The race for the at-large seat on the Atlantic County freeholder board has come down to two familiar names.
The candidates are Republican Amy Gatto and Democrat Brenda Brathwaite, both lifelong county residents.
Republicans have an 8 to 1 majority on the freeholder board.
Gatto, 34, of Hamilton Township, was elected to the Hamilton Township Council at 24 and was later voted mayor. Over the summer, Gatto was appointed freeholder by Atlantic County Republicans to take over for Will Pauls, who resigned from the board after moving to Cape May County.
Brathwaite, of Egg Harbor Township, is an eighth-grade math teacher in the Atlantic City school district, an executive committee member of the Atlantic County Council of Education Associations and a part-time communications consultant for the New Jersey Education Association.
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She unsuccessfully ran against Freeholder Chairman Frank Formica last year.
Brathwaite said she wants to bring more transparency to the board that would include lobbying to change meeting times to be more accommodating to residents around the county instead of the normal 4 p.m. meeting times.
“Increased resident participation in meetings and awareness of issues would induce freeholders to be more accountable for the decisions that are made,” Brathwaite said in a statement.
She also said that the role of a freeholder has expanded to finding creative solutions to relieve the fiscal pressures that many residents around the county are experiencing.
“I would bring a different and progressive voice to considering alternatives different from the traditional solutions of reducing costs through only the sharing of municipal services or the reduction of resident services,” she said.
Gatto said that she will leverage her nine years of political experience to help Atlantic County navigate through persisting economic issues.
“Despite tough economic times in our region, in Hamilton Township we were able to eliminate our $2.4 million structural deficit by encouraging economic development and making government more efficient,” she said in a statement.
She said some of her goals will be to remain focused on opposing North Jersey casinos if the issue were to appear on future ballots, protect taxpayers by ensuring they are not on the hook for Atlantic City’s financial crisis and help diversify the county’s economy by attracting investors.
“It will be critical to ensure expenses remain aligned with revenues and to be innovative in our approach to every issue,” she said. “I also support actions to move Atlantic County into the 21st century with higher levels of connectivity and shared services.”