They want to be your Morris County Freeholders, 2018

A politically themed pumpkin at the ninth annual Morristown Pumpkin Illumination, Oct. 28, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove.
A politically themed pumpkin at the ninth annual Morristown Pumpkin Illumination, Oct. 28, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove.
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It’s a mathematical impossibility: Six people want to to spend the next three years as Morris County Freeholders. But only three seats are available.

Who should you choose on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018?  We asked the candidates.

The Republicans are fielding a slate of Deborah Smith (incumbent), John Krickus and Stephen H. Shaw.

For the Democrats, it’s Morristown’s Mary Dougherty, Richard Corcoran and Rupande Mehta.

Here is how the candidates responded to Morristown Green’s questions.


DEMOCRATS:

Morristown Green: Why do you want to be a freeholder?

Mary Dougherty

Home: Morristown
Occupation: Realtor
Activities / Boards / Organizations:

Co-founder, Morristown Women in Business
Catechism teacher, Assumption Church (19 Years)
Vice President, Mrs. Wilson’s Treatment Center
Trustee, Morris County School of Technology
Commissioner, Southeast Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority (19 years)
Former member, Morris County Preservation Trust Open Space Committee
Former commissioner, Morristown Housing Authority
Former Chair, Morristown Planning Board
Former member, Morris County Women’s Advisory Committee
Former Chair, Morristown Democratic Commttee
Former Vice Chair, Morris County Democratic Committee

Mary Dougherty
Mary Dougherty

I believe all Morris County residents deserve to be represented. The Freeholder board has been under one-party rule for over 40 years. Many needs in our county are not being addressed and it’s time for a different voice at the table. I bring a much needed community- and quality-of-life awareness experience to the Freeholder board. Changes are needed along with a new and refreshing vision. I bring that to the table. I have watched decisions being made from the current board with no regard to the impact on our residents: The privatization of our Morris Views nursing home, the flat funding of our School of Technology, the over-funding of the jail and now proposed over-funding of the Courthouse renovation. We need a Freeholder who asks questions and demands checks and balances on where/how our county budget of $350 million is spent.

Richard Corcoran

Home: Boonton
Occupation: Accountant

Richard Corcoran
Richard Corcoran

I believe that after 40 years of single-party rule that the status quo has produced mediocre results. We deserve better. We continue to under-fund county assets that are in high demand, such as the county vocational school, county library, county parks, county college and county art programs, yet over a similar period county taxes have increased by 310 percent (1983 to 2017). The Board of Freeholders are about to approve a $100 million courthouse renovation without considering alternative solutions.  This is broken decision making and requires new leadership and the fresh perspective of a forensic accountant.

Rupande Mehta

Home: Denville
Occupation: Project Manager
Activities / Boards/ Organizations:

Green Sustainability Committee, Member, Town of Denville 2017-present
Municipal Alliance Committee, Member, Town of Denville 2017-present
South Asian American Caucus, Director, Morris County, NJ 2017-present
Inspiring South Asian American Women, Advisory Board Member 2017-present
Degrees in accounting, economics and public administration (Eagleton Fellow, Rutgers)
Conducted training sessions for New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence.
Immigrated from India 2002, naturalized U.S. citizen 2017

Rupande Mehta
Rupande Mehta

If you look at the position of power and where decisions are made, it’s at the county level. I realized that in order to make an impact and to help those who may not be served under the current county government, I needed to run for Freeholder. I also firmly believe in public service and understand that in order to build a well-functioning government, we need to have strong officials at the local and county level. I believe in representation and making sure that the county not only represents the needs and interests of few but everyone.

MG: What makes you the best person for the job?

Mary Dougherty: I have served the county in many different areas over the years, whether it be as a board member for the School of Technology, coordinator for Family Promise or an advocate for seniors. I have the “on-the-ground” experience and knowledge of the needs, along with the energy and passion to get things done. I am a business owner who brings my success and financial experience to the role. I find ways to connect resources rather than reinvent the wheel, and I think outside of the box. I am conservative in the budgeting process and identify grants and partnerships that benefit all.

Richard Corcoran: For the last 20 years I have worked in public accounting with a concentration in municipal and governmental accounting. The last 10 years have been dedicated to forensic accounting.  The primary concern of every citizen I have spoken to in Morris County is taxes.  Yet no one had thought to ask the question what has happened to taxes under 40-year Republican control. The answer is that they have gone up. My background is perfectly suited for addressing the fiscal uneasiness that awaits the county in the near-term future, because of historical decisions which fail to grow unfunded accruals, and rising health care costs.

Rupande Mehta: I have unique life experiences and perspectives that make me ideal for the job. Those experiences have taught me lessons that I can bring to county government. I am also uniquely positioned to bring the views of those county government has not yet had, due to either a lack of understanding or a lack of perspective. I am highly analytical and a problem solver who left her country of birth at a young age, alone to live in the United States of America. I also have worked in corporate America where I have been working for over 10 years on long term, multimillion dollar projects from planning to execution. I believe these skills are extremely needed and currently missing from the Freeholder board. I have also worked with victims of domestic violence, which has taught me leadership and incorporated in me qualities of empathy and compassion ideal to public service. 

MG: What is the biggest challenge (challenges) facing Morris County, and how would you solve it (them)?

Mary Dougherty: Taxes and our infrastructure. I will look at where we can reallocate funds to keep taxes flat and send resources to the areas in need rather than over-fund one area. Our School of Technology has not seen an increase in funding in over 11 years; we receive over 1100 applications a year and can only accept a little over 300. Currently, the Freeholders are proposing a $1.6 million dollar Courthouse renovation. Our roads are in disrepair, we need to improve our infrastructure and be at the table when new developments are created in our municipalities, to ensure a smooth traffic patterns during and after construction.

Richard Corcoran: Population growth, infrastructure, and driving non-tax revenue to keep Morris County attractive to the current residents and future residents. 

Rupande Mehta:  Morris County faces a few challenges: Lack of broader thinking, lack of funding for vo-tech and infrastructure, unfunded debt. But the single biggest issue I think we face is a lack of focus on quality of life and long term vision. Morris County is a great place to live but we need to ensure folks living here have a fulfilling life. Our challenge is to understand how do we ensure that more people move to Morris and existing folks enjoy what Morris has to offer? This can be achieved through bringing a long-term vision to the county. Strategic planning so far has either been inadequate or in the right direction which led to county government not being able to plan long term projects, focusing more on the here and now. My work experience has developed in me critical skills to not only plan long term projects but also strategically think through them and anticipate challenges and mitigate risks. If we don’t focus on the future, we cannot be ready for the challenges it brings. We need to make sure the present is taken care of but also develop vision and the infrastructure necessary to pave a road for the future.

MG: What is the first thing you will do if elected? 

Mary Dougherty: I’m committed to digging deep into the budget to identify how we keep out taxes flat, reallocate funds so we can give our students the education they deserve. I want a strong voice in the Morris View nursing home, as the level of care has plummeted since the privatization, and we need to address our horrendous county roads. There’s a lot of work to be done and I’m looking forward to getting started!

Richard Corcoran:Review the $100 million approval for the courthouse and investigate moving to a self-funded health insurance plan for cost savings.

Rupande Mehta: I think the budget needs a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective. We need to understand why tax dollars are currently being spent the way they are, and what other avenues does the board have to pay for challenges I have laid out above. For many years now, county government has more or less followed the same path of thinking and implementing ideas. If we can review the budget and bring up new areas of funding that lead to growth in Morris, it would be beneficial to everyone.

MG: How much does party affiliation matter at this level of government?  Why/ why not?

Mary Dougherty: Although Morris County has historically been a “red” county, the needs have changed over the last 40 years and we cannot continue to do the same things we’ve always done. All residents should be represented. However, regardless of a candidate’s party affiliation, once elected, they must represent all Morris County residents.

Richard Corcoran: It can matter. The demographics of Morris County have changed considerably over the last 40 years and a mixed board of Democrats and Republicans would better represent the realities of the county. Any single party rule can result in an echo chamber and bad ideas will begin to sound like good ideas and okay ideas become great ideas. You need diversification to help foster better and stronger ideas. 
 
Rupande Mehta:  I think party affiliation is important. Both parties need to be represented at the county level because this not only gives a chance to democracy but also enables us to have elevated discussions and compromises. Both parties bring different values to the table and a mixed bag at the county level means there is healthy debate and discussion which ultimately help the residents of Morris County with new ideas and growth.


 

REPUBLICANS:

Morristown Green: Why do you want to be a freeholder?

Deborah Smith

Home: Denville
Occupation: Morris County Freeholder, elected 2015
Activities / Boards / Organizations:

Freeholder Deborah Smith
Freeholder Deborah Smith

Former Denville councilwoman (20 years), council president
Former Denville zoning board
Former Denville planning board
Worked in management, private sector, 25 years
Chairwoman, Morris County Insurance Fund (Freeholders)
Budget Committee (Freeholders)
Morris County Women’s Republican Club, trustee
New Jersey Federation of Republican Women

I want to continue to service the people of Morris County as their Freeholder, holding the line on property taxes, maintaining our strong AAA credit rating, preserving our parks and open space, investing in road and bridge repairs, etc.

John Krickus

Home: Long Valley (Washington Township)
Occupation: Product Manager
Activities / Boards / Organizations:

John Krickus
John Krickus

Former Freeholder (three years)
Served as Freeholder liaison to County College of Morris, Morris County Vocational School
Former Washington Township committeeman (12 years); mayor (three years).
Former planning board, open space and recreation committees
Madison native
Degrees from Drew University, Lehigh University (MBA)
Marine Corps veteran
Coached daughters’ soccer and basketball teams

Morris County is the best run county in New Jersey.  I would like a second term as Freeholder in order to continue providing high quality services, such as our park system and open space preservation, supporting Sheriff Gannon in his efforts to fight opioids, and our award winning County College of Morris and Morris Vo-Tech. While providing these services, Morris has the third lowest county property taxes in the state.  In fact, residents in neighboring Union, Passaic, or Essex counties pay 75 percent more in county property taxes, per state figures.

Stephen H. Shaw

Home: Mountain Lakes
Occupation: Home-builder
Activities / Boards / Organizations:

Stephen Shaw
Stephen Shaw

Degrees from NJIT, Newark College of Engineering
Licensed real estate agent
Licensed pilot
Vice Chair, Morris County Open Space Committee
Chair, Mountain Lakes Planning Board
Former Councilman (12 years), Mayor (three years), Mountain Lakes
Chair, Mountain Lakes Lake Management Advisory Committee
Senior Warden, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Mountain Lakes
Past President, New Jersey Builders Association

Morris County is a great place to live, work, play and raise a family. I was fortunate to be able to grow up in Morris County and raised my family here. Even though our children are adults living on their own, my wife and I have made a conscious decision to stay in Morris County. I have a vested interest in preserving and improving the excellent quality of life my family and I have enjoyed here in Morris County.

MG: What makes you the best person for the job?

Deborah Smith: A highly qualified individual with experience on both the local and county level.  One must understand how to govern to be able to provide the best input to maintain Morris County as the best place to live, work and raise a family.

John Krickus: I have always held a job in the private sector, so I bring that business experience, my 12 years as a local elected official, my service in the Marine Corps, all combine to help me solve problems and move Morris County forward.

Stephen H. Shaw: My private sector background in land use and planning, economic development, infrastructure consulting and repair, along with my municipal elected official experience are skills that will help the county plan for the future. 

MG: What is the biggest challenge (challenges) facing Morris County, and how would you solve it (them)?

Deborah Smith: It is people first, not politics.  I do not ask someone seeking help what their affiliation is, rather I work to assist them. Public safety is a Number One priority.  Our survey with the public reinforces this. This includes the opioid epidemic, which faces all types of our citizens.  There is no socio-economic discrimination–it hits all of us.  I would continue to prioritize the safety of our citizens working with our esteemed Sheriff Jim Gannon as we battle this.

John Krickus: Providing quality services while holding the line on taxes is difficult. In my three years as a Freeholder we had no increase in county taxes, and yet funded key projects like doubling the miles of county roads being paved from 15 miles a year to 30 miles.

Stephen H. Shaw: Continue to grow the economy in Morris County and responsibly re-purpose the underperforming office- and retail properties in the county. To do this you must maintain the infrastructure and work with the private sector and municipalities to redevelop sustainable ratables.

MG: What is the first thing you will do if elected? 

Deborah Smith: Celebrate!!  Continue to be involved with our county and its citizens providing the best services we can to meet their needs.

John Krickus: Reconnecting with many of the wonderful people I have met during the campaign.  We have a county with diverse and talented residents who want to help keep Morris a special place to live and work.

Stephen H. Shaw: Continue to listen and learn from the many talented volunteers, residents and local elected officials. I want to understand how they feel we can improve upon county services.  

MG: How much does party affiliation matter at this level of government?  Why/ why not?

Deborah Smith: It is people first, not politics.  I do not ask someone seeking help what their affiliation is, rather I work to assist them.

John Krickus: As an elected official there are no party differences in how to fill a pothole or provide a quick response to a crime or fire. It has been very gratifying in this general election to speak with residents of all political views, and hear how positive they are about Morris County and the quality of life we enjoy here.

Stephen H. Shaw: As the saying goes, all politics are local. Local problems require local solutions that are not rooted in party affiliations.

MORE 2018 ELECTION COVERAGE

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