I am writing in support of Rob Benacchio for Town Council and to urge my First Ward neighbors to support him too. In the years I’ve known Rob, I’ve admired and appreciated his genuine love of our town and dedication to its success and well being.

I had the pleasure of sitting with Rob for several years on the Zoning Board of Adjustment where Rob still serves the town as a board member. His concise and insightful comments during public hearings often led directly to pragmatic solutions to seemingly deadlocked problems. He’s a born problem solver and his ability to take complex situations and boil them down to their essence helped build bridges between people of differing views and drive solutions. He listens to all sides. We need these qualities on our Town Council.

Rob’s dedication and commitment to the town are long-standing and well-established. Rob and his wife Michele planted roots in Westfield over a decade ago and are raising their three children here. In addition to his service on the Zoning Board, Rob has been very involved in Westfield youth sports including coaching flag football and girls’ basketball, softball, and soccer.

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Rob’s opponent is, no doubt, a capable and sincere person. But neither he nor his supporters have yet, in my view, made a good argument for voting for him. What I’ve mostly heard from his campaign and supporters focuses not on what he has done, and can do, for the town, but how he is plugged into, and will be a willing member of, Mayor Brindle’s team.

The mayor and her council majority, however, have had nearly two years to demonstrate what they can do. In that time, we’ve seen downtown vacancies skyrocket (including the loss of the iconic Rialto Theater, Victoria’s Secret and Theresa’s restaurant); the loss of the one-seat ride (which we just got back thanks in large measure to Councilman Mark LoGrippo’s tireless efforts); an increase in car break-ins (at least in the First Ward); and the trashing of the well-developed Tamaques Park field and parking improvement plan, to name a few. The last thing our town needs is to further entrench the Mayor’s majority rule. We need balance and independence on our Town Council now more than ever.

If elected, I have every confidence that Rob will be that independent voice, calling it as he sees it. He’ll approach his responsibilities as council member as he does everything else: thoughtfully and thoroughly. And yes, he’ll no doubt respectfully voice his opposition from time to time as appropriate; but he’ll also support the mayor where it’s the right thing to do for our town and the First Ward. Most importantly, he’ll offer constructive, creative, pragmatic solutions. Rob’s a collaborative and independent-minded bridge builder and problem solver. He’s got my vote. I hope he’ll have yours.