SUSSEX COUNTY – With time ticking down and the election only a day away, NJ Inside Scene had the opportunity to speak with the six candidates for Legislative District 24 (which encompasses all of Sussex County, 11 municipalities in Warren County, and Mount Olive Township in Morris County), and we asked them several questions about their candidacy, including their background, why they feel they are most qualified for the office they are seeking, the issues important to them (and which they would like to tackle first), what they consider the biggest hurdles for the residents of Sussex County, and their favorite things about Sussex County. Below, are the results of these conversations, to help our readers to become better acquainted with the candidates, in order to make their choices for Nov. 5.
Editor’s Note: There were a few topics and statements that were controversial, and required further clarification from us. In those areas of the story, we have posted our Editor Notes, within those sections, in italics.
About Steve Oroho
Senator Steve Oroho grew up in Sussex County, and graduated from St. Francis University, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting. His background is in finance, and he has worked in some of New York City’s largest firms, including: Price Waterhouse, W.R. Grace and Company, and Young and Rubicon (where he was Senior Vice President of Finance). Oroho voluntarily left the corporate finance world, to become involved in community service. In addition to his role as Senator, Oroho is a certified financial planner with Stonebridge Capital Management.
Oroho has also served as a coach, and he worked with students at Pope John XXIII High School, coaching baseball and football. He is on the advisory board of the Center for Prevention and Counseling, is involved in the Knights of Columbus, and is very active in his church, where he serves as a lector.
Oroho first sought public office when he became a Franklin Borough Councilman, in which he served from 2001 until 2006. Oroho’s next step was as a Sussex County Freeholder, and he served on the board for one term, and then was elected State Senator in 2007. He was since re-elected in 2011.
In the Senate, Oroho serves on the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, and the Senate Economic Growth Committee. He serves on the Governor’s Red Tape Review Commission, having been appointed there by Governor Chris Christie. He is also involved in the New Jersey Commission on Capital Budgeting and Planning, and the New Jersey Unemployment Insurance Task Force.
The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and the New Jersey Society for Environmental, Economic Development (NJ SEED) have both awarded Oroho with Legislator of the Year. The New Jersey Business and Industry Association has given him the “Paul L. Troast Public Service Award,” an award given to those serving the public that the association deems as having made significant contributions to the state and the business community for their service.
Oroho and his wife reside in Sussex County, and they have five children, and two grandchildren.
Why He Feels He is Most Qualified to Remain Senator
“I have a record of working for making New Jersey and economic powerhouse,” Oroho said.
Oroho names job creation, significant tax policy changes, and working with both sides of the aisle, as some of his accomplishments.
“I’ve got a reputation of getting it done, and we have a lot more to do,” Oroho added.
Oroho said because of all the tax and fee increases between 2002 and 2009, New Jersey lost its competitive edge, private sector jobs, and significant capital.
“Every state has to compete for capital,” said Oroho. “Capital equals investment, investment equals jobs.”
One of the debates surrounding this election has been over the minimum wage increase, which Oroho and his team do not advocate.
“There’s a federal standard,” Oroho said.
Pennsylvania, he said, will not be changing its minimum wage. Should New Jersey decide to, Oroho said, it may send New Jerseyans across the border to Pennsylvania for products, as there would be a predicted spike in goods and services in New Jersey with a wage increase. Pennsylvanians could, on the inverse, come to New Jersey for jobs, which force New Jerseyans to further compete for work, this time with their neighbors from Pennsylvania.
A phased in increase was proposed, which was rejected across the aisle, which is now why it is on the referendum. If it passes, it will be placed in the New Jersey Constitution, and tied to the Consumer Price Index.
In terms of jobs Oroho and his team have been working on for New Jersey, Oroho said, “I do firmly believe we’re trying to attract jobs that are quality pay, with significant compensation.
Important Issues to Oroho and Ones He Plans to Tackle – And Some of the Biggest Hurdles for New Jerseyans
In terms of tax policy, Oroho feels one of the issues that he has worked on, is policies that reduce taxes.
“We’ve done significant work, there’s still more to do,” he said.
“The biggest issue we have up here is with Fair School Funding,” Oroho said.
In turn, the school funding impacts property taxes.
Oroho, and his colleagues, Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose, and Assemblyman Parker Space, are proponents for the Fair School Funding Act. Along with it, Oroho said, taxes would be stabilized. Another measure to help municipalities in cost saving, is the municipal toolkit, for which all members of Oroho’s team have agreed, there is still work to be done with the toolkit, in approving bills that complement it. A cap on state spending is something else that Oroho advocates.
The Highlands Act is another hurdle, which Oroho and his colleagues feel have been a challenge for Sussex County residents, in terms of economic development, and job creation, because it has been too restrictive.
Favorite Things About Sussex County
When asked what Oroho’s favorite qualities about Sussex County are, he first replied that Legislative District 24 is the largest legislative district in the state, with 36 municipalities in total.
“The people are terrific, they’re genuine, they’re nice, they’re hardworking,” Oroho said.
“The district itself is beautiful,” he said. “I drive lots and lots of miles a year, and see many places.”
Oroho estimates he drives approximately 36,000 to 40,000 miles per year around the state.
He further notes about the area’s beauty, commenting about its assets in terms of the balance that Legislative District 24 holds.
“People and Nature together,” Oroho said, quoting the slogan one sees when first driving into Sussex County.
About Rich Tomko
Dr. Rich Tomko and his wife are both from Bergen County originally. He grew up in Lyndhurst, having graduated from Queen of Peace High School in North Arlington. He and he and his family lived in Fair Lawn, before coming to Sparta a decade ago. There are four children rounding out the Tomko Family, two boys and two girls.
Tomko is the Superintendent of Schools for Elmwood Park, NJ, in the western portion of Bergen County.
Tomko holds a Doctorate Degree (Ph.D) in Educational Administration from Seton Hall University. He earned a graduate certificate as well from Penn State, and is currently enrolled in a Professional Development and Leadership Law Program, more specifically a Master Juris Prudence Program, with Loyola University.
He is an advocate for continuing education.
“I can’t expect my teachers to do it, if I don’t do it,” Tomko said.
Tomko also teaches, and does so at the college level, at Manhattan College, and Bergen County Community College.
Tomko is involved as a youth mentor, volunteers his times with the Boy Scouts, and coach for student athletics. He is the Vice President and Trustee of Sparta Girls Sports, coaches Sparta PAL Basketball.
Why He Feels He is Most Qualified to Be Senator
Tomko feels that in Sussex County the numbers for poverty and unemployment are too high, and has expressed that it has not improved since his Republican contender has taken office.
“They’re [the statistics] horrendous,” he said, quoting a rise of 5.8 percent for poverty, a 25 percent climb in property taxes, and unemployment at 9.1 percent, which he said was 4 percent, six years ago.
He would like to see diversity in the offices, with more bipartisan representation.
“The Republicans have not been challenged in over 20 years [in Sussex County], it’s not a system of checks and balances,” said Tomko.
He said that there is not enough focus on issues specifically for Sussex County, but for New Jersey overall, from the current team.
Tomko also does not advocate Fair School Funding, referring to it as “smoke and mirrors,” stating that the Republicans permitted Governor Christie, to “annihilate funding” in the schools. He said that the Abbott Districts (those that are in urban areas and ruled by the Supreme Court as providing inadequate education) is case laws.
He disagrees that the Governor, he feels, will not properly apply monies back into property taxes as well, using as an example the cost of the special election on Oct. 16. (Editor’s Note: The New York Times reported a $24 million estimated price tag for this election)
Tomko said that the schools also have unfunded mandates, costs that the municipalities cannot account for, such as when a new student comes into the district requiring special education, which he said can add on an unexpected 60,000, to the budget.
He feels that the municipal toolkit will not help out.
“That’s my expertise [understanding of educational funding],” he said. “If it wasn’t smoke and mirrors, it would have been done already.”
Tomko said that in his position already as superintendent, he works with state legislators.
When NJ Inside Scene asked Tomko if he would be permitted to hold two public positions, as a New Jersey State Senator and a School Superintendent, because he would be receiving two public paychecks, he replied that he would still remain in his role as superintendent. He said that he has approached the State Monitor and State Commissioner of Education before making his run for office, and received approval for both. Tomko said there are state laws that permit superintendents and teachers to run for office.
(Editor’s Note: NJ Inside Scene did some further research on this topic, and found that it is permitted for legislators to be publicly employed for another source of income – and must disclose if they are for themselves and their spouses. Additionally, legislators must provide financial disclosure statements to the Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards, each May 15. Click here for further information. In Tomko’s case, if elected, he would be receiving three public paychecks, if he also continues to teach at Bergen County Community College, in addition to receiving a legislator’s and superintendent’s salary.
NJ Inside Scene also found that, according to a 2011 NJ.com article, 36 legislators at the time the article was written supplemented their $49,000 legislative pay, with their second income in another public service position.)
Tomko said if elected, he will have staff assisting him, and that state law provides leave time for him to be able to balance the responsibilities of both positions. In this article, it also said that Gov. Christie did not favor public workers carrying more than one public paycheck, legislators included.
Important Issues to Tomko and Ones He Plans to Tackle – And Some of the Biggest Hurdles for New Jerseyans
Tomko would like to begin right away on reinstating tax breaks for seniors, he said, with the school property taxes, and also put monies back into the pensions for retired police officers and firefighters.
“For us to do that to them [not funding pensions} it’s horrific,” said Tomko, who said that the cost of living allowance, must also be taken into consideration, and raised to battle inflatio, which he said has remained flat over the past four years.
Tomko said he is mandated to put $600 per paycheck into his pension, and it bothers him that these monies were withheld.
“I hope whoever is Governor when I retire is not like Governor Christie, and keeps promises,” said Tomko.
(Editor’s Note: The Governor has enacted pension reform, but NJ.com reported in an article that a prospectus read that future pension payments next year of $1.7 billion, is project at $5.5 billion in 2018 –- and may burden “all aspects of the State’s finances.” On the other hand, an editorial in NJ.com acknowledged the Governor’s $1.67 billion deposit into the fund, which will begin to stabilize it – at the same time, public employees will pay more for it and health benefits, than they had in the past.
“We need to take care of the people, who took care of us,” said Tomko.
Tomko is also against corporate tax incentives, and used Thorlabs as an example. He emphasized, he is not against Thorlabs, he said he is against the 40-year tax break they have received.
“Not everyone in Thorlabs is from Sussex County,” he said, advocating more jobs for Legislative District 24 for Sussex County residents.
“People can’t find jobs here, they’re leaving they’re frustrated,” Tomko said.
(Editor’s Note: Thorlabs was additionally a topic for discussion during the radio debate between Oroho and Tomko on WRNJ on Oct. 29. When Oroho corrected Tomko during the program, to recheck the facts about the program, Tomko admitted he may have had the facts wrong, though he admitted he did not blame Thorlabs.
On Thorlabs’ website, in a press release, the company explained their program, which was described as a redevelopment effort between the company, and the Town of Newton.
Thorlabs worked with the Town of Newton, to transform a six-acre brownfield and former industrial site, that had been abandoned for many years, and redeveloped it. There was a $4M Redevelopment Area Bond and PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) – the $4M in financing would be repaid over 30 years, in lieu of property tax payments. The Federal Government assisted Thorlabs with securing $6.175M low-interest loans for redevelopment.
Click here for complete press release from Thorlabs on this topic. Also, from Lakeland Bank, which worked with both the town and the company with financing, is information about Lakeland’s involvement as trustee.)
He is also an advocate for the Equal Pay Act.
Tomko considers himself a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, and has said that the Republicans are backed by the NRA, and want no restrictions. He has in the past, stated, and stated once again during his interview with NJ Inside Scene that Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose, has repealed the ban on dum-dum (hollow point) bullets. McHose has countered Tomko frequently in return on this topic, and the statements he has made about her in reference to this topic are erroneous. (Editor’s Note: The bill, click here to view, states that those possessing this type of ammunition for unlawful purposes, will have steeper penalties, except for those using it for lawful purposes. According to the bill, this type of ammunition is “unrestricted in virtually all other states.” ). McHose has included her own statement on the topic of hollow point ammunition, and it is within the section of this article pertaining to her candidate statement.)
Tomko said that he spoke to school officials in Newtown, Conn., following the tragedy, and was told that the crime scene was so horrific in the school, that only police who were combat trained, were permitted entry.
“As an administrator, I ask where are your guns when your children are in school?” Tomko told NJ Inside Scene.
Answering his own inquiry, Tomko replied that the guns are at home, while the parents are working, and the only delay administrators and teachers have is 9-1-1.
“Your guns aren’t going to help me when your children are at school,” he said.
When NJ Inside Scene asked Tomko if he believed then, that teachers and administrators should carry firearms, after seeing photos floating around on Facebook of Israeli teachers being armed, he disagreed with the idea. He said that he wears zipper ties, after nearly being choked as a young administrator, when a person yanked on his tie, pulling him to the ground. He feels that teachers carrying weapons could result in a misfire, or a perpetrator grabbing a weapon – similar to what happened with his tie, he feels that arming teachers could provide an advantageous situation for a perpetrator, to turn on the teacher and take their weapon.
Favorite Things About Sussex County
Tomko said the first draw is the beautiful scenery in the county.
“It’s such a diversified group of people up here,” he added, acknowledging the breadth of types of people who live in the county.
He and his wife came from Bergen County to provide their children with what they envisioned would be a better life, and were not disappointed.
“Here you have privacy and nature, versus Bergen County where you can see what your neighbors are eating for breakfast,” he said.
Tomko is amazed by the drive from the more rural stretches of the county, from Wantage, for example, where you can buy farm fresh eggs, then proceed along 23 for a cup of Starbucks in Franklin, and drive along further and be able to still see farm animals. And how larger municipalities, like Sparta, still have the blend of rural, mixed in with the suburbs.
“It all seems to work together,” he said.
Tomko likes how others respect one another in the county, and feels that the constituents in Mount Olive, included in the 24th District, also blend in.
“It’s an incredible place,” he said. “I’d like to make sure it stays this way.”
Tomko is for the Highlands Act, and realizes that there are some portions that can go, but does not believe it should be repealed in its entirety. He is concerned about the water supply, and fracking.
About Alison Littell McHose
Alison Littell McHose was born and raised in Franklin, graduated from Pope John XXIII High School, and then graduated from the University of Maryland, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Government and Politics, with her concentration in Economics.
McHose returned home to live in New Jersey, and she and her husband have three children.
“I love serving the constituents and to be their voice,” she said.
McHose comes from a legacy of service to the legislature, having served with her father, Senator Robert E. Littell, the first father-daughter team, and her grandfather, Alfred B. Littell, served in both houses of the legislatures, as well as having served as Senate President and Acting Governor. She is the first woman to be a legislator for District 24, and also to give birth while in office.
Prior to her tenure as a legislator, which began in 2003 after she was chosen by the committee to fill Scott Garrett’s term when he was elected Congressman, McHose served as a legislative aide for seven years. Some other legislators, such as Michael Patrick Carroll (R-25) and Kevin O’Toole (R-40), were also legislative aides prior to serving.
“We got to know both sides of the process,” she said.
Why She Feels She is Most Qualified to Remain Assemblywoman
“I feel that Parker Space, and I make a great team, along with Senator Oroho,” McHose said. “I feel that we represent the core issues that we support, which reflect the core values of the district. We are about small government, less regulations, and to grow the economy. People recognize that we don’t waver, and that we have strong convictions.”
Important Issues to McHose and Ones She Plans to Tackle – And Some of the Biggest Hurdles for New Jerseyans
Property taxes are still number one,” she said.
Under Governor Christie’s leadership, she said, bills that are part of the municipal toolkit need to go through.
As part of the property tax reform, educational funding and the issue of Fair School Funding are important components to McHose.
“Right now, it’s very unfair,” she said, with monies going to certain districts only, and McHose and her colleagues would like to see funding to schools in Sussex County.
There are other restrictions on the tax system, that McHose said require restructuring. New Jersey, she said, is one of two states with inheritance and death taxes.
“We want people to have the ability to stay in New Jersey, and not leave,” she said.
Improving the quality of life for Sussex County residents, McHose said, with the large burden of property taxes, has been a challenge, and would like Sussex County residents to also have the ability to work closer to their homes.
The Highlands Act is one of those restrictions, which, she feels is further tying the hands of those who live in Sussex County.
“I believe in my heart, we have many restrictions, and guidelines, that protect the water and land [through the NJ DEP],” McHose said. “The extra bureaucracy is not needed.”
The Highlands Act, McHose said, is preventing families who have owned land for many generations, from passing it on to their children and grandchildren. She said she would like to restore that to the people.
McHose also responded to the controversy about hollow point ammunition that has been brought up by Dr. Rich Tomko, Democratic Candidate for Senate.
“New Jersey’s laws regulating the possession of firearms and ammunition by otherwise law-abiding persons are confusing to most citizens and law enforcement officers,” she said. “My bill is intended to remove some of this confusion. Current law prohibits possession of hollow point ammunition but in the next paragraph includes an exemption so that a person may purchase this ammunition and transport it to his dwelling and possess it in his dwelling. This exemption is confusing to law enforcement officers and the public alike. While many people have been arrested and prosecuted for the mere possession of “hollow point” ammunition in New Jersey, such ammunition is unrestricted in virtually all other states.”
“In addition, New Jersey has a very good program of allowing retired police officers to carry a concealed firearm,” McHose continued. “However, they cannot use hollow point ammunition in their firearms. Hollow point ammunition is safer because the likelihood of a ricochet is minimized. And hollow nosed target ammunition is generally considered more accurate at long ranges than other types of ammunition.”
And don’t take my word for it, take South Jersey Democrat Senator Jeff Van Drew (D-1) who has a similar bill,” McHose concluded.
Favorite Things About Sussex County
“We have so many beautiful places,” said McHose. “Including lakes, mountains, parks, ski areas. All year round we have opportunities for recreation. We don’t have to drive far to enjoy these things.”
About Parker Space
Parker Space is a lifetime resident of Sussex County, with his family planting roots in the county beginning in the 1750s. He is the 16th generation here, and third generation owner of Space Farms. He is married, and has three children.
He has served on the Wantage Fire Department, including acting as its chief, with his family line back to his grandfather (who started the department), and including his son, having served.
In addition to owning Space Farms, he is a fourth generation farmer.
Space’s political career began with the Wantage Township Committee, where he also served as the township’s deputy mayor and mayor. Space also served on the township’s land use board. He was then elected into a seat on the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, where he was the Freeholder Director. Space is also the Sussex County State Committeeman for the NJ GOP.
Space is additionally a director for the Sussex Rural Electric Co op, a member of the Sussex County Republican Committee beginning in 2002, a lifetime member of the NRA, a member of the NFIB, and a member of the New Jersey Farm Bureau.
Why He Feels He is Most Qualified to Remain Assemblyman
“Anything I do on the level of an elected official, I take my own experience and business life,” Space said. “You have to use a common sense approach to anything you do in life.”
“I’m not your average state legislator,” Space added, with many of his legislative counterparts having more legal or accounting backgrounds.
Space emphasizes his accessibility to constituents, often noting that they come by to Space Farms to talk to him. Space said he travels throughout the state, and often hears from constituents in other areas, how inaccessible other legislators are to the residents they serve, and are difficult to find.
Space said his number is in the phone book, and the phone will ring throughout the night at times. Even a trip to the local A&P for a few items, often takes Space an hour to complete, as he is frequently stopped there, and gladly takes the time to answer inquiries for constituents.
Important Issues to Space and Ones He Plans to Tackle – And Some of the Biggest Hurdles for New Jerseyans
Making New Jersey more business friendly, and bringing jobs back, Space said, are tasks important to Governor Christie, and in turn, ones that are important to him. Space feels that the McGreevey and Corzine Administrations placed the state in peril with the debt that emerged from those offices.
“The Governor [Christie] does such a good job bringing jobs back,” said Space. “There are so many restrictions on businesses, we need to free them up.”
Space said there are too many taxes and over-regulations.
Space disagrees with raising the minimum wage, which he feels will only harm New Jersey, triggering a spike in prices for businesses to compensate, and in turn, will send New Jerseyans across the river for goods and services in Pennsylvania.
Space personally pays his own employees above minimum wage, and does not like the idea of rewarding an employee that may not be performing well in their job.
“Why reward bad productivity?” he asked.
As a small business owner, Space said that when times are tight, business owners cannot receive a paycheck, and will forgo one for their employees. Such as in the case of Hurricane Irene, which struck in 2011 in the midst of Space Farms high season. Tacking on the minimum wage requirements, which elevates with the cost of living and is tied to the Consumer Price Index, would further harm small businesses.
Space feels there are too many restrictions and over-regulations on small businesses that are hampering them.
Fair School Funding is another issue Space has strong feelings about. He said 60 percent of the tax monies in Sussex County goes to urban schools, with rural schools being shortchanged.
“We are throwing good money to bad, it hasn’t worked for many years,” Space said.
He said until the Abbott Court ruling can be changed, this is one of the biggest challenges for Sussex County residents. Fair School Funding, in turn, will provide relief in property taxes, said Space.
The Highlands Act also impacts property values with its restrictions.
“I’m all for the environment,” said Space. “The biggest issue people push for is feel good agendas.”
These restrictions, on taxes and the Highlands, once lifted, Space said, will help to stimulate business and the economy.
“We are lifting restrictions one step at a time,” said Space, of he and his counterparts, McHose and Oroho.
Space said he, McHose and Oroho, would like to finish the job that they started.
Space has some insight as well into farming and issues having to do with animals, that others campaigning, and many in office do not, and is on the Agricultural & Natural Resources Committee, as well as the Assembly Labor Committee.
He said when he tours farms in his capacity as Assemblyman, New Jersey farmers view him as someone they can relate to.
“People sometimes roll in, in a suit and tie, people like to have the perception that ‘he [meaning Space himself] is just like me,’” Space said.
Spaces is endorsed by small business associations, and the NRA, he feels that the current gun restrictions hamper law abiding citizens, and that the criminals, which the restrictions are intended to stop, do not abide by the laws and restrictions, regardless of their being in place.
Favorite Things About Sussex County
Space said there is still a hometown feel in Sussex County, one of the county’s assets.
“If someone has a flat tire here, someone else will help you without the fear of being mugged,” he said.
He looks at the scenery and beauty as assets, and said one of his first views at sunrise is of Sunrise Mountain.
“This [Sussex County] is one of the best places to live,” Space said.
One of Space’s goals is to keep the county affordable for future generations.
About Bill Weightman
Bill Weightman visited Sussex County in the summers with his family, having grown up in Palisades Park, and then in Ridgefield. He later moved up to Sussex County with his wife and children.
Weightman has had a diverse background having helped to run his family’s bar when he was a young man, to having been a boxer.
Weightman has earned multiple college degrees, including his Bachelor’s in Political Science, and Master’s in Sociology from New Jersey City University. He also holds a Master’s Degree from Fordham University, in Sociology and Urban Planning, and has a Certificate of Achievement in Psychometrics from Cornell University in Ithaca. He has also studied Public Management at Rutgers. He has taught sociology, criminology, economics, and political science at the college level.
Much of his career has been involved with developing aptitude tests for Spanish-speaking immigrants entering the United States. Part of this job background and studies of workers and students, earned him an invitation to the White House during Bill Clinton’s Presidency, where he met the Secretaries of State and Education.
From 1999 until 2013, Weightman served as the Administrator at One Stop for Sussex and Warren Counties, through the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. For that effort, he earned four awards for customer service with the Sussex County Chamber of Commerce, and for Volunteering, with the Rotary.
Over the years, he has been very active with non-profit groups, such as Literacy Volunteers, and NORWESCAP, which are local. On the national level, Weightman helped to establish Arthur and Friends, which is a charity for people with disabilities. This garnered more attention from the White House, as well as New Jersey’s Governor.
“I was never a bystander in life,” he said.
Why He Feels He is Most Qualified to Become Assemblyman
“We have too many politicians,” said Weightman.
Weightman described a politician as someone who is concerned with getting elected. He considers himself more of a statesman instead, who is concerned about the next generation, not the next moment.
With his eyes looking towards the future, as well as for people, and especially in terms of employment, he considers himself a viable candidate.
“I know jobs better than anyone, I have put a lot of hard hats throughout New Jersey,” he said.
Weightman considers himself a fighter for helping people, and relates back to his time as a boxer.
“I always get up again,” Weightman said.
Weightman considers himself a good listener, and someone who knows to make people laugh.
“I will fight for the underdog,” he said.
Weightman said he would take his shirt off his back, literally, for someone else. Once a person who came to the One Stop did not have a necktie, and Weightman took off his own tie and gave it to them.
In terms of his days when he managed his family’s bar, he also looks to his experiences, as assets in his political career.
“I was able to take keys off of people, and get them home safely,” Weightman said. “It was people over profit. You learn how to read people.”
“We need a new spirit, we need a new leadership up here.” He said. “You need a loyal opposition. Not having a different voice, there is a problem. You need some competitiveness; otherwise, it’s political cronyism. There should be a candidate for every slot.”
Important Issues to Weightman and Ones He Plans to Tackle – And Some of the Biggest Hurdles for New Jerseyans
With his background having been in the employment field, Weightman is a proponent for raising the Minimum Wage.
“The Middle Class hasn’t gotten a raise in a long time,” said Weightman.
He said in New Jersey, there are 16,000 millionaires alone.
“We need to do a lot of changes,” he said. “The minimum wage is a stimulus to the economy. People spend their increase. Both are meant to keep the economy jump started.”
He said in terms of jobs, New Jersey has the fewest per capital, and the wages are unfair, with residents having to balance several jobs at once to make ends meet.
He would like to see more jobs within the county.
“To make a decent job, you have to commute out of the county,” Weightman said.
Weightman also said that in 20 years, 40 percent of the workforce would be comprised of freelance workers.
Weightman has assisted companies with raising productivity, having worked with companies on test fairness, and said skills need to be upgraded for the workforce, to bring back jobs.
“We don’t know all the skills for the 21st Century,” he said.
He also said New Jersey must have an improvement of its infrastructure, and he said he is serious about infrastructure improvements. He said the roads, dams, tunnels, bridges, and more are aging. However, he said he has seen some projects, like the Pulaski Skyway that have had extensive funds channeled repairing it, into it, while it is still structurally obsolete.
The infrastructure issue affects residents in Sussex and Warren Counties especially, where it is necessary, he said to have a car, and without mass transit, it makes it difficult to go to a job without a car.
Weightman said the issues in Sussex County with fewer jobs, and the problems with the infrastructure, are causing the younger generation, to leave permanently, once they have grown up and left the area for college.
“Kids don’t come back,” Weightman said. “It’s the wages, the quality of life. It’s the housing. It’s jobs. It’s infrastructure.”
Favorite Things About Sussex County
“I think Sussex County is the prettiest place in the state,” Weightman said.
Yet Weightman said, “I really passionately believe we need to improve the quality of life up here.”
He feels he does not want to change the way of life up here completely, and when Governor Chris Christie and Weightman talked back and forth during the Vernon Town Hall about casinos, Weightman was not suggesting a casino for Sussex County. He instead suggested Atlantic City become geared for tourism, with others now going to places out of state, such as Mt. Airy Lodge, for activities they could participate in within New Jersey.
He said the Skylands Region is no different and needs funding, that is often sent to places such as the New Jersey Shore.
Weightman sees that improvements in infrastructure need to take place first in Legislative District 24, in order to further improve its place as a tourism destination.
About Susan Williams
Susan Williams grew up in Queens, until she relocated to Union County in New Jersey. She and her husband moved to Sussex County approximately 18 years ago, first to Byram, and then to Sparta. Sussex County is a part of the state, which they have grown to love, and a place where they have chosen to raise their three children.
Williams describes her background as diverse, having been a small business owner, and social worker.
Why She Feels She is Most Qualified to Become Assemblywoman
“I have a diverse background, I understand about being fiscally responsible, I understand human nature,” she said. “I understand policy.”
Williams feels that in many cases, the current form of government has been “pennywise and pound foolish.”
“I think long term,” she said. “You need to look at the whole picture. Look at the manageable parts of the issue, and what is creating to problem.”
Williams feels there is too much fighting involved with the issues, rather than working together. She feels that people are drawn to Sussex County for its character, which either must be changed, or leave how it is –- but in either case, a decision must be made. She alludes it with a simple analogy, as to how she has fought much of her life with her curly hair, trying to make it what it is naturally not –- when she started to work with it, and accept it for what it was, it became more manageable to work with.
“We are rural, we have a lot of open space, we don’t have a lot of infrastructure,” Williams said.
Important Issues to Williams and Ones She Plans to Tackle – And Some of the Biggest Hurdles for New Jerseyans
In terms of Sussex County’s already rural character, Williams feels why not work with these characteristics already, and build up the town centers, creating more walking districts?
“A lot of younger people don’t want to be driving,” she added, envisioning more artsy shops, eateries, and music venues around the area, in town centers.
“This is what people are drawn to and want to be a part of the community,” Williams said.
In terms of jobs, she envisions more high technical workplaces, with higher paying jobs, for Legislative District 24, and advocates more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Education.
“The poverty level has gone up,” Williams said.
She said that Sussex County particularly holds fewer jobs, as reflected when she read the Help Wanted ads, and many must commute further distances for work. She would like to see them closer to home.
In terms of property tax restructuring, Williams feels there is a need, though she does not have an exact answer for it, and feels it must be looked at closer. Those she also feels, those that move to areas with higher taxes, may not mind in certain cases.
“Are we willing to forgo good school systems?” she asked.
Williams referred to Texas schools, where the taxes are lower, but the schools are not considered as high quality.
“Is that what we want?” she asked.
Williams advocates a “Smart Growth Platform” which some, she said, have dismissed. She, however, has described it as well-thought out, which has elements of marketing and networking with coalitions, businesses, and the schools.
One of the issues she feels extremely strong about is the Highlands Act.
“We are in an environmentally sensitive area, as a representative, I’d be a derelict to turn my back on millions of people,” she said.
Williams said Legislative District 24 as part of the Highlands area, is the headwaters of New Jersey’s drinking supply. She is concerned what could happen with removal of the Highlands Act, and if heavy industry could come in. She feels much development has already occurred in the area, there are many units already for sale, and asks why development should continue when those vacancies have not been filled?
“You’re putting the cart before the horse,” she said.
When asked about agencies, such as the DEP, which may add a safeguard to the environment, Williams said she has researched into agencies, such as the DEP, EPA, and FDA, and has concerns about the protection they offer. Some examples are the EPA’s views on fracking, also regarding some decisions made by the FDA.
“There are some things that are happening in our food chain, that you don’t want to know about,” said Williams.
When asked what can be done about those agencies, she replied, “That’s bigger than me, all I can do is fight the good fight. People have to become aware.”
Williams does feel, however, that there are points with the Highlands Act, which are too restrictive.
“With the Highlands Act, people can’t build a barn, and that’s crazy,” she said.
“I’m not an all or nothing person,” said Williams, further describing herself.
The drinking water, however, is something she will not bend on.
“Drinking water is nothing to be cavalier about,” said Williams.
And she said that the effects of fracking hold a 1,600-year half-life on the water supply.
“Water is becoming more of a commodity,” she said.
When visiting with her husband’s family, for example, out in the middle part of the country, she realizes how precious the water supply in the Sussex County area is. She said she has developed severe reactions from drinking the water there during the visits.
“We have great water here, why risk it?” asked Williams.
Williams recognizes a balance between economic growth and quality of life.
“I think we can do both,” she said.
She summarizes it all can happen with her Smart Growth Platform, more high-paying jobs (in industries that are not high-polluting), lower taxes, and protection of the drinking water.
At the same time, Williams does not describe herself as a “zealot” for the causes.
William does note that Mount Olive is in a different position than Sussex County.
Raising the minimum wage, she feels will help residents.
“People can’t make enough money, it’s a catch 22,” she said.
Like her running mates, Williams advocates the raising of the minimum wage to stimulate the economy. She sees the catch 22 in not enough jobs, because of lack of growth. She also sees Sussex County as a place that may not embrace changes and new ideas.
She said residents should either embrace new ideas, or keep things the way they are, and be accepting of them that way.
Favorite Things About Sussex County
“I love it,” Williams said about the county. “I love having animals wandering through my yard. I am always taking pictures. I love that it’s safe. I love that we don’t have traffic. I love that we can see the stars.”
Williams admitted when she first arrived in the county from Union County, she looked at it as “too rural” and “too different.”
Having grown up in Queens though, and struggling with asthma as a child with the pollution, she said she appreciates the air here, and the other characteristics that make Sussex County what it is.
Williams said when she returns to Union County for a visit, she told NJ Inside Scene that she now shakes her head, and states, “I could never be here.”
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