Five candidates are up for three seats on the Bordentown City Board of Commissioners. The election is set for May 11.
John Brodowski, 38, is a lifelong Bordentown resident. He grew up on Myrtle Avenue and graduated from Bordentown Regional High School in 2001. He went on to study business administration and international studies at Muhlenberg College and earned a masters in business administration from Drexel University. He currently works as an operations specialist with McMaster-Carr Supply Company. Brodowski serves as the Deputy Mayor of Bordentown City. This is his first term. He chairs the Economic Development Advisory Committee and is active with the Bordentown City Environmental Committee, Green Team and General Parks Committee. He is also a member of the Bordentown Historical Society, a supporter of Building Bridges, a Bordentown Area Basketball League Coach and a member of the Bordentown Regional Athletic Hall of Fame Committee. Brodowski lives on Mary Street with his wife, Sruti.
Ed Foley, 29, has lived in Bordentown all his life. He attended Notre Dame High School and went on to graduate from Saint Joseph’s University with degrees in history and economics. He currently works for the New Jersey State Department of the Treasury. He has volunteered with Hope Hose Humane Co. 1 since 2015 and currently serves as its president. Foley is also an alternate member of the planning board and serves as its liaison to the Economic Development Advisory Committee. He previously ran for city commission in 2017.
Jim Lynch, 65, was born and raised in Bordentown. He attended the Bordentown Military Institute for three years before it closed. He finished his schooling at the Hun School. He attended Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts for one year before returning to Bordentown to work for Mercantini Chevrolet, his family’s business. He currently works as the sales manager at Lucas Chevrolet in Lumberton. Lynch is the current mayor of Bordentown City and has served on the commission since 1989. He previously served on the Bordentown Regional Board of Education from 1983 to 1985. He has been a member of the Bordentown Sewerage Authority since 1990. He has also worked with Bordentown Little League, rec soccer, the Street of Dreams Car Show and Bordentown Traditions fireworks.
Joe Myers, 44, grew up in Riverton and attended Holy Cross High School in Delran. He graduated from Trenton State College with a degree in political science and went on to get a masters in government administration and political science from the University of Pennsylvania. He has lived in Bordentown since 2005 with his wife, Lauren, and their children, Gus and Caitlin. He works as the chief operating officer for Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, an economic development nonprofit in Camden. He is currently serving his first term on city commission. Myers is a board member for the Salvation Army’s Kroc Center in Camden, and he has coached basketball for CYO, travel teams and the BABL for 20 years. He is also a BABL board member.
Jennifer Sciortino, 46, grew up in Middlesex County and attended Woodbridge High School. She went on to study journalism and English at Rutgers University. She has lived in Bordentown City for 13 years and currently works as the director of communications for the New Jersey State Treasury Department. This is her first time running for public officer. Sciortino was recently appointed to the Bordentown City Parks Committee. She is also a member of Bordentown Elks Lodge 2085 and is the vice president of Bordentown City Cats, through which she has organized booths for the Cranberry Festival, Street Fair and Green Fair, as well as the organization’s community flea market and other events.
The Current posed a series of questions to each candidate. Their responses follow.
How do you think the current administration has handled the COVID-19 crisis in town? Is there anything you would have done differently?
Brodowski: The city maintained a high level of service, as we prioritized the health and safety of employees, residents, and businesses. We rotated city staffing, enforced strict COVID protocols and offer virtual public meetings. We reduced taxes while budgeting for Small Business Grant Program, acquisition of Divine Word, numerous capital projects, and improvements to green spaces. We approved outdoor dining and hosted successful Restaurant Weekends. The Economic Development Committee provided businesses with PPE and created an online business directory. The city could have improved communication with its residents and provided more resources on navigating the pandemic.
Foley: Given the unprecedented challenges faced in 2020, I believe that the current administration did well handling the pandemic crisis. Important Information from critical government agencies was communicated as efficiently as possible. A large part of our success was due to all our city employees who continued to do their jobs with only minor disruptions to municipal services. The administration also implemented the Small Business Grant Program to bolster local businesses who are struggling through this storm. I do not believe I would have done things much differently.
Lynch: This has been an unprecedented year, and I feel our administration has been very successful in complying with all safety protocols established by the governor’s office. In addition, we instituted a small business grant program, awarding all businesses that qualify approximately $5,200. We were also fortunate to receive $50,000 from the private Johnson Trust with the help of a resident, which we passed on to small businesses. There was no town in New Jersey that I know of that offered this type of assistance to its business community. We purchased barriers for restaurants to expand outside dining into the street and PPE supplies. This pandemic was a learn-as-you-go event.
Myers: During the pandemic, I have worked with my colleagues to ensure the health and safety of our city employees are valued. At times, we have had to go on a split staffing schedule while maintaining our core basic services. This was difficult, but I was extremely proud of my colleagues at DPW and Water. Working together, our administration launched a new business grant program for the business district and I worked with a local resident (thank you Michelle Larkin and PACF) to raise additional funds to supplement the city’s program.
Sciortino: The city has done a good job of working with our downtown businesses to create outdoor space to help them weather the pandemic. I think there’s more that can be done to make sure residents and businesses are aware of the resources that are available, including rental/landlord assistance, childcare, and small business assistance, and help them navigate any difficulties in applying for them. Creating a landing page on the city’s website with links to available COVID-19 resources would be a welcome addition. Bordentown also needs an advocate to fight for every available dollar from the latest federal stimulus in order to make sure our city gets its fair share of much-needed relief funding.
Bordentown City is diverse, but the commission traditionally has not been. Do you think this is an issue? How can the commission invite diverse voices into the city’s decision making processes?
Brodowski: Representation matters. Diverse voices, opinions, and ideas strengthen communities. We must double down on our efforts to be more inclusive, and to strengthen the bond between government and residents. We must encourage residents to get involved, and we must make governing more approachable. I’ve advocated for the creation of additional committees and support resident-driven groups. The city’s three-member commission form of government makes it exceptionally difficult for any newcomer, especially those of diverse backgrounds, to challenge incumbents successfully. I’m hopeful that the commission will diversify in coming years, and I am encouraged that we have an exceptional female candidate in this upcoming election.
Foley: Yes, it is definitely concerning that we have had little diversity on our Commission. I strongly encourage those members of our community who feel voiceless or underrepresented to volunteer on a committee and if you feel inclined to run for office to launch a campaign, I will be the first person to sign your petition. We have to do a better job of keeping the lines of communication open. Bordentown does not belong to one group of people, but to all, regardless of their backgrounds or walks of life.
Lynch: Our commission at the present time may not look diverse on the outside, but trust me, it’s a topic of constant conversation on the inside as I appoint members to our volunteer committees, commissions and planning board. We all feel diversity is not a voluntary thing. It’s mandatory. We all live here and have a stake in its success, so I focus on that set of principles in making my appointments.
Myers: Diversity is an important conversation. As a city commissioner, I have worked to adhere an inclusive approach towards how we work together. I have worked to ensure diversity is more than a word in the workplace. I have added diversity with new hires, promoted diversity with the existing workforce, and added diversity to the city committees. In my opinion, anyone can talk to diversity but in leadership, I believe it is important to look at one’s actions and see when given the opportunity, have leaders practiced what they have preached.
Sciortino: There are so many decisions on the line right now that would benefit from having more diverse voices at the table. That’s one of the reasons I decided to run for Commissioner. As a woman, as someone who chose to live in Bordentown after growing up elsewhere, and as someone who rented for a long time before buying a home, I would add a fresh perspective to the conversation. It’s incumbent upon government to be more proactive in soliciting input and involvement from residents of different walks of life. The most obvious way to do that in this age is to create official social media channels to communicate directly to residents on all matters of importance – that includes actively bringing new voices into the decision-making process.
What do you think is the issue most important to Bordentown City voters? How do you plan to address it?
Brodowski: Quality of life in our city is the single largest issue we face: good schools, stable taxes, clean air, safe water, well-maintained green spaces, a vibrant downtown that doesn’t disrupt quiet residences, safe streets for pedestrians and cyclists, traffic calming and thoughtful, planned growth. We must ensure plans involve and benefit all residents. The loss of open spaces in surrounding areas with the influx of warehousing and residential complexes is changing our community’s landscape. We must protect what we have in the city while encouraging new residents and visitors to contribute to what makes it so special.
Foley: I think that after a chaotic 2020, people are looking for clarity and reassurance that our overall quality of life will improve and not decline. I know I can deliver some clarity by working to implement portions of the pending Master Plan. This updated suggestion manual addresses a variety of concerns our residents and businesses face (e.g., parking, downtown renewal, affordability). I possess the ability and consensus building skills needed to ensure we implement solutions the right way and keep Bordentown the little city with a lot of charm!
Lynch: There are many issues I feel residents care about, but public safety and the ability to raise their families here in a safe environment with an excellent education system and a walkable town probably heads the list. We also just completed the most important acquisition in a lifetime—the piece of the Divine Word property with the DEP and D&R Greenway as partners to house our new City Hall and police station. Huge warehouses and apartments would have destroyed that historic property. Sometimes it’s the things you prevent rather than do that become the most important to a town’s future. Here, we got both a hit and a grand slam. That speaks volumes to who we are as a town.
Myers: This election is about performance. How have leaders kept residents safe, managed their tax dollars, and maintained services? During my term, my performance has focused on the city’s water department and also improving the city’s roads, parks, and parking lots. My departments have accomplished a lot, while consistently communicating and connecting with the residents. In today’s world, I tell my two kids that words and actions have meaning. I can confidently say that my words and actions show a strong and collaborative performance that always puts the interests of the city first.
Sciortino: Controlling property taxes goes hand-in-hand with a smart economic plan. That plan needs to center around ensuring that viable businesses fill our empty storefronts and making sure that vacant properties like the former Ocean Spray site are redeveloped with an eye towards meeting the community’s needs while preserving the quality of life we all cherish.