WEST ORANGE, NJ — Meet West Orange Township Council candidate Jerry Guarino:
Jerry Guarino, a 35-year West Orange resident, is a Retail Financial Analyst and graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University. Guarino is married to Robin Ginsberg, a West Orange High School graduate of 1971, with whom he has two children, Brett (WOHS 2001) and Mallory (WOHS 2009), who attended Gregory School, Roosevelt Middle School and WOHS, K-12. He is a current West Orange Township Councilman running for re-election in 2016.
Q: Why are you running for township council again?
A: There are a number of initiatives I either introduced or worked on during the past four years that I would like the opportunity to bring to completion, and several new issues I would like to address during the next four years. The Downtown Redevelopment is finally under construction and the Downtown West Orange Alliance, to which I am the council liaison, has made great strides in attracting new and stabilizing existing businesses. I would like to explore grant and other no-cost initiatives to attract additional ratables of the township’s business districts, and undertake marketing efforts to increase patronage, all of which increase our commercial tax revenue and make West Orange a desirable place in which to live.
I sponsored creation of the Pedestrian Safety Commission and while we have accomplished a great deal, there is more to do. I would like to continue to work with residents, municipal, county and state officials to comprehensively address the numerous multi-jurisdictional issues involved to create greater safety along roadways throughout the township.
I have addressed several quality of life and wellbeing issues, ranging from introducing ordinances to increase tobacco purchasing age, licensing of e-cigarettes and a Trap, Spay, Neuter, Release program to humanely address feral cat colony issues—all at no cost to the township and which are self-supporting. For the next four years, I would like to continue to explore new quality of life opportunities at no cost to the Township or residents.
Q: Why do you feel you deserve the job? What qualifies you for it?
A: I believe my record of accomplishments during my first term, and my ability to work productively with all council colleagues, township officials and employees, county and state officials, and my attention to the concerns of residents speak for themselves. I believe in being part of the solution. I have sponsored a number of initiatives to increase revenue to the township and others that improved quality of life, and health and wellbeing at no cost to the township. I sponsored ordinances to increase the tobacco purchase age to 21, and to license e-cigarette sales.
Residents know I am always available to work with them and to address their concerns. Professionally, my career in retail financial management, specifically in expense control and capital projects, transfers easily to understanding and addressing budget issues and to develop and implement strategies to do more with less.
My 35-year history working with Mountaintop League, as Gregory School PTA Strawberry Festival Chairman, the Rent Leveling Board, the first Main Street initiative, Renna House, the West Orange Community House, Relay for Life and other groups has allowed me to work with an enormous cross section of residents throughout the township, to listen to their concerns and to work constructively to address them.
Q: What do you believe is the most important issue in this local election? How would you change it?
A: Property taxes. We need to continue to bring in new sources of revenue to the township to fill budget gaps while minimizing tax increases to homeowners. Over the past four years, I have been the council liaison to the Downtown West Orange Alliance (DWTOA). The DTWOA has facilitated new merchants along the Main St corridor and has undertaken extensive marketing strategies, all at no cost to the taxpayers, to encourage patronage of businesses throughout the township. Completion of the Downtown Redevelopment Project should facilitate new businesses along the corridor, stabilize existing businesses and begin to affect other areas of the township, thus increasing commercial tax revenue.
The DTWOA is currently looking at other grant opportunities to undertake projects addressing other areas of town and marketing strategies ranging from realtor presentations to using the Edison National Park as a draw. In addition to seeking new sources of revenue, we must maintain our quality of life services without increasing our budget. Recreation, senior services, library and the arts are all institutions that make a community desirable, thus increasing property values.
Our recreation programs and the Ginny Duenkel pool are among the least costly in the area. Our senior transportation operates at no cost to participating seniors, as does the jitney for commuters. Developing new sources of revenue from a more robust business sector seeking grant opportunities will facilitate opportunities that do not increase the township budget and that will also increase our property values.
Q: Besides running for office, what other ways are you involved in the town?
A: I have a 35-year history of involvement in West Orange, beginning with serving on the Rent Leveling Board and being chairman of the first West Orange Economic Development Board in the 1980s. From 1987-2012, I was a coach, commissioner, trustee, secretary, treasurer and vice president of Mountain Top League and received the West Orange Recreation Achievement Award for my efforts. I was a founding member and continue to serve on the executive board of the West Orange/Livingston Fall Tune-up Soccer Tournament, which we have held in West Orange for the past 15 years.
For 10 years, I was chairman of the annual Gregory School Strawberry Festival. Since 2012, I have been the council liaison to the Downtown West Orange Alliance. I am currently also a trustee of the West Orange Community House, Renna House and the West Orange Scholarship Committee. Since 2012, I have been a member of the Friends of Thomas Edison National Park, working to dovetail Downtown redevelopment with national park assets, and am currently the treasurer.
I am a member of West Orange/Orange UNICO and volunteer as a server at the annual scholarship breakfast. I am a member of the West Orange Arts Commission and the Friends of the West Orange Library. I have volunteered my time to work with Relay for Life and Badlani Foundation events, offering to do early morning set-up. I am also a founding member of the West Orange Pedestrian Safety Commission looking to address vehicular and pedestrian safety issues throughout the Township.
Q: What should people know about you that they might not know already?
A: When I was 14 years old, riding my bicycle on Summer Ave in Newark, I was hit by a speeding car. The fracture to my femur and complications were so severe that I almost lost my leg; but in comparison to the losses experienced by others, I am fortunate. This is why I have eagerly focused on pedestrian safety issues, have supported the Complete Streets initiative, am a founding member of the Pedestrian Safety Commission, and have supported the efforts of various organizations and individuals which focus on pedestrian and vehicular safety.
I also supported the Gregory School project to improve safety for children going to and from school. Many newer residents may also not realize that I lived on the corner of Walker and Gregory until 1999. My aunt, Jean O’Neill, was the crossing guard at the intersection of Walker, Lowell and Burnet for many years and was always concerned about the safety of children at that intersection. As a parent with Gregory School children, a homeowner with property concerns, a victim and a township official, I feel I bring a unique perspective to the various issues surrounding pedestrian safety.