Meet the Candidates

November is closing in and the race for three seats on Council is heating up.

In the township’s first-ever partisan election, six candidates are competing for three, four-year spots opening on Evesham Township Council.

Incumbent Mayor Randy Brown is on the Republican ticket with running mates Steve Zeuli and incumbent Councilwoman Deb Hackman, both vying for a place on Council. Former Councilman Mike Schmidt is running for mayor as a Democrat with running mates Kathleen Santomero and Mark Ornstein, both hoping to fill Council seats.

This week, The Telegram asked all the candidates two questions:

1.) Do you have any ideas for improving services delivered to Evesham residents, while keeping taxes stable?

2.) What, do you believe, are the township’s weakest points and how would you address them, if elected?

Their responses are below.

Brown, Zeuli and Hackman

1) In Evesham we are proud of the level of services that we provide to our residents. We have done a great job already with shared services, but we would like to see more shared service agreements that save money and increase efficiency. We are also on the path of going green in the township and we are exploring other resource saving measures. Going green not only allows us to do our part to be good stewards of the environment, but it also saves the township and the taxpayers money. When we reduce the amount of energy we use, we will see those savings at budget time. We also believe that the township website is an asset. We believe we can make easier for our residents to do more online and save them the time and energy it takes to come to the municipal building.

2) We have spent the last three years turning the Township’s weaknesses into strengths. We have begun construction on the first of its kind solar project on township buildings. This project will bring us an immediate $50,000 savings in year one and set us up for decades of savings on township energy costs. This is just step one in our comprehensive green energy plan. Our improvements in community events, community outreach programs, recreational facilities, and recreational programs for our youth, dramatic senior services upgrades and infrastructure improvements all while reducing municipal taxes. Evesham Township is now the leader in Burlington County and we look forward to cultivating ideas outside the box to make our town more affordable for our residents. Business leader Steve Zeuli will bring with him the experience he has obtained from running a company. In these hard economic times, his understanding of how to keep a business a float will be invaluable in the years to come.

Mark Ornstein

1.) Providing services, maintaining roads, equipment and buildings is a vital part of a healthy business environment and crucial to maintaining a good quality of life for Evesham residents. There are two ways to look at services — what those services are, and how those services are delivered. Given the fiscal challenges ahead, we are providing a comprehensive long-range spending plan that will match the town’s needs with available financial resources in order to stabilize taxes. We believe by doing this we can create a more efficient and cost effective system. It is also important residents have access to those services. We are looking to not only analyze the services themselves but to also to create an interrelated system of offices and streamline the community’s access to those services.

The S.O.S team will also find new innovative ways to create revenue for the township. One of the most important issues facing Evesham is finding new streams of revenue as well as looking for ways to transform existing sources. Local governments across the nation are facing decreased revenues because of the nation’s current economic status. Engineering a realistic expenditure budget is just one of many ways Evesham can combat the current decreased revenue.

Finally, cutting costs and doing more with less by finding ways to operate more efficiently, not only exploring the consolidation of services, but also looking at a sharing of resources with neighboring townships. One example of this would be joining with surrounding townships to cut costs on both large and small purchases by buying items in bulk. Team S.O.S. will expand the township Web site to create a site where residents can access services such as applying for local service permits and zoning variances, as well as make payments for municipal actions.

2.) The openness and accessibility of Evesham leaders is the weakest point in our town. The S.O.S Team plans to review alternative methods to make Evesham government more accessible to the public. We believe openness and easy access to town government and officials is vital in creating a link between government and community. We will conduct a comprehensive review of the current ways Evesham residents can and do interact with town government and town officials and consider ways to enhance the levels of access and communication. Some of these ideas are broadcasting Council meetings either via television or on the Internet, hold town hall meetings throughout all of Evesham, respond quickly and efficiently to our residents on all of the issues, work honestly and respectfully with all of the various boards in town including the School Board, Fire Board, MUA.

Kathleen Santomero

1.) Privatization of various services and consolidation of services with county and neighboring townships will enable us to reduce costs and overhead. As a result, new services and more effective services to the community will be provided in areas such as trash collection, snow removal, road repair, landscaping, etc. without further tax impact to the residents of Evesham. The realignment to privatization will allow our current public works equipment and staff to continue to provide services where they are most needed in our community. Additionally, “voice of the community” will be solicited to ensure that we target the areas of services that our residents truly want and need. Partnering with Marlton businesses and working with them to improve market share in Evesham will enable our Marlton businesses to grow and prosper, bringing new jobs to Evesham and the county. Partnering with our business Leaders to enhance our Main Street area and reconnecting our shopping centers to our Main Street Business District by joining merchants in discounting programs and service programs will enable our residents and visitors alike to access high quality vendor products and services while enjoying a home town atmosphere on Main Street. Bringing our newer shopping districts into partnership with a growing Main Street will be a win-win for all and bring a super revival to Marlton’s Main Street.

2.) The weakest points of Evesham are not hard to identify. Communication, respect and leadership have been absent in the areas where they are needed the most in Evesham. Elected local government is leading the people without truly listening to the residents who put them in office. Although our residents enjoy a parade or a fireworks display, or for that matter a celebration of any kind, they are not willing to continue to pay for these things when so many other much more important things could and should be paid for first. Lowering people’s taxes, even in a slow incremental way, will make a huge impact on our resident’s quality of life. I believe our residents have said “no” many times and their voices have been discarded on taxes, turf and what is paid for by their taxes. The residents of Evesham tell me every day that they want to have leadership that listens, acts on what they hear and offers the residents the respect that they deserve. Respect is a two-way street. You cannot get it if you do not give it. Our current leadership has not provided respectful communication to our residents nor has the current leadership listened to the voices of their community. Our residents deserve to be heard, respected and brought into the process every day.

Making government more accessible will allow all residents to have the opportunity to participate in the “debate” and have a full understanding of the business at hand their leadership is directing. I look forward , if elected, to bringing open, respectful communication to the residents of Evesham and strong leadership that listens, ensures that the “voice of the community” is heard and can make hard decisions when necessary to control spending and contain property taxes.

Mike Schmidt

1.) Like any company, you are only as good as your customers think you are. We do a lot of things well in the township, but there is always room for improvement. We need to maximize our dollars on basic services such as trash collection, snow removal and police.

We must talk to our residents about what is important to them, and figure out common sense solutions to making government easier to work with. One item of our Three Point Plan is an outreach program for mayor and Council. The goal of it is to improve the dialogue with Evesham residents, and find out what is on their minds.

Services need to be prioritized as mandated versus non-mandated. There are certain responsibilities of our government that must be funded such as police and public safety. Tax dollars need to be maximized in these areas, and the dollars spent need to be effectively used.

The way to keep taxes stable is to contain spending. To do that means we will have to continue to look for innovative ways to consolidate services, share services with others and prioritize services using our tax dollars. We can’t spend what we don’t have. Our team understands this.

2.) Evesham is a great place to live and raise our families, but we can do better. We are being taxed out of our homes, and we have to turn it around or else more homes will be going up for sale. All taxing entities have to come together and look for ways to share services, cut expenses and do more with less.

There are other areas that can improve. First, we need to give the residents better control over the direction of the town. We can do this by listening better on tax issues, spending initiatives and making our residents a part of the solution. Better accessibility, more information on budgets and spending, and using the digital age to share as much as possible can help bring knowledge to everyone.

We can bring our residents into the process by adopting more referendum questions on the direction of the town. Elected officials should have the authority to make decisions on behalf of the community, but for major spending plans such as the $3.5 million bond approved this year, let’s put it in front of the voters when it makes sense.

Driving around town leads to two observations: There are too many vacant store fronts, and our roads and sidewalks need some help. If we can use an Evesham business, we should. Our businesses need our support, and the mayor and Council must strengthen its relationship with the business community.

All of us would agree that there are many roads and sidewalks in Evesham that need to be addressed. A responsible plan needs to be created and presented to our residents.