Bringing passion to the township, Mayor Ken Long discusses his plans for Shamong
When Ken Long, mayor of Shamong Township, answered the phone, he joked that the timing of the call was perfect, as his mother had just arrived at his house and now he could talk to someone else instead. Between the jokes, it takes all of two minutes of talking to Long to notice his passion for the Shamong Township community.
Six years ago, when Jon Shevelew was mayor of the township, he asked Long to fill a vacancy, and there was no hesitation.
“I was always looking for opportunities to serve the community, so when Jon asked me to serve on committee, I was happy to accept,” Long said.
As Long begins his sixth year on committee and second as mayor, his main focus is the same as it’s been since he began serving.
“Trying to keep the taxes low for residents, which is a moronic thing to say in New Jersey, so you do the best you can,” Long said. “I’ve always said for myself to not be bigger than the position. Keep taxes low and keep the town relevant. Our crime in the township is minimal, we don’t have a police force, our water and sewer isn’t public, so we want to focus on keeping taxes as low as we can and keeping the township in a good place.”
This year is already presenting challenges for the committee as a new public works truck/plow had to be purchased and the township is facing $5 million in road repairs.
“We have a daunting task ahead of us. Figuring out which roads need to be done first while continuing to maintain the roads that don’t need to be done right now,” Long said.
To help offset the costs the township is facing and help maintain its current surplus, Long knows the township is in need of revenue.
“We’re looking at a lot of different options. Putting a cell tower on public land, the township owns a lot of land so selling that as the market rebounds, but mostly getting new businesses into the township,” Long said. “We’re looking for good, quality businesses that can bring a revenue stream into the township to be able to take on projects like our roads.”
Long has lived in Shamong since 1994 and knows what residents care about in the township.
“The people in Shamong are self sufficient. They take care of themselves and they care about what’s important in the township. They want a great athletic association, which we have, and great playing fields. People want to know that they are safe and that the township is doing well,” Long said, which is why he takes it as a good sign that township committee meetings are often lightly attended, to be kind. “We know people come out to meetings if there’s a problem, so we’re happy if the public isn’t at our meetings.”
But Long also knows what the community wants from its committee members.
“They don’t want politicians running the town, and the guys that serve on committee here are servants of the town. We’re not in Mt. Holly rubbing elbows with the county. What you have here are public servants,” Long said.
That distinction extends to the township’s employees as well.
“The people who work for this township serve this township. Sue Onorato (township administrator) is amazing. She is always doing whatever she can do to keep taxes low and serve the residents of Shamong and the committee. Sue, Barb Valenzano, Kathryn Taylor, all of our employees are true servants. They do whatever is needed of them,” Long said.