Blossom Festival has world-wide recognition.
Essex County Vocational schools continue to excel as well. West Caldwell Tech was awarded a National Blue Ribbon status for excellence by the U.S. Department of education in 2011.
Q: What else would you like to say?
A: My innovative ideas have helped improve Essex County’s quality of life while maintaining our COUNTY portion of taxes with minimal increase. I continue to push for road and bridge projects in District 4 and if you were to drive around, many of the county roads and bridges in the towns I represent have been upgraded, are currently being upgraded, or under review to be upgraded by our public works/engineering department.
Q: Tell us about your other career:
A: My career is in education. I have been a public school employee since 2003, and currently serve as the Library Media Specialist at Branch Brook Elementary School in Newark, where I service all students grades PreK-4th. I enjoy being part of the school community working with students and getting to know their families. I believe it’s important to elect governing body officials to all levels of government that come from different careers and diverse backgrounds. My education background provides me with a voice for educational needs in all our school districts.