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  • Writer's pictureThis Is Rutherford

Mayor and Council Candidates Interview

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

By Jennifer Ersalesi


In an effort to help inform the community about the current Mayor and Council candidates, This is Rutherford asked each candidate the same five questions. There are three incumbent candidates running. Democratic candidates Mayor Frank Nunziato, Council President Stephanie McGowan, and Councilman Matthew Cokeley are running for re-election. Republican candidate Mark O'Connor is running for Mayor, and Republican candidates Peter Tuccino and Dave LaBruno are running alongside him for Council seats.


TIR: Why have you decided to run for office in this year's election?

Frank Nunziato: I believe we made great strides in the past four years, but also that there is unfinished business. Between a pandemic and my personal health issues, I really am happy with how we’ve ushered Rutherford into the 21st century. But because of COVID, we had to do a lot of pivoting and we are just now getting caught up with the real day-to-day business of what this Borough needs. We are moving forward in a positive direction and there are a lot of projects that I’d like to see to completion - namely Rails to Trails, the Memorial Field project, the continued beautification of Park Ave as well as developing a plan for the West End and continue to strengthen relationships between the Borough and community.

We’re really just getting started with our arts and music programming and I’d like to also maintain our vision of smart development (limited to the transit village area of course).


Stephanie McGowan

Stephanie McGowan: Serving Rutherford has been the privilege of a lifetime. I have never taken this honor for granted and thought deeply about my personal “why” for wanting to continue. This community has raised me, my husband, and now my children and I take immense pride in telling people that Rutherford is our home. I decided to run for re-election because the goals we have been working toward are not finished yet and I want to use the experience I have gained since being elected to keep Rutherford moving forward. Over the past few years, in our most trying moments during the global pandemic, our leadership helped our businesses stay open, kept residents safe, and found creative ways to celebrate our hometown heroes, holidays, and all things that make Rutherford the jewel of Southern Bergen County. Our business district is now thriving, and our sense of community is as strong as it has ever been. I want to continue my advocacy of supportive housing for our disabled, senior, and veteran residents through purposeful and responsible development. I want to ensure that we, as taxpayers, are represented through sound

fiscal choices and decision-making. I am prepared to continue providing my leadership,

perspective, voice, and heart on behalf of the community I love, and hope to have the

opportunity to continue my service as Councilwoman.


Matthew Cokeley

Matthew Cokeley: When I was sworn in three years ago to my first term, Covid restrictions were just starting to relent. Our primary focus at that time was to get the Borough back to operational standards as quickly and safely as possible. What I personally recognized in the time since is that it takes at least a year to fully understand how municipal government works and how to work effectively within the rules and regulations that govern said body.


My first three years on the council have been an incredible learning experience and I want to apply all that I have learned to the next three years and finish the work we set out to

do.


Mark O'Connor

Mark O'Connor: My name is Mark O’Connor and I am running for Mayor of Rutherford. My wife Laura and I fell in love with Rutherford 27 years ago and we have raised our daughter Danielle here. Rutherford has given us so much and I truly believe in giving back. Several years after moving to Rutherford I began to volunteer with a number of organizations and Recreation sports programs. That volunteerism continues today with the Lions Club of Rutherford, Rutherford Little League Girls Softball, and others.


I, also, had the privilege of serving on the Rutherford Council as Finance Chair from 2014 through 2016. As a Councilman, I enjoyed being able to work towards making Rutherford a better, safer place to live, work, and play. I enjoyed working with Council colleagues to effectively put Rutherford on a stronger financial path after several difficult years. Now, I see the same financial mistakes that occurred during those difficult years happening again. I have grown increasingly concerned about the path that is being taken within the town and this has helped lead me to run for Mayor. I am concerned that Rutherford’s debt has been allowed to grow to nearly $29 million, which is an enormous amount for a small town to withstand. I am concerned that taxes are raised each year without real discussion or thought for the Residents. This year my opponents put at risk $3,275,000 from our fund balance or emergency surplus fund to balance the budget. What happens if this fund runs dry?


Talking with many Residents, their biggest concern is overdevelopment; the number of

apartments being built, the potential for so many more, and the tax breaks given resulting in lost revenue for Rutherford. The problem with the shortfall from these tax breaks is that Residents are burdened with making up the difference. These actions are financially irresponsible and shouldn’t be accepted by residents as normal practice. I am often asked why I actively discuss the financials of the Borough. My answer is a simple one. If the finances of the Borough are strong we will be able to accomplish many positive things that make it easier, more enjoyable, and less expensive for all Residents.


Dave LaBruno, Mark O'Connor, and Peter Tuccino




Dave LaBruno: I love Rutherford. I have strong civic pride and want to contribute to our community. I have lived here for the past 22 years, had my children here, and raised my family here in Rutherford. I have been an active participant and volunteer in the community and have thoroughly enjoyed all that Rutherford has given me and my family.


With a desire to better know our community, several years ago, I started paying additional attention to the workings of the Borough, further educating myself on residents’ concerns, and attending Mayor and Council and Planning Board meetings. As I did, I became curious and began to ask questions to better understand the issues and the rationale for the decisions being made on behalf of the residents of Rutherford. During this process and given the non/answers I received, I came to see issues that I felt could be addressed in a better way and other issues that I believe are absolutely being handled wrongly.


I believe that in order for Rutherford to remain the place that we all love and enjoy

and to ensure the future prosperity of the Borough and its residents, a radical course

correction must be taken from the path Nunziato, McGowan, and Cokeley are leading

Rutherford down. I believe Rutherford needs new leadership with voices that can offer alternative perspectives and will speak for Rutherford, all of its residents, and all of our best

interests.


For Rutherford voters, my view on some of the issues that confront Rutherford and its

future and that I believe voters should consider before Election Day are:

Over-Development

Nunziato, McGowan, and Cokeley are Giving Rutherford Away.

They say real estate values have risen to an all-time high.

Why then are they giving sweetheart deals to developers?

They approved developments with over new 350 apartments; all were gifted 30-year

tax breaks. Even the Amazon warehouse was gifted a 30-year tax break.

Why? Have you received a tax break or an increased property tax bill?

Developers must provide, by law, affordable housing in a development, whether or

not the developer is able to obtain a tax break from a municipality’s Mayor and

Council.

So again, why did Nunziato, McGowan, and Cokeley give all these tax breaks?

They allowed developers to avoid zoning regulations and build to any size (e.g.,

approved 5, 6, and then last time 7-story developments).

Can you build whatever you want? How large of a project will they approve next?

You pay property taxes. Developers make payments instead of paying property taxes

and those payments are a mere percentage of property taxes were the developers

required to property taxes like all other residents. Those developer payments instead

of property taxes are relative pennies to each relative dollar of property taxes that all

residents must pay, and it will be 30 years from now until developers actually have to

pay property taxes.


Why are developers given 30 years of tax breaks before being required to pay their

fair share of the costs to run our community?

Millions of annual tax breaks have been given to developers.

Nunziato, McGowan, and Cokeley even allowed the Amazon warehouse to be

transferred to a different entity than the entity that was given the tax break. They

essentially allowed its tax break worth 10’s of millions to be sold by the developer

because absent permission, by law, the 30-year tax break that was given would have

been automatically canceled.

Why is this fair? How do these deals make sense for our community?

The Rutherford Schools get $0.00 of the payments made by developers with tax

breaks (i.e., nothing, zippo, zilch, nada).

How is this fair when 60% of everyone’s property taxes go to fund the schools?

How will the school costs for the children who live in these 350 apartments be paid?

Developments will impact our police, volunteer fire, volunteer EMS, and all town

services and costs. For one example, the Bergen County average is 2.3 police officers

per 1000 residents.

What is the impact of the developments with tax breaks? What services are required

for these developments and the people that will live in them? Who will pay for the

necessary services when developers/developments have been given tax breaks?

They claim they are undertaking “Responsible Development.”

I call what Nunziato, McGowan, and Cokeley are doing reckless.

They will talk up a recently obtained $5 million special appropriation for Memorial

Field that was placed in the latest state budget by the current and long-serving State

Senator and Assemblymen who are up for re-election in a few weeks.

Why has it taken so long (though we all will take the money) for Rutherford to

receive this support from the state level?

Unfortunately, $5 million is less than the first 2 years of the tax breaks already given.

What could Rutherford do with millions of annually recurring revenues that we

should be getting if developers paid their fair share? Parks? Necessary services? New

programs and service improvements? and on and on and on and …

Four or Five more developments are in the planning stage with hundreds of apartments

to be built.

Can we afford more of the same?


Overspending

Nunziato, McGowan, and Cokeley have approved and overseen a number of projects

with excessive costs and/or cost overruns.

To name just a few examples, why did/were: the Clara’s Tunnel repainting w/ webcam/monitoring/display cases cost ~$250,000; planning and architectural fees for a Covid memorial park on the front lawn of Borough Hall lawn incurred prior to any public discussion or public input?


Long-Term Debt

Nunziato, McGowan, and Cokeley have overseen a significant increase in long-term

debt so that Rutherford’s long-term debt now stands at ~$29 million.

How can our small town sustain this large amount of debt and its repayment?


Tax Rates Increases

Nunziato, McGowan, and Cokeley have raised Rutherford property taxes ~$5 million

over the past 4 years.

How can the residents of Rutherford continue to sustain these increases year after

year?

What has been the impact of all the above been on the increases in property taxes?

Where will Nunziato, McGowan, and Cokeley lead us in the future, given their past

record?

It has been said from the dais at the Mayor and Council meeting that we either grow or die.

Unfortunately, certain growths kill the host.


Peter Tuccino: First, I want to thank you for asking these questions and for the great work that you do for our town. There are very few opportunities for the residents in town to get to know the candidates, so this is a wonderful chance for us to express our beliefs and policies. I have been a resident of Rutherford for nearly my whole life. I grew up in this town, attended Pierrepont School and Rutherford High School. I played in the Little League, rode my bicycle on the old Erie Ave. trails, went to the “mud pit”, threw snowballs on the “lower field” (it was permitted back then), and participated in countless programs and organizations in town (some of your readers will remember the youth employment office, where I got some of my first jobs). My wife and I decided to stay in Rutherford and raise our daughter here. We purchased a brand new home from the builder in 2004. Yet the character of Rutherford has changed considerably in my half-century here. Some of the changes have been positive and regrettably some have not been good. The Borough of Rutherford has been overdeveloped and is rapidly becoming a city. It is nearly impossible to travel around town without being stuck in traffic somewhere and the problem is only getting worse. Trying to find a parking spot has become increasingly difficult. This is all because of bad planning and too much new construction that our infrastructure simply cannot handle. Sadly, the problem is becoming worse with each new project approved by the current administration. Moreover, the current officeholders have simply negotiated bad deals for our town, and the taxpayers have gotten the short end of the stick. The financial incompetence has left our town in a precarious position and we face a major dilemma in the near future. Fortunately, it’s not too late to do something about it. My running mates and I will stop the irresponsible overdevelopment and restore fiscal responsibility. I am running for council because of my love of Rutherford and to fix what has been broken.


 

TIR: Recently, Rutherford was acknowledged as one of the top 5 hottest zip codes in

Bergen County. Why do you believe that our Borough received this recognition? What

makes Rutherford a great place to live?


FN: We’ve received this recognition because of some of the above answers. My team, with the efforts of our committed residents and business owners, work daily to combine the needs of the community with how the government actually works.

One of the things I’m most proud of is we’ve opened the dialogue between community and government. No matter the topic, we make sure to have the right stakeholders in the room whenever the opportunity presents itself. This in turn creates an environment that makes people excited about where they live, and before you know it, people from the surrounding area pick up on that and want to be part of it.


SM: We are receiving this positive recognition because of the renaissance Rutherford is currently experiencing. Unlike other communities that may have struggled over the last few years due to the pandemic, Rutherford has increased property values, developed a strong Chamber of Commerce to support business and the larger community, and continues to provide top-notch services to our residents. As a community, we are so incredibly fortunate to have amazing Borough employees, an outstanding police department, and extraordinary residents who volunteer to serve Rutherford through our Fire Department and First-Aid Ambulance Corp. Whether it is the beautiful lights that line Park Avenue for a night-time walk, opportunities to dine in our amazing restaurants under the stars, celebrate our young

musicians through programs such as Rutherford Rocks in the park, or feeling the buzz of excitement as our various athletic teams dominate on Memorial Field. Rutherford has

and will continue to be a “hot zip code” in Bergen County. I am immensely proud to be a

part of the leadership that continues to cultivate those relationships across all aspects of

our Borough to find new and innovative ways to work our way up to #1!


MC: I stated this once in the past and believe it still holds true: Rutherford is not defined by

statuesque trees nor its quaint Victorian homes nor its Rockwellian business districts.

Rutherford is defined by its people. Generations of families who have welcomed new

families who continuously replenish the care and love for this place. Rutherford’s current

recognition is a testament to the residents who volunteer to care for this place, the business

owners who invest in their establishments and the Borough employees who come to work

every day with the intent to keep progressing forward.


MO: Rutherford’s acknowledgment as one of the 5 hottest zip codes in Bergen County is a

testament to a number of factors. Our incredible Real Estate brokers and agents deserve much credit as they constantly promote Rutherford drawing potential Residents to discover what Rutherford has to offer.


Our location is another factor. We are in such close proximity to the City and lie in the

crossroads of major highways leading to so many places. The Turnpike, Garden State Parkway, Route 80, Routes 3 and 17 offer an ease of travel.


Rutherford’s volunteer organizations are constantly holding wonderful events. These events offer Residents and those living outside the borough an opportunity to have fun and explore new things. It’s these events that bring Rutherford Residents closer together. These same organizations provide an opportunity for residents to become involved, make friends and work towards common goals.


Our Downtown business districts offer incredible restaurants, merchants and service businesses that appeal to so many residents and those living outside Rutherford. These business owners offer much to our community promoting Rutherford while going about their daily business. A re-energized Chamber of Commerce is a promotional force within Rutherford. These business owners work each day to network amongst themselves and with the outside community allowing others to discover Rutherford and its business excellence.

What makes Rutherford a great place to live is its People. They are our Neighbors and Friends and each day they offer their kindness and warmth to all. When things are at their worst Rutherford answers. The Proof is in the People in Rutherford!


DL: Rutherford is a great place to live because of the people who live here and create the

community that we all enjoy. People that include our families, neighbors, friends,

acquaintances, and those we have never met. People include those who serve the

community, volunteer their time and/or participate in community, sports, or civic

activities, work at and/or support the businesses in town, and welcome and help others, from the visitor to the newcomer to the long-time resident. These people and how they

treat others are what makes Rutherford a great place to live.


As to the first part of the question, it refers to recent advertising/marketing collateral

by Realtor.com in the South Bergenite of Oct 12, 2023, which clearly stated the methodology used as a basis for this “ranking” of Bergen County. Specifically, Realtor.com placed an advertising piece states Realtor.com utilized its website data to separately rank 5 North Jersey counties “based on the number of unique views of property listings and the pace of the market, based on the number of days a listing remains active.”


PT: Despite its myriad problems, Rutherford is unquestionably the gem of southern Bergen County and a wonderful place to live. Yet, if we don’t stop and reverse some of the damage, I fear our town will lose much of its appeal and the quality of life will suffer greatly. To answer your question more specifically - there are a plethora of factors that make us great: the first is the people that reside here. From generations that have been in town to the recent arrivals, Rutherford tends to attract wonderful people with diverse backgrounds and multi-talents. From the business world to the art world, I have met and continue to meet some of the friendliest, talented, and accomplished people that I am proud to call my neighbors. I love the mix of architecture throughout town, our unique and high-quality local businesses and restaurants, our town events and festivals, and I believe our schools provide a top-notch educational experience with dedicated educators and staff. I cannot say enough good things about the education that I received in town and the one my daughter is currently experiencing (she is an 8th-grade student at Union School).

 

TIR: If you are elected or re-elected as Mayor/ Council, how do you plan to involve

residents in the decision-making process?


FN: Rutherford is lucky to have an engaged group of residents willing to volunteer as board, commission, and committee members. These groups are comprised of individuals appointed by the Mayor. Some groups are advisory in nature, some are governed by strict by-laws. All are ways residents can be part of the decision-making process in an organized way.


In my first year as Mayor, despite the limited resources we were all faced with in the midst of a pandemic, I established a committee interview process that for the first time ever wasn’t based solely on the whims of the Mayor. This process created an avenue for people not “in the know” to present how their background can benefit the Borough. That first year we held over 100 interviews via Zoom to re-assess existing Board, Committee, and Commission members and meet new candidates.


What sometimes gets missed in the day of social media is that the government still operates in a very slow, thoughtful and deliberate manner. That is by design in order to hear all sides, not just the loudest. Prior to advertising committee positions (which we will again do in November for 2024), former Mayors often chose people within their own circle. This new process allowed us access to residents who want to be civically responsible but in the past may not have known how to go about it.


SM: Since my first day on the dais, I have always strived to be inclusive and collaborative through my leadership and decision making Over my tenure as Councilwoman, I sought out feedback from both those who support my position, but also sought out the opinions of those who disagreed with me. I will advocate for what is right and I am willing to be the lone voice if needed. However, I believe deeply in the power of collaboration and negotiation to ensure that the best decision for the residents of Rutherford can be reached. Although often teased for being everywhere and at everything, the truth is, I love being a part of all that makes our community amazing. To me, it is important to just be present. Being present provides me with the opportunity to see firsthand how things are going or where we need to improve.


Whether it is working with our Borough Administrator to address an issue with the Kip

elevator for the members of our 55 Kip Center or touring the Borough after a major storm

and working directly with residents to protect their property and garner much-needed

assistance. I understand the importance of making informed decisions and will continue

to do my absolute best in my continued service as Councilwoman.


MC: We started a few years ago with the Council Committee interviews. It was an incredible effort established by the mayor which each of us took part in. This was a brilliant way to

scour the community for persons perfectly suited to help in the day-to-day management of

the Borough.


My favorite example is how the Arts Committee has blossomed into an incredibly effective group of the brightest and most creative residents in town. All of whom contributed

to the Youth Art Month Banner program, Rutherford Rocks music program, Clara’s Tunnel

art displays, the upcoming and inaugural Porch Fest, and other first of their kind efforts.


MO: Involving Residents and making them aware of what is happening in Rutherford is an extremely important part of being Mayor and I pledge to do that from day one. Residents need to know what is happening in their town and in their local government. I will hold information sessions each quarter inviting Residents to attend and ask questions and get answers. These question-and-answer sessions will bring about much-needed dialogue to not only help solve important issues for Residents but to open up a more transparent vision for Rutherford’s present and future.


DL: I will seek to institute policies that I have been proposing to the Mayor and Council for

the past several years that to date have been consistently rebuffed and rejected.


1. Pass a local redevelopment ordinance, as recommended and laid out by the New

Jersey Department of Community Affairs under Governor Murphy, that specifies the criteria and documents that will be created and relied on by a Mayor and Council to make a decision concerning the granting of a tax break to a developer. As the State has recommended, local officials should understand the level of local tax and operational subsidy being provided to a project so as to inform the balancing of priorities during consideration of each proposal. Such a “good government” ordinance installs guardrails on Mayors and Councils by necessarily requiring criteria, documents and analysis that must be undertaken prior to granting tax breaks to thereby create an open, transparent process and protect Borough residents.


2. Discuss matters of heightened importance to the Borough and its future in special public forums and seek resident input prior to the introduction of ordinances authorizing the same. Follow through on promises made with respect to such forums.


3. Make available an agenda and any necessary supporting documentation to be considered at a public meeting well prior to the Friday before a Monday Mayor and Council Meeting so as to allow the public the time and thus the ability to analyze, clarify, discuss, petition, and comment on the agenda matters intelligently both prior

to and at the Monday meeting. For example, I would propose a change in practice so that no longer are residents:

a) only provided a verbal presentation of a dubious financial analysis by the Borough-paid financial analyst (e.g., apartment rent revenue per year severely underestimated by hundreds of thousands and Borough school system yearly cost per student stated to be $9058);


b) provided that verbal presentation only at the meeting at which Mayor and Council approve the grant the tax break; and


c) only given access to a written copy of the presentation after the meeting approving the tax break; all so that under changed practice residents able to make more substantial and substantive comments before give out a tax break to a developer.


4. Follow Roberts Rules at all public meetings.

5. Ensure that proper, functioning microphones/sound system are installed in the

Mayor Council Meeting Room and in use during meetings such that streams/broadcasts/recordings of the meetings actually have useful sound.

6. Answer all resident questions during public meetings in an interactive manner so

questions and answers can be clarified in public at the public meeting, not after the meeting or at the next meeting 2 weeks hence, and so that all residents have the benefit of any clarifications on the public record (i.e., have a public conversation with residents).

7. Give residents a more reasonable amount of time during public meetings to comment on their concerns and ask questions.

8. Permit virtual meetings; that is, allow residents to participate remotely via electronic means as was a State of New Jersey requirement during COVID.


PT: With respect to involving residents in the decision-making process: we need to hold more forums where residents can express themselves. Many of the residents that I speak with feel that they have been shut out of the process. Some have expressed to me that the officials they have dealt with have been unresponsive to their needs. I want to get more people involved in issues that affect their lives, perhaps much more so than national issues. We all want a safe, clean environment with lots of opportunities for children, adults, and seniors. Fortunately, with the technology available, it should be relatively easy for residents to communicate with their representatives and get a prompt response. We will be diligent in responding to the needs of our residents

 

TIR: What do you think are the most important qualities of an effective leader?


FN: Listening more than speaking. I subscribe to the old adage “When you speak you only learn what you already know.”


I’ve always believed that it doesn’t matter if you were a Republican or Democrat, if you were a part of this town with something to contribute, you should be welcome to do so. It’s as simple as that - don’t be threatened by opposing ideas and always hope to have someone in the room who knows something more than you do. That’s how we all learn.


SM: Effective leaders act purposefully and should always be driven by integrity, vision, mission, and the greater-good through problem-solving, collaboration, and decision-making. Effective leaders are innovative, enthusiastic, self-aware, and humble. In my role as Council

President, I strive to demonstrate these qualities while focusing on actively listening,

and communicating clearly with residents, Borough employees, and other electees. Most

importantly, I know the importance of putting in the work, so I make sure I am educated about the business of the people we represent. I have strived to serve as an example of these qualities since being elected and hope to continue exemplifying these practices

moving forward.


MC: As a small business owner and creative professional, I believe that the most effective

leaders recognize their limitations and surround themselves with those who can fill in the proverbial gaps. That effort requires an ability to listen to feedback, recognize the strength in

others and their ideas, and not be intimidated by it. I believe our current council is a perfect embodiment of that concept. All 6 of us and the Mayor come from different walks of life and contribute perspectives each would not have thought of on our own. While we don’t always agree with each other, we communicate effectively and respect each other’s insight.


MO: There are so many important qualities of an effective leader. Listing them is the easy part but truly understanding and living them is what makes all the difference.


Some of these qualities include: Integrity, Stability, Kindness, Positivity, Vision, Confidence, Team-Building, Learning, Adaptability, Collaboration, Focus, Empathy, Respectful, Communication, Creativity, Accountability, Sense of Humor and Listening.

Leaders with these qualities help people thrive in their personal and professional lives.

They encourage others to become engaged, to participate, share their opinions, and know that they will be listened to and heard.


DL: Ability to: empathize, listen, and collaborate with others; understand, question,

analyze, synthesize, and validate/verify information that others give you and you give

others; trust others when appropriate and earn the trust of others; treat others as you wants to be treated.


Openness to: different voices and ways of thinking; questions; and constructive criticism; change.


Fearlessness; willingness to be challenged, to challenge others, and to make decisions.


PT: I have been an owner of a small business my whole adult life. I have led teams of employees, been responsible for budgets, have dealt with members of the public on a daily basis for nearly 30 years, and have had to negotiate and bring people together to build a consensus. One of the most important qualities is to become a great listener. Everyone communicates, but few really connect with people. Every problem is an opportunity to learn and grow and find a viable solution. The best leaders truly listen with an open mind to all points of view, research solutions, reflect greatly before making rash decisions, and ultimately decide judiciously and with great integrity. Other qualities of a great leader (especially with respect to holding office) are a passion for serving, a dedication to fairness, effective communication skills, and an absolute commitment to the principles that have made America great and our form of government the envy of the world.

 

TIR: If you are elected (as either Mayor or Councilmember), which strategies will you use

to manage competing interests and views within the Council to help ensure the best

decisions are made for the Borough?


FN: People may feel that just because the current council is all the same party, we don’t have varying points of view on any given topic. That’s simply not true. In actuality all my colleagues and I strive to have comfortable, open dialogue with each other as needed so that when it comes time to make decisions, we’ve already listened to each other. I myself will continue to maintain an open dialogue at all times to understand where my colleagues are coming from and always look for a solution that works for all.


SM: During my service as Councilwoman, there have been moments at the dais where conflicting opinions and positions were openly discussed and voted on. I have not shied away from standing alone on matters that I felt strongly about. I am incredibly mindful that I represent one of six votes and that despite having a dais of same-party members, we do not all think the same, feel the same, or advocate the same. As such, I have and will continue to be transparent about my thought process and provide feedback to the Mayor and my Council colleagues, as well as the residents, about why I take a particular position. Understanding that my service is about our community and not about my own personal agenda, I will continue to encourage negotiation of challenging issues and ideas to find compromise, encourage the use of factual data and information, and ultimately work to provide the oversight and voice the residents have trusted me with on their behalf.


MC: The best piece of advice I received in the first few days on the council was that “it takes 4 votes to do anything”. This single piece of advice is vital to the effectiveness of the council.

We cannot take for granted that just because the circle of residents that we represent

individually likes an idea that other council member’s circles will feel the same.


I personally put together presentations as if I were still in business development to

present my ideas as well as the facts and figures behind that intended effort. And while my

presentations don’t always win everyone over, it does give my colleagues specific talking

points and areas to focus on for their own research. In most instances, this strategy

produces questions and discussions which lead us to ideas on how to most effectively get

the work done.


Once feedback is integrated, per my answer in question 4, I look to our Borough

Administrator, CFO, and Borough professionals to ensure we are moving forward efficiently

and within the governing parameters of the powers that be.


In closing, I thoroughly love where I live and appreciate the opportunity to help continue

Rutherford’s growth and evolution. I vow to continue on with the same passion and

consideration over the next few years.


MO: There can be many competing interests and viewpoints within a governing body. Each Member is elected to work for the Residents of Rutherford and they are expected to do just that. However, they may have ideas and agendas that may work with or conflict with others. A Mayor must be able to work within these parameters and allow for and promote collaboration among colleagues. The differing opinions and dialogue are meant to bring about discussion, compromise, and better solutions. The important strategies for a Mayor to utilize are positive communication, openness and listening to all viewpoints.


DL: My sole interest is in doing what is in the best interest of the residents of Rutherford.

For that reason, I would not expect to have any competing interests with any Mayor or other Councilmember. I can confidently say that I and my running mates, Mark O’Connor for Mayor and Peter Tuccino for Council, work well together, run ideas and thoughts by each other routinely, challenge each other to refine proposed solutions and answers, and create

better results because of that process.


As to the current Mayor and Councilmembers, I plan to continue employing the leadership qualities I’ve noted above which have served me well in collaborating with others in the workplace as a patent attorney dealing with technical and legal matters around the world, within my circle of friends building relationships, and in my family creating that family for the past 22 years and helping to raise three wonderful girls who are now 19, 19, and 14.


Given our already aligned interest in serving Rutherford’s residents, I would expect my experience carefully listening to the views of the Mayor and Councilmembers and expressing my own, with work, will result in similar successes serving Rutherford as a Councilmember.


PT: So much of governing is about finding a balance, compromising, and sometimes giving a little to get a lot. As implied in the question, we are a nation with a great diversity of thought and ideology with respect to policy and policy-making. First, we have to have transparency when debating. The days of the old smokey cigar rooms are over. The residents need to know that honest debate is taking place without regard to prejudice or bias. Second, all points of view must be heard and given serious thought. Third, all egos must be left at the door. One must decide based on reasoning and what he or she feels is in the best interest of the town, not one’s own self-interest or any alliances that one is loyal to. One of the problems with our current council is they are all of the same political party. While I don’t believe local elections should be partisan, this is the system we currently have and I have to work within it. There is virtually zero dissent among our current council. This is simply not an effective way to operate. We need people to question everything, not just agree and approve. Any organization that has members that think exactly alike, is not operating at its best. If everyone agrees on everything, then only one person is doing the thinking. We NEED some diversity of thought. I, along with my running mates, will bring the necessary different perspectives and work with the others to build a consensus and offer some new ideas to make our town the beacon on the hill that provides all of the residents with the highest quality of life.

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Pauline Alama
Pauline Alama
Nov 06, 2023

It would be great to see a follow-up interview in which candidates respond to each others' answers.

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