JACKSON – This year’s Mayoral and Council race has two teams seeking the position of mayor and two seats on council for four-year terms.
Incumbent Mayor Michael Reina running with the slogan of “Experienced Leadership Moving Jackson Forward” is running with Scott Sargent who is a member of the Jackson Board of Education and Jennifer L. Kuhn who works in real estate.
Running with the banner of “Homegrown Leadership Working for Jackson” is mayoral challenger Martin Flemming, III who is serving as council president this year. Seeking re-election for his second term on council is Andrew Kern while Samara P. O’Neill is running for her first full term on council following her appointment last month to fill the vacant council seat of Alex Sauickie.
Kern is a vice president at a large energy consulting firm in New York City.”
“I am running for re-election to build on the success of my first four years on Council where, as part of a new council majority, we worked hard to stabilize property taxes, invest in our police, preserve open space, and combat overdevelopment,” he said. “On more specific issues, I was able to get all the Township-owned playgrounds rehabbed or replaced.”
Kern said, “we began the process of creating a second set of dog parks at the Jackson Forest Park in the Cassville area. I also created a process for residents and businesses to sponsor a playground, sports field or a park.”
“I brought together the leaders of all the township’s youth sports leagues. At those meetings we identified many ongoing issues including the condition of the fields at Camp Joy and Johnson Park, field lighting and the Jackson Soccer lease. The biggest and most urgent takeaway from those meetings was that the turf at the JYCF and Jackson Justice Complex fields were worn-out and needed to be replaced ASAP. It took three years, but we have addressed the lighting issues and replaced the worn-out turf fields,” Kern said.
The candidate added, “during the past three years I have spent an average of 20 hours per week working alongside my peers trying to solve litigation issues that were created by prior councils and the current mayor. We have worked hard to put these mistakes behind us, and I want to get back to increasing the quality of life for all of our residents.”
“I bring 33 years of business leadership experience; six years of land-use experience on the Jackson Township Planning Board, including being selected to vice-chairman by my peers; four years of experience on the Jackson Township Council, one year as Council President and two years as Council Vice President,” Kern added.
Kern noted that, “unfortunately, affordable housing mandates from Trenton have made controlling development difficult for all New Jersey towns. In fact, towns run by both Democrats and Republicans have sued the Murphy Administration over these untenable mandates.”
“I believe that we need smart commercial rateables in locations that can handle them like County Line Road. Residential development should be done according to the master plan. Much of what is being constructed now is tied to approvals from many years ago – prior to my time on council or planning board – and were protected by the NJ permit extension act of 2008,” he said.
Kern said, “subsequent extensions allowed developers to start initial construction through 2020. I have worked hard, reaching out to many property owners, to protect our environmental resources and preserve as much open space as we can before it is too late.”
Related to this, residents have noted traffic and speeding concerns. Kern said, “drivers speeding on the side streets of residential neighborhoods is unacceptable. Consistently increasing police staffing is the best way to provide enough patrol officers necessary to keep our roads safe.”
Kern added that he didn’t want to see Jackson’s roads become as overcrowded “as they have become in too many New Jersey towns, including neighboring towns in Ocean and Monmouth Counties. We need to work closely with the county and create a plan to ensure our roadways and bridges are improved now.”
O’Neill is a real estate broker and owner of PorterPlus Realty, a brokerage located in Jackson.
“Jackson is at a crossroads and we need leaders who care, listen, and can work together while leaning in and identifying all the things that make us beautiful so that we can embrace and grow from it and guide us on the path moving forward. I want to help shape and form the town that I live in and have chosen to raise my family in,” she said.
O’Neill added, “Jackson is going through some growing pains. We have seen quite a bit of change and development with shifting dynamics and priorities over the last few years. We need to embrace, acknowledge and listen to all residents as it comes to driving the future of Jackson.
“We need to continue to advocate and work to preserve more open space in Jackson, stabilize municipal property taxes, and bring unity and collaboration back to our community,” she added.
“My openness to ideas, avid support of all people, business acumen, love for community, giving back mantra and people first mindset will be an asset to the Town Council of Jackson. Throughout my career I have embraced the importance of people making a difference in their community and for that reason I am eager to be a part of the solution to the problems we are facing. We live in a great place, but it can be better. I will do my best to make a difference,” she added.
O’Neill said the township needs “smart development, not overdevelopment. I believe that although the economic times have changed and that things are not what they used to be, we can still plan for a future that reinforces our strengths as a community. Jackson has always been a strong and resilient place and it is its proud citizens that make this community work.”
Regarding the issue of traffic and speeding concerns by residents noted that during her first meeting as an appointed council member, “I had the privilege of hearing the voices of our residents directly. I heard the frustration and concerns from the residents first hand. It hit home, I felt it and I could relate as a resident myself this is a growing concern and something I am passionate about finding solutions for.”
“We have started conversations with the police chief on implementing a few of the strategies to deter the behavior in known areas, we are working on maintenance to make sure signs are not obstructed accordingly, as well as working on the opportunities for official citizen reports that have impact. We remain diligent in finding ways to address these issues that are a growing concern in our community,” she added.
In closing O’Neill said, “I appreciate the value of conviction and compromise. There is room for both. In today’s society it is important to keep your values even when there is opposition and to do the most-good for the community.”
“It is imperative that all organizations and people with-in our community work together. My belief is that those with the ability to help others must do so for the good of the community – not for personal gain. In essence, I want to take care of the citizens of this community. I want to bring the past, present and future together. The people are the most important part of the community; we need to improve our life for our children. Because they are the future.”
Sargent is currently employed by the Jackson Department of Public Works “where I have served as the Storm Water Coordinator and Safety Coordinator in addition to being the Senior Groundskeeper.”
Sargent said, “as a school board member, I get to talk to many residents almost every day. Two things I hear about often are development and affordability.
“I think we can significantly improve the way our current Council is preserving open space to increase the number of acres we protect each year. I also think we can find creative ways to do more with less and cut taxes,” he added.
“As far as my public service experience, I am currently serving my 10th year on the Jackson Township Board of Education where I have been a member of the Transportation Committee, Negotiations Committee and Buildings and Grounds Committee. In my time on the Board, I have fought against mask mandates and the state’s inappropriate sex education curriculum. I’ve also fought hard to control spending to keep costs down for taxpayers,” the candidate added.
Sargent said, “I have also done work with the Jackson Township Veterans Commission and Jackson Township Handicap Commission. Most importantly, I’ve raised a family in Jackson and have spent thirty years living in this town. I know how great it can be and what we need to do to keep it moving forward.”
Regarding future development in the township Sargent said, “Jackson is a great place to live and work, it’s naturally going to attract people. The challenge is to grow in a way that doesn’t fundamentally change the things we all love about this town.”
“Preserving as much open space as possible, and doing so quickly, is key to addressing that issue. I simply can’t understand some of the votes and decisions made by the current council that have left open space acres on the table for developers,” he added.
Concerning traffic and speeding concerns by residents Sargent said, “I drive around Jackson every day, I get it. We need to support our Police Department with the tools they need to keep our traffic moving safely and find new planning measures that can alleviate the issues on our roads.
“As a member of the Board of Education, I fought hard against state mandates that hurt our kids during COVID and have worked tirelessly to keep spending under control. I’ll do the same as Councilman to preserve open space, improve services to seniors and families, and keep moving Jackson forward,” Sargent said.
Kuhn said she owns and operates small businesses in Jackson, “including JLK Sales Group brokered by eXp Realty Next Level Real Estate School, a credit repair agency, a title company, and insurance company, and am affiliated with a financial institution.”
“My credentials include licensed broker, licensed real estate instructor, Certified Mentor, ABR, CREN, CDPE, CLHMS, E-Pro, as well as finalizing licensing for property, casualty, and title insurance. I am a licensed, bonded, and insured collection agent in the state,” she added.
Kuhn added, “I am running for Council because this is my hometown and I want to see it protected. We need to fight back against overdevelopment and grow in smart ways that keep Jackson the best place to live.”
Her thoughts on Jackson Township’s most pressing issue is “overdevelopment. We need to fix the way we fund open space so that we can protect as many acres as possible each and every year.”
Kuhn noted, “we have to fight to protect the unique character of Jackson Township and keep it an appealing place to work and live. We have to grow smart, and I think that starts with protecting open space in the most effective way possible.
“I recently asked the current Council to consider bonding for our open space purchases to maximize the funding and preserve even more acres. I hope that is something we can do moving forward,” Kuhn added.
Her views on traffic and speeding concerns are that “we need smart planning and a well-resourced police department. We need more traffic calming measures. I am grateful that Mayor Reina has fought to grow the Police Department to its largest number of officers ever and provide them with state-of-the-art technology.”
The candidate said, “having grown up in Jackson, and having had a comprehensive education in real estate and finances, I can bring those experiences to every decision the Council makes to best serve our residents. This is my hometown. I look forward to working with and listening to all of our residents to keep it moving in the right direction.”