WEST ORANGE, NJ — West Orange Board of Education will have turnover after this election cycle, as three challengers are running for the two open seats and both incumbents have chosen not to run again. When BOE members Ron Charles and Irv Schwarzbaum vacate their seats at the end the year, they will be filled by two of the following three candidates: Cheryl Merklinger, Jeremias Salinas and Terry Trigg-Scales.
Salinas and Trigg-Scales were profiled in an Aug. 16 article; the West Orange Chronicle had been unable to reach Merklinger for comment due to incorrect contact information.
For the past 17 years, Merklinger has worked for Prudential, where she has taken on large and new projects, ultimately seeing them to completion; managed large teams in various capacities, leading through communication and training; recruited strong talent, then mentoring them to grown in their careers; and overseen budgets for several large cap clients and business units, ensuring smart spending and balanced overhead. According to Merklinger, she has also led multiple corporate programs and annual conferences with area high schools, colleges and universities.
In addition to her many professional roles, Merklinger is involved in the West Orange community.
“I grew up in West Orange. I was fortunate enough to have parents and a family who were very active in this community — volunteering, coaching, carpooling, etc. Their dedication to the community and concept of ‘giving back’ were instilled in me at an early age and have inspired me to follow in their footsteps,” Merklinger told the Chronicle in an Aug. 30 email.
Merklinger has been a West Orange Police Athletic League board member for the past seven years, where she tackles budgeting, research, marketing and program implementation.
“I’ve led fundraising efforts to raise thousands of dollars for youth sports in West Orange and worked closely with West Orange High School coaches to create an innovative feeder program to help boost our strong athletics program. During my son’s time in elementary and Edison Central Six, I was an active member of both PTAs, a classroom mom and a parent representative on the Honors Committee for the district,” Merklinger said. “My goal is simple: to provide opportunities for young boys and girls in town to thrive by creating first-class sports programs that ultimately promote health and wellness, strong academics, acceptance of everyone, and a feeling of family and community.
“These core values have inspired me to take my volunteering to the next level and run for a seat on the Board of Education in my hometown,” she continued. “We need fresh ideas. We need positivity. We need fiscal responsibility, and we need to lead by example.
Merklinger is confident that her leadership in business, local athletics and as a parent has given her the tools needed to succeed on the board.
“There are important issues to be addressed. Through transparency, open communication, community feedback and applicable resources, I will work with all involved to ensure that our students, teachers, administrators and community continue to thrive and excel,” Merklinger said. “It takes a village and I’m proud to be part of this one. I’m a working mom of a Roosevelt Middle School eighth-grader. I’m a wife of a teacher. I’m part of a family that has roots in West Orange for over 88 years. I’m ready to take on the responsibility that comes with this role and hope you’ll support our journey to continue creating the best environment, opportunities and success stories for our students, faculty and our community.”