Three candidates seek to serve the remaining year on Mayor Jeff Martin’s unexpired township council term.
David Maher, Edward Stackhouse, Jr. and Charles Whalen, Sr. have all entered the race for a one-year term on council. Whalen has been serving in the seat since January, when he was appointed to fill a vacancy created by Martin’s move from council to the mayor’s office.
Republican David Maher, 53, works as a life safety consultant. He holds an associate’s degree in fire science. He has been a member of Nottingham Fire Company for more than 30 years, and previously served as a fire commissioner for Hamilton Township District 7and as president and deputy chief of Nottingham Fire Company. Maher served on the township zoning board for seven years, ending his term in January. He is a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Married to his wife Joanne for more than 30 years, Maher has two children, Christopher and Laura.
Edward “Ed the Barber” Stackhouse, Jr., 52, is a partner in the corporation of 33’s Barber Shop. He has worked 27 years as a barber. Stackhouse quit school following 8th grade, but passed the GED test a few years later and joined the Army. Upon returning from the Army, he enrolled in barbering school. In addition to his role as a barber, Stackhouse is best known for his support of local organizations, including the Sunshine Foundation, St Baldrick’s, Playing for the Pink, Recovery Advocates and youth sports and activities throughout Mercer County. He once rode a bike for eight hours at the Y to raise money, and regularly gives haircuts to the homeless and those in need of back-to-school haircuts. He is running as an independent candidate.
Democrat Charles “Chuddy” Whalen, 61, has served on Hamilton Township council since January 2020. He previously served on the township planning and zoning board. He is assistant business manager at Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 9, chairman of the Local 9 health and welfare fund, treasurer of the Mercer/Burlington Building Trades Council, treasurer of the New Jersey State Pipe Trades Council, Treasurer of the Mechanical Allied Crafts Council of New Jersey and vice president of the Mercer County Central Labor Council. He is a 1977 graduate of Steinert High School, as well as a graduate of the Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 9 Apprenticeship Program. Whalen is a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 1. He is a former coach of youth baseball, youth football and the Hamilton Post 31 baseball team.
The Hamilton Post provided the same four policy questions to each candidate, who then had a week to formulate written responses. The questions and responses appear below:
In his State of Hamilton address, Mayor Jeff Martin said Hamilton faces “very serious fiscal and infrastructure challenges.” Do you agree with the mayor’s assessment? How do you propose the township council tackle the problem?
Maher: First, he is as much to blame as the previous administration that he wants to point fingers at. He was president of council and saw this coming; he and the all-Democratic council could have vetoed the budget, made changes or sent it back. Instead they did nothing. The township needs to do more to get a lot of these vacant properties turned around so we can see more tax revenue from these sites. There has been a lack of economic development in this town, and we need to do more to support growth.
Stackhouse: Hamilton needs to stop borrowing, building and get a grasp on spending. Hamilton has seen a boom in new residential homes and big box warehouses, not to mention 3 or 4 more Wawas. Where’s the money? The township services debt to the tune of about $10 million a year on municipal bonds. A $71,481 bond that was never used for its intended purpose sat while township residents paid the interest.
Whalen: Yes, I think the global pandemic has unfortunately put all of us in uncertain times. The best way to address these issues is to take a serious look at the budget line-by-line and assess all township-wide appropriations to reevaluate spending patterns. Secondly, outside resources such as Community Development Block Grants have been methodically used throughout the township to mitigate the unforeseen economic impact on our local businesses and township-wide financial health. Programs such as these should be expanded toward our hospitality industry to assist in rebuilding the strong economic foundation of all our small businesses.
The Local Finance Board approved the township’s plan for fire consolidation, paving the way for a single township fire department after a years-long effort to consolidate. With that issue on track to be resolved, what do you think is the most important issue facing Hamilton Township?
Maher: Most importantly we need to make sure that our police and fire departments have everything they need to perform the duties of their job, so that not only can they protect our town but go home after each shift. The rising tax issues in this town are forcing people to move out, we need to get this under control and stop the bleeding. I would like to see something like they do in Voorhees. When you shop local, you earn tax credits. Here is a solution that can support local buisness as well as help our residents.
Stackhouse: One of the last big properties in Hamilton up for redevelopment is the Congoleum site. Hamilton has shelled out $20,000 for a consulting firm to look at the best way to utilize the property. I do not believe it is a wise choice to put more housing at that location, the council has been approached by a few different warehouse developers and a handful of residential developers. I say warehouse, and instead of messing with the wetlands down the road on Sweet Briar, do some solar on solid ground.
Whalen: Public safety will always be top priority. While we have made excellent strides to fully achieving fire district consolidation, there are still critical additional steps for finality. As a lifelong union member, I understand the importance of ensuring that our first responders get the protections and benefits they deserve as they work tirelessly, especially in these trying times to keep our community safe. Additionally, small businesses need our help in streamlining township services and resources to preserve their ability to be a cornerstone in Hamilton’s vibrant economy.
This summer, the deaths of Black Americans like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor brought issues of racial equity to the forefront of the national conversation. Hamilton Township was no exception, and was the site of several rallies. Hamilton is extremely diverse. Council, however, is not. Do you see this as an issue? How can council invite diverse voices into the decision making of the township?
Maher: I support those who will stand and defend equality. Racism has no place in Hamilton or our country. I see us all as one; we are Hamiltonians and Americans. I fully encourage whoever you are to get involved in your local politics, run for office, ask questions of those in charge. We all need to be a part of the solution.
Stackhouse: I would like to see more diversity on the council in coming years. That can become a reality in November by electing an Independent candidate, one not tied to party lines. All voices should and need to be heard, from South Broad to Bromley, the Square to Cornell Heights, Yardville to Mercerville. I would like to see a council/community committee with representatives from each of the small communities throughout Hamilton. The committee would be a bridge to better communicate issues affecting each community and Hamilton as a whole. I would personally work towards forming this alliance if elected.
Whalen: As a union leader, I am committed to equality for all. The unjust actions toward George Floyd has reestablished a critical conversation in America. I believe we must “Say Her Name”…Breonna Taylor. Justice needs to be delivered in these instances. Council along with the administration has actively worked on recruiting top minority voices to be a part of the leadership in Hamilton. From the cabinet to the judicial system, we have increased the talent and diverse voices of representation at all levels. It is imperative that we remain dedicated to the mission to include all community perspectives into our decision-making process.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life for many and created hardship for local residents, businesses and government. Why are you the best candidate for Hamilton Township council, and what would you do to help the town and its residents and businesses recover?
Maher: I have felt the hardships myself. I work two jobs to support my family as most people in Hamilton have to do. This administration has failed our local businesses; they held one night of support local restaurants. Each day there was an update emailed from the Township; this was an opportunity for them to give free advertisement for local businesses, introduce them, talk a little about them. As businesses fail and close up, we lose that tax revenue, and we have to then pass that on to the homeowners. I feel I can bring fresh ideas to council and will not be another rubber-stamp member. I will ask questions and stand for our residents and businesses.
Stackhouse: Being directly affected by COVID-19 and having to close the doors of our business for 3 months, I understand the hardships that so many are going through. Without an income, I had to reevaluate and change our living situation, along with the daily operations at our business. Hamilton small businesses have a long and bumpy road to travel. With the sewer tax and property taxes going up at this inopportune time, it hurt business and residents alike. Being in business for 27 years, I have learned you have to make the hard choices, cut expenses, open more hours and hope for a better day tomorrow. We do not need any more banks, drugstores, pizza places, barber shops and Wawas. Give the businesses already here a chance to recover.
Whalen: My interest to run for council was to be a strong voice for working families and all residents of Hamilton Township. In the beginning stages of the pandemic, where a supply of personal protective equipment was critical, I was able to leverage my relationships with contractors and labor unions to create an avenue to provide PPE to our first responders, hospitals, nursing homes and small businesses without using any taxpayer funds. These donations came at a crucial time when PPE was unavailable. I am committed to preserving the safety of our residents while working to create new job opportunities.