WEST ORANGE, NJ — Meet West Orange Township Council candidate Monica Perkowski.

Basic Background:

Monica Perkowski, a 41-year West Orange resident, attended Pleasantdale School, Roosevelt Middle School and Mt. St. Dominic Academy in the area and also earned her BS in Biology from the College of New Jersey and her MBA in Marketing/Finance from NYU Stern School of Business. Perkowski is the Principal, Marketing Leader, Mercer, a fully owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies. She is married to Jim Williamson and has two stepsons, Evan and Charles, who are students at Nutley High School, and a dog named Eli

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Q: Why are you running for township council?

A: I believe we each have a responsibility to lend our unique skillsets to our community to keep it thriving.  For me, it has been a long time goal to serve the community through a seat on the council.  I hope to utilize my skills in marketing, project management, and negotiation to help create a holistic vision for West Orange, which addresses safety, commercial growth, and access to transportation for all residents.

Q: Why do you feel you deserve the job?  What qualifies you for it?

A: I am passionate about West Orange and our future. I have strong negotiation and project management skills—both required to arrive at a consensus and to oversee project completion. I am extremely patient, and highly detailed oriented, two characteristics I believe are essential for a position that demands collaboration from many interested parties. As an independent candidate, I believe I am well positioned to hear each point of view in order to make an educated, well-informed decision.

We’ve all witnessed the internal struggle of the current council, which often prevents candid discussion about the topic at hand.  Discussion and debate are critical components in making the proper decisions, and I know my presence could help us achieve that end.

I am driven to success and finish what I start. I was told from the beginning that you couldn’t win in this election unless the administration backs you OR you are anti administration. I don’t believe that. I believe that what West Orange needs is an independent ear to listen to resident concerns and the commitment to negotiate a favorable result.

Q: What do you believe is the most important issue in this local election? How would you change it?   

A: Today’s West Orange is very different from the West Orange I was introduced to as a child.  And while we’ve seen our overall commercial landscape change some, I think we can do better to keep us moving in the right direction.  I recommend we seek the services of a fulltime urban planner to ensure our long-term vision is sound-and consistent-and to identify opportunities to innovate and promote growth.

The Edison redevelopment project is only one piece of the puzzle. Our overall plan for that area, and the immediate surroundings, should be consistent with our development strategy in other regions of town. Seeking opportunities to drive commercial interest should not be limited to the downtown corridor-but should encompass the Northfield, Gregory & Eagle Rock areas as well. Parking enhancements and improvements to pedestrian safety should move beyond just Main Street-and should incorporate all areas of the community. With the services of a professional planner, we can ensure our strategic vision is comprehensive, innovative, and achievable. 

Q: What other issues are important?

A: Taxes continue to be an ongoing issue in West Orange. And while I don’t suggest there is a “magic bullet” to address the issue, I do believe fiscal responsibility is crucial to maintain our level of desirability. To me, this means close examination of the budget each year, always seeking opportunities to capture savings.  It is critical for us to make well-informed choices about our infrastructure improvements and other discretionary expenditure-but without compromising the safety and quality of life for our residents.

Transportation accessibility is another key issue in our community. Jitney service provided on the south side of town provides a great benefit for daily commuters, but is easily accessible only to a portion of the town. This feature has enhanced home values in these areas and has appealed to new buyers in new markets. But beyond commuters-senior transportation programs should be enhanced as well. Seniors who depend on these services should not be forced to cancel doctor appointments or skip social engagements due to increased demand.  

Finally, the “Complete Streets” concept, particularly as it relates to pedestrian safety, should become a higher priority in West Orange.  As the population grows-and as commercial areas of town draw more visitors-the negative impact of excessive speed, incomplete or absent sidewalks, and excessive traffic become more pronounced.  It’s critical for us to develop a successful working relationship with the Essex County, as well as prioritize the areas in town, which require upgrade and to start working to achieve realistic goals. 

Q: What should people know about you that they might not know already?

A: Living in West Orange for life has fostered so many wonderful memories. If I look familiar it may be from my years on the First Aid Squad or bartending at Rascal’s—where I had the opportunity to drink from the Stanley Cup three times. I’ve run three half-marathons and will run the NYC marathon in 2017.  I love to travel—and will shortly take my first flight lesson!