WEST ORANGE, NJ - Meet Susan Scarpa, candidate for West Orange Township Council on Nov. 6.
Scarpa is a lifelong resident and graduate of West Orange High School, where she received a West Orange Scholarship and was recognized by “Who’s Who in American High School Students” for leadership. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Douglass College of Rutgers University and a Masters in Speech Language Pathology from Kean University. Scarpa is currently employed by the West Orange Schools as a Speech Language Pathologist at Redwood School and had worked at Gregory School for more than a decade. Scarpa earned an MBA in International Marketing from Fairleigh Dickinson University, where she had the opportunity to engage in International Study at Wroxton College, Oxfordshire, England. As a Graduate Fellow, Scarpa taught Organizational Behavior at the undergraduate level and conducted various university research projects.
Scarpa formerly owned and operated a telecommunications consulting firm servicing Wall Street banks and investment firms. She managed large-scale projects and worked as a Product Manager in the design and development of new telecommunications products in collaboration with Japanese manufacturers. Scarpa joined the Society of Telecommunications Consultants and devised and taught a course in Basic Telephony for the telecommunications staff of the New York Stock Exchange.
Scarpa lives in her family home with her 19-year-old son, Alexander, who has attended the West Orange schools since he began kindergarten at Gregory School.
Q. Why are you running for township council?
A: I grew up in West Orange, a special community that embraces the best of a nurturing small town yet is culturally and economically diverse, providing the sophistication of city life. Even though my career took me to New York City, where for a short time I lived, owned and operated my telecommunications consulting firm, I often returned on weekends to spend time with family and friends who made it feel like I never really left. I love West Orange and always knew that I would come back and raise my son Alexander here so he could have many of the same childhood experiences I had like spending summers at the town pool with his grandmother.
Today in West Orange, too often politics prevails at the expense of the taxpayers and I strongly believe that a fresh pair of eyes and a voice for all residents is desperately needed. As the people who know me best would tell you I am not a politician. My background is as a businesswoman and an educator. I am running for West Orange Township Council because I believe that our town council needs fewer politicians and more people who are able to tackle the difficult problems that will be facing our township. Some of these difficult issues we need to tackle in the next couple of years include the need to balance the budget, deal with the issue of overcrowding in our schools and make West Orange a safe and walkable community where small business can thrive, citizens can feel a real sense of community and seniors can Age in Place among our family and friends. Three of my longtime friends and neighbors are moving because they can no longer afford our high property taxes however with sound financial management we can cut taxes just as two other municipalities in Essex County have done.
Q: Besides running for office what other ways are you involved in town?
A: For many years when my son was growing up, my activities centered around the PTA and Gregory School, where I co-chaired the Gregory School Centennial Committee and worked on the Beautification Committee. I also thoroughly enjoyed working as the assistant coach for my son’s Mountain Top League soccer team. More recently, I am involved with the fundraising committee for the Friends of the West Orange Public Library as well as volunteering to help marketing for the Nikhil Badlani Foundation.
The most recent volunteer initiative I’ve undertaken has been “Angel” training for Operation HOPE. Operation HOPE is a heroin and opiate-prevention effort that the township and the West Orange Police Department are pioneering. The mission of Operation HOPE is to help people whose lives have been affected by drug addiction. Volunteer “Angels” have been trained to understand addiction and have learned how to interact with and assist people experiencing addiction-related issues. We hope that the West Orange Police Department will be the first of many police departments in the state of New Jersey to start programs where people who are affected by drug addiction can get the help they need.
Informal Citizens Budget Advisory Committee and the informal Senior Citizens Advisory Board was assembled consisting of professional with expertise in these areas when the Town Council failed to make formal appointments or pass ordinances giving our senior citizens a voice.
Q: Why do you feel you deserve the job? What qualifies you for it?
A: It is not about deserving the job but earning the position to serve the people of the community. It’s about what I can bring to the council from my experience as a businesswoman and now in my second career as a Speech Language Pathologist.I have a good understanding of the needs of the children and families in our community and as a former businesswoman, I can offer financial leadership, budget and analytical skills. As a business owner I’ve learned to be a creative problem solver. At Paine Webber, I ran the telecommunications divisions trading floors responsible for balancing budgets, negotiating contracts and managing large-scale projects. If elected, I believe these skills make me uniquely qualified to balance the town budget and enhance project management efforts.
Q: What do you believe is the most important issue in this local election? How would you change it?
A: If you ask most people what they believe is the most important issue, they will say something along the lines of, “Taxes are too high.” I, however, believe that better managing taxpayer dollars is not an issue but instead one of the most basic responsibilities of government. I believe that the most important issue in this election is that the needs of our seniors are not being met. In his last speech, Hubert H. Humphrey the 38th Vice-President of the United States under the Johnson Administration said, “the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” I could not agree more. I have spoken with many seniors in the past few months and it is clear we are not doing enough as a town to help them in their time of need.
I spoke with one senior who could not take the seniors bus back from the grocery store because she needed more than the three-bag limit of grocery bags allowed on the bus. She was forced to call a cab and I think this is ridiculous and unconscionable. This was brought up to the council and they have failed to address this and many other concerns. Many of the issues facing our senior citizens could be fixed very easily and at little or no cost to the township. For this reason, I am advocating for a senior citizens’ advisory board, like the one proposed by Councilman Krakoviak, in order to give all seniors an organized voice. I am always teaching my son and my students that the first step to solving a problem is admitting that there is one. The needs of our seniors are not being met. I hope that the administration will work with members of the council to reach out to our seniors and show them some support.
Q. What should people know about you that they might not know already?
A: Most people in West Orange know me as an educator, a Speech Language Pathologist who has been a devoted advocate for special needs students, doing what was right even when it was not politically expedient. However, I was not always an educator. For many years I owned and operated my telecommunications-consulting firm in New York City, where I lived. My company designed telecommunications systems for, taught classes at, and provided project management servicing International banks and insurance companies such as Citibank, AIG, UBS, British Telecom, and a number of other clients associated with the New York Stock Exchange.