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Michael Clark likely to face school board member James Norris for Township Committee race

MIDDLE TOWNSHIP – Michael Clark is set to seek a third term on Township Committee this year.

The former mayor is currently the lone Democrat on the governing body, so if Republican candidate James Norris wins in November, it would mean an all-GOP committee for the first time in memory.

Norris, 28, a lifelong township resident and current member of the township Board of Education, received the endorsement of the Middle Township Regular Republican Organization for the seat at the March 5 meeting.

Democrats held the reins in Middle Township for decades, until Tim Donohue joined Dan Lockwood on the three-person board in 2011, tipping the balance to the Republicans. Lockwood was the first Republican elected in Middle in nearly 50 years. Democrats took back control for two years, during which Clark was appointed mayor, but the election of Theron “Ike” Gandy last November returned the Republicans to the majority and put Donohue in back in the mayor’s seat.

“I'm truly humbled and honored to accept this endorsement,” Norris said in a prepared statement after the vote. “I'm looking forward to getting out and meeting the voters and sharing our message of lower taxes and smarter municipal government. I fully support Mayor Donohue and Deputy Mayor Gandy's forward-thinking movement built on a foundation of fiscal responsibility, open government and citizen involvement. I'm running to ensure this movement continues and that all members of Township Committee are committed to this mission.”

Norris grew up in Rio Grande and Green Creek. He works as a job developer at the Jersey Cape Diagnostic, Training and Opportunity Center. Before that, he worked for the township recreation department and was active in the Homework Club in the Martin Luther King center. He’s also volunteered as a coach and is an active member of the Knights of Columbus.

In 2017, Norris was elected to the school board, as that board’s youngest member.

“I love Middle Township, have bought a home here and will be getting married this fall,” Norris said in a statement released by his campaign. “I think it is time for the folks in my generation to step up and take an active and positive role in building a better world. We do that by rolling up our sleeves and getting involved right here at home, not by just complaining about the state of the wider world. I hope my campaign can inspire young voters to pay attention and get involved.”

Clark, 53, is the vice president of business development for Sturdy Savings Bank. For the past 25 years, he’s been active with the Middle Township Volunteer Fire Company No. 1, serving as president for the past 21 years.

“There are no term limits,” he joked.

Clark grew up in Springfield, Vermont, and went to college in Arkansas. He said he met a girl from New Jersey and ended up living here. Clark moved to Middle Township in 1990. He’s married to Victoria Clark. They have two daughters and three grandchildren, he said.

“I think I’ve done a great job,” Clark said. “I was the mayor for three years. I’ve enjoyed serving the community and working with the existing committee on business development and bringing new businesses and jobs to Middle Township.”

Candidates have until April 1 to file petitions to appear on the June primary ballot for a spot of the ballot for the November general election. Clark said he has not heard of any other candidates expressing an interest and does not expect to see a primary race for either party.

With three members elected to staggered three-year terms, Middle Township sees a Township Committee race each year. That was one issued raised by an advisory body looking at potential changes to the township form of government, including the possibility of expanding the membership to a five-member committee.

That group is expected to present its findings to the Township Committee this spring. Any change in the township form of government would require a referendum be put before township voters, experts have advised the committee.

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