By Sean Patrick Murphy
Mt. Laurel Mayor Jim Keenan may soon add a new position to his resume: Assemblyman.
“I don’t mind working on tough issues,” Keenan, who is running for 7th district, said.
Keenan will replace retiring Assemblyman Joe Malone of Bordentown City.
Keenan said he was interviewed by GOP leaders.
“I wanted to let the county Republicans know that Mt. Laurel has people qualified to do the job and willing to step up and serve on a larger scale rather than just on the local level,” he said, noting that he spoke with state Sen. Diane Allen “and she thought I was a perfect fit.”
Keenan said he spearheaded putting meeting agendas and minutes online for residents to peruse.
“I wanted to open up communication,” he said.
As mayor, he said he had Township Manager Jennifer Blumenthal look at ways to improve the efficiency of the township to make it “as lean and mean as possible.”
Keenan pointed to privatizing grass cutting for township parks, saving money by not having to pay pensions and healthcare or buy machinery. He said that alone saved the township $350,000.
Keenan said it is that attention to savings that he will bring to the assembly if elected.
“I see the inefficiency of how the state works,” he said, noting it is the state politicians who are the problem.
“Instead of pointed fingers and making political statements they should be focusing on how to make New Jersey friendlier to businesses so people have jobs again,” Keenan said. “This is what I would focus on.
“Three years into a recession and they finally do something,” he continued. “The people of New Jersey are fed up with high property taxes.”
Keenan said the state assembly needed to act sooner.
“Why wait until the residents are moving out in droves?” Keenan asked, noting it is the poor, those on fixed incomes, as well as middle class people who can’t sell their homes who foot the bill. The people who stay and pay taxes need the most help from the state.
He said his experience in Mount Laurel has taught him what the needs are at the local level.
“A guy sitting up in Trenton for 13, or 14, or 15 years just passing laws arbitrarily and not dealing with things right in front of him like a failing pension system is a guy who shouldn’t be there anymore,” Keenan said.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y. Keenan is a steel and commodities buyer and exporter and owns Pioneer Commodities Trading in the township.
He is a high school graduate and has owned his business for 29 years.
He was honorably discharged from the Army, where he attended military intelligence school, in 1978. He attended business school afterwards.
In February 1982 Keenan married Geri Fagan. They have three children: Jim Jr., Nicholas, and Alexa Rose.
Now in their 20s, all attended Mt. Laurel public schools and all graduated from Lenape High School.
Keenan is a founding member of Charlotte County, Fla. Tax Watch — residents organized to review and make recommendations for spending cuts and savings to the county administration. He lived in Port Charlotte, Fla. from 1985 to 1990.
Keenan moved to Mount Laurel in 1990 and volunteered as a baseball and soccer coach the following spring. He coached for 10 consecutive years.
Keenan was president of the Mt. Laurel United soccer program, served on the Mt. Laurel Fall Festival Committee for 14 years (and organized the 5K run at the festival), served on the Mount Laurel Site Plan Advisory Board, and has been on the planning board for 10 years.
Appointed to town council in October 2007 for retiring council member Virginia Devery, Keenan ran for council and won in 2008. He has been selected to serve as mayor every year since 2009.
Keenan said he likes that Mt. Laurel is volunteer-oriented and is close to cities from New York to Washington, D.C. as well as the shore.
“It’s a fantastic location,” he said.