HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — With two Township Committee members deciding not to run for re-election, residents will choose two new members in next month’s election.
Voters will pick between two Republican candidates who say they will work to continue the committee’s record of a conservative financial approach in the past few years, which included a freeze on hiring and no tax increase this year, and two Democratic challengers who said they would like to add more services such as re-establishing a local senior center and providing more recreation.
Republicans Bruce Strigh and David Wigglesworth are running against Democrats Rod Guishard and Judy Link.
Deputy Mayor Charles Cain and Harvey Kesselman — the committee’s lone Democrat — are not seeking re-election.
Strigh, the only candidate who has been on the committee in the past, serving between 1990 and 1995, said he became motivated to get involved again in recent years because of some planning issues and challenges the committee faced with the budget.
As a member of the Zoning Board, Strigh has been involved with the need for basins in the township to be better maintained to reduce flooding and not allowing commercial zoning in residential neighborhoods, such as with a plan for businesses on Somers Point-Mays landing Road a few years ago.
Strigh was also heavily involved in the township’s strategic planning process over the past year. He chaired the Affordability Subcommittee that made suggestions, such as limiting debt, requiring the committee to justify new hires through public hearings, and developing a trust fund to pay for revaluations.
“The thing that really engages me and got me to stay involved was the sheer number of people who came out,” he said.
Strigh and Wigglesworth both said they supported the work of the last committee, which is in the middle of a three-year plan to reduce debt and staffing levels.
Wigglesworth said he appreciated the current committee working together and holding the line on spending, and that he wanted to run for office to make sure those efforts last. He also applauded the body’s work on open government, pointing to the placement of documents and presentations on the township website.
“I do not want to make much change,” he said. “I want to continue the momentum they started.”
Guishard, who ran unsuccessfully for the committee last year, and Link both also support the committee’s conservative approach but hope to increase services.
Guishard said the committee could have done more to foresee the budget problems and must be prepared if the situation happens again in the future.
“The first job is to keep government running efficiently and maintain fiscal integrity. The committee is in a very tough situation, as all municipalities have been,” he said. “We must see problems sooner and take action ASAP.”
Guishard said raising taxes would be a last resort, and he hopes small accomplishments can be made in the township by promoting volunteerism.
He hopes enticing people to volunteer could establish neighborhood groups in the sprawling 115-square-mile township so residents can meet with their neighbors on a regular basis and discuss issues such as public safety and new ideas for their communities.
“A lot can be done at little or no cost,” he said. “We need to get more people involved.”
Guishard also hopes to keep recreation activities available for all local kids.
“The cost of athletics can be prohibitive,” he said. “It’s very important to make sure kids have access to athletics.”
Link said she is upset by many diminishing services over the past few years, such as reduced access of Lake Lenape and Cove Beach only being open a few days a week — as well as the closing of the Mays Landing Senior Center last year.
Link said she would try to seek more grants and be more aggressive in recruiting businesses. She said she would work with residents to be less concerned about the impact of development in residential areas, citing the Magic Sports complex, which the developer pulled out from the Industrial park in 2010 because of residents’ complaints.
“I know Rod and I can do a better job of making things happen,” she said. “I am willing to try.”
Contact Joel Landau:
Follow Joel Landau on Twitter @landaupressofac