SO gears up for busy election

Two women face off for village president, 9 challengers run for 3 BOT seats

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SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — Nine villagers are running for the three open seats on the South Orange Board of Trustees and two women are running for village president, with residents casting their votes in both races Tuesday, May 14. The only incumbent running is current village President Sheena Collum, who is being challenged by Trustee Deborah Davis Ford.

Since she is running for village president, Davis Ford is not seeking re-election to her BOT seat; also, Trustees Howard Levison and Mark Rosner are not seeking re-election. Hoping to fill the three open seats are: Stacey Trimble Borden, Edward Grossi and Matthew Wonski as the “South Orange Forward” tickets, running in conjunction with Davis Ford; Donna Coallier, Summer Jones and Bob Zuckerman as the “Your Voice, Our Village” ticket; and Bobby Brown, Toshie Davis and Ed Moore as the “Think Work Thrive Together” ticket.

Borden has lived in South Orange for 34 years. She is a member and past president of the South Orange Rotary Club and a board member of the South Mountain YMCA. She also served as partner at Stacey Electric Inc., along with her husband Dennis. She holds a B.S. in chemistry and biology from Montclair State University.

“I’m involved in so many community groups here in South Orange from the South Mountain YMCA Board and South Orange Rotary to the Domestic Violence Response Team, just to name a few,” Borden told the News-Record in a March 26 email. “When Deborah Davis Ford asked me to be part of her team, I knew that with my experience this would be the next logical step. I’m happy to be running with such a diverse and talented group of candidates moving ‘South Orange Forward’ on Line A.”

Grossi, one of Borden’s running mates, is an attorney who specializes in commercial disputes, and is a member of the NJ Bar Consumer Protection Committee and NJ Association for Justice.

“I’m running for many reasons, first among them being a desire to give back to the community,” Grossi said in an email to the News-Record on March 25. “I’m looking to bring meaningful and effective communication and transparency to South Orange government. I think the village also needs to take a closer look at how and why it decides to spend taxpayer money. People would be surprised at the great amount of wasteful spending that goes on within the government and I’m looking to curb that if elected.”

Wonski, the third BOT candidate in the “South Orange Forward ticket, is a native of South Orange who attended South Orange-Maplewood School District schools, Seton Hall Prep and MSU. He is the proprietor of the Town Hall Delicatessen.

“I am running because I am a lifelong South Orange resident who wants to help push the community forward as much as I can,” Wonski said in an email to the News-Record on March 25. “As a business owner and member of the South Orange Village Center Alliance, our Community Improvement District, I frequently hear from colleagues who face similar challenges with our village’s aging infrastructure and express that there is an immediate need to invest in making downtown more vibrant. The ‘South Orange Forward’ team represents the best slate of diverse backgrounds to guide South Orange into the future.”

Zuckerman served as executive director of the SOVCA for five and a half years. He has been a member of the Development Committee, Design Review Board and is currently on the South Orange Performing Arts Center Board of Governors.

“I’m running for the Board of Trustees because I love South Orange and its people, and I want to build on my success revitalizing our downtown by working with everyone in our diverse neighborhoods to make the village the best place to live, work and thrive,” Zuckerman said in an email to the News-Record on March 18.

Coallier, running with Zuckerman, has lived in South Orange since 2003. Coallier serves on the SOPAC board, where she co-leads its culinary event, Savor the Arts, and serves on the Executive and Audit committees. The owner of her own health food company, she also volunteers with Girls Who Code in the Newark Public Schools.

“We have a robust Master Plan drafting process under way that will gather and memorialize our collective village values into broad strategies, impacting our lives for years to come,” Coallier said in an email to the News-Record on March 18, stressing why it is important she and her slate be elected at this crucial time.

Jones, a Seton Hall University graduate running on the same ticket as Zuckerman and Coallier, is assistant vice president of Technical Support Services at MSU. Jones is also a governor on the SOPAC board, serving on the Diversity in Programming, Development and Executive committees and chairing the Marketing Committee. She is also on South Orange’s Master Plan Management Committee.

“I love South Orange; we’re a community where neighbors look out for neighbors and we support our small businesses,” Jones said in an email to the News-Record on March 18. “As trustee, I’ll use my technology skills to streamline government processes, improve stakeholder interactions and communications, and support our local business owners in leveraging technology for growth. I’ll also work to create a way to foster diversity through discussion and continued activities in our community and to revitalize the Seton Village development trajectory.”

On the “Think Work Thrive Together” ticket is Brown, an attorney focused on civil rights and a national board member of the I Have A Dream Foundation. A former NFL player, Brown is an adjunct professor at both MSU and Mercy College.

“More than a decade ago, my wife and I, as a young couple, were looking for a place to plant our roots and we chose South Orange because of the town’s reputation for being diverse and welcoming. Through encounters with our neighbors, friends in town, fellow parents at schools and sporting events, we grew to love our decision,” Brown said in an email to the News-Record on March 14. “However, the recently published ‘Use of Force’ report along with discussions with fellow residents about inequities hidden below the surface of our ‘diverse’ town has made me aware that there are things that should and must be improved. As a Board of Trustees member, I intend to play an active role in creating sensible solutions and helping our town achieve its noble goal of being inclusive and fair to all residents.”

Moore, Brown’s running mate, is president of the West Montrose Neighborhood Association and serves on the management committee of SOMA’s Two Towns for All Ages initiative. Moore is a former human-resources executive in the financial services industry and has grandchildren at Jefferson Elementary School, Clinton Elementary School, Montrose Early Childhood Center and Our Lady of Sorrows School.

“South Orange is a great place to live. As the village grows and develops, road and pedestrian safety are key issues for all segments of our community. For several years, I have been working on these issues through our neighborhood association. However, the pedestrian death a block from my home provided the impetus to do more to make our streets safe for everyone,” Moore said in an email to the News-Record on March 14. “On the Board of Trustees I will make finding solutions to these issues a primary focus of mine. Senior citizens are a vital part of our community that are sometimes overlooked. Their concerns are affordable housing, pedestrian safety, effective public transportation, good libraries, age appropriate recreation facilities and programs. I will be the advocate for our age-friendly community on the Board of Trustees.”

Davis, running for the BOT with Brown and Moore, is a graduate of Columbia High School and a former president of the Marshall Elementary School PTA. She is currently the CFO of Education First, an education consulting firm that prioritizes working with foundations and education leadership to meet the needs of students impacted by adversity.

“I am running for the Board of Trustees because I want South Orange to be a safe and welcoming community for my 9-year-old son. I want to be confident in the water he drinks. I want him to feel comfortable riding his bike around our neighborhood. I want our neighbors, who have watched him grow up and have nurtured him, to be able to remain in our community and not feel pressured to move by continuing dramatic tax increases,” Davis said in an email to the News-Record on March 14. “A lot of good work has already been done by the current board and our village employees to address water quality and economic development, but there is much more to do. I look forward to working with everyone in town to make South Orange a truly safe, economically diverse and welcoming community.”

Davis Ford is running for village president after serving on the BOT since 2007. She has lived in South Orange for 24 years and is chairwoman of the Legal and Personnel committees. Since 2009, Davis Ford has served as clerk to the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

“I’m proud of several things we have done well during my tenure as village trustee. But I also want to focus on challenges facing our village. Things we need to improve to move ‘South Orange Forward,’” Davis Ford, who is running with Borden, Grossi and Wonski, said in an email to the News-Record on March 25. “It all starts with ensuring we have better governance of our day-to-day operations. From the improvement of our financial management by making sure budgets are done properly to revitalizing the downtown area and ensuring we have a more effective South Orange Village Center Alliance. We need to ensure that our fire department remains within South Orange and not cede control to Maplewood. Our firefighters should live within the community they protect and serve. We also need to communicate more effectively and bring back the Gaslight Newsletter.”

Collum has been village president since 2015 and was a member of the BOT before that. She is the executive director of the American Planning Association – New Jersey Chapter. In an email to the News-Record on March 26, she said that her experience makes her the best person to lead the village for another four years.

“I’m running for re-election because I love the work I’ve done in partnership with the community and my colleagues over the past four years to energize and reimagine how local government can best serve its residents and move away from business as usual,” Collum said. “As a policy wonk, I bring the necessary experience, collaborative leadership style, work ethic and unwavering commitment to communication and transparency residents have come to expect. Most importantly, I delivered on my platform from four years ago and the promises I made.”