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Metuchen council candidates seek terms

EDISON — Four candidates are vying for the two, three-year term seats available on the Borough Council in the upcoming election.

Democrat incumbents Reed Leibfried and Todd Pagel will face Republican candidates Daniel Lebar and Richard Menziuso.

Daniel Lebar, 61, who is a 45-year resident of the borough, is seeking his first term on the council.

He is semi-retired after a long career as an attorney and serves as a municipal lien investor.

For more than 30 years, Lebar has served the community on various committees including CATV Advisory, METV, Traffic and Transportation, Friends of the Metuchen Library, District 18 Senate representative, Middlesex County Transportation Coordinating committee and the JFK Hospital Institutional Review Board.

Lebar said he is running for a council seat to make sure Metuchen runs to its maximum full potential.

He said with personal experiences with assortment of health challenges has inspired him to focus on ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) issues, an emerging, intensifying concern that he has developed.

Reed Leibfried, 40, who is a 13-year resident of the borough, is seeking his second term on the council. He is married with two young children.

Leibfried earned a degree in history from Rowan University, Glassboro, a master’s degree in special education from New Jersey City University and he earned a principal and superintendent certification. He is employed as a principal.

Prior to running for the Borough Council, Leibfried served on the Zoning Board, the Development Commission, coached baseball and softball for the Metuchen Little League, coached soccer for Metuchen Recreation Soccer, Metuchen Flag Football and basketball for the Metuchen YMCA.

“I have also been an active member and volunteer at the Old Franklin Schoolhouse and a volunteer for the Metuchen Gives Back organization,” he said.

As a councilman, Leibfried has served on the Planning Board and been a liaison to the Metuchen Public Library, Metuchen Public Pool Commission, Recreation Commission and the Metuchen Emergency Medical Services.

Leibfried said as a longtime resident of Metuchen, he has been very involved in all types of community service to help the town thrive and grow.

“I have been fortunate to work with many talented, dedicated residents whose devotion to this cause continues to inspire me, and I consider it a privilege to represent them as a Council member and to help facilitate and actively support their ideas and initiatives,” he said. “As so many others in this town, I believe that Metuchen’s potential for growth and prosperity is boundless, and that tapping into our local talent and brilliance is the key to realizing that potential. I am fully committed to the residents of this town, and I intend to serve them in a way that reflects this commitment and is focused on reaching our collective goals as a community.”

Leibfried said pedestrian safety and traffic congestion needs to continually be addressed in the borough.

“[With pedestrian safety], we will complete the implementation of the five crosswalks we were awarded through a grant and assist the Metuchen Police Department in enforcing speed limits and pedestrian laws to the strictest degree,” he said. “This is a complex issue with no quick-fix solutions and it takes all the community members to do their part if we want to address the issue effectively.”

Liebfried said spreading awareness to children whether at home or through the schools on biking/walking safety and throughout the community is the first step. He said participation of all residents is instrumental.

As for traffic congestion, Leibfried said local officials will continue to strive for an effective collaboration with County and State officials to finalize the Route 27 and Interstate 287 exchange.

“To complement this ongoing effort, we need to explore any potential grant opportunities that would allow us the coordination of a synchronized traffic light system,” he said. “This would clearly alleviate and improve traffic issues and pedestrian safety.”

A few areas of focus for traffic light synchronization include Amboy Avenue and Main Street, Main Street and Hillside Avenue, Main Street and Route 27 and Grove Avenue and Route 27, Liebfried said.

“The addition of left hand turn signals at specific intersections would further ease traffic flow and prevent road congestion,” he said. “We need a consistent, holistic approach to this important issue.”

Richard Menziuso, 42, who is a 12-year resident of the borough, is seeking his first term on council. He is married with three young children.

Menziuso earned a bachelor of business administration degree in public accountancy from Pace University in New York. He is a certified public accountant.

In the community, Menziuso has been a contributor and volunteer with St. Francis of Assisi and the Knights of Columbus, participated in the Salvation Army Adopt-a-Family sponsorship, served as board member for the Opera Company of Brooklyn, volunteered his time with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, participated with the Brooklyn Martial Arts Center, and is a contributor to various charities.

Menziuso said he is running for a council seat because he wants to be part of “what will be” adding that Metuchen is stalled at the crossroads of “what was” and “what is.”

“We need a jump start into the future,” he said. “I am running to preserve our history and shape Metuchen’s character. We now have one party in unchecked political control.”

Menziuso said he can assure voters their voices will be heard by all.

“My personal and professional background will complement those of other council members and together we will deliver well-considered solutions to Metuchen,” he said.

If elected, Menziuso said he would like to focus on financial planning.

“In recent years, we have engaged in significant transactions that are physically reshaping the town, but are draining our coffers,” he said. “We have balloon payments coming due on Borough Hall, but have impaired our cash flow by hobbling our Parking Authorities revenue stream. We need to identify and exploit opportunities to mitigate the rising tax burden on residents. We have a municipal budget of $19.6 million.”

Menziuso said while Mayor Peter Cammarano and council members each have unique skills as lobbyists and educators and lawyers, he believes some additional financial sophistication, which he said he has, would serve the borough well.

Todd Pagel, 35, who is a 12-year resident of the borough, is seeking his first elected term on the council. He is married with two young children.

Pagel earned an English degree from the Virginia Military Institute, a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s in education from Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, a master’s in administration and leadership from Seton Hall University in South Orange, and a certificate in teacher leadership from Rider University in Lawrenceville.

He is employed as a social studies teacher and is a United States Coast Guard reservist.

In the community, Pagel currently serves as the chair of the Shade Tree Commission and is a member of the Emergency Management Commission.

Pagel said he is running for a seat on council to be a voice for all the residents, to embrace all of the ideas from the residents and make them a reality and to help Metuchen continue to be the exemplar for the rest of the state on how to bring in new business and growth while at the same time maintain its small town character.

“Metuchen is special for so many reasons, but the one thing that sets it apart from other towns is the residents in town,” he said. “We have such a talented and diverse populous that has a strong desire to get involved.”

Pagel said Metuchen is flourishing and the downtown is bustling.

“We have great new businesses moving to town and wonderful new people are calling Metuchen home,” he said. “With this renaissance brings challenges that we as a community need to address.”

Pagel said he believes the number one issue for Metuchen is pedestrian safety and the walkability of the town.

“When I am elected, I am going to focus much of my attention on making sure that everyone has the ability to walk to our wonderful downtown and do so safely,” he said. “In order to do this, I would work with all stakeholders involved to come up with practical solutions to make our town safer and more walkable.”

Pagel said he would further gather information from local businesses, the various commissions including accessibility, senior citizen, shade tree, traffic and transportation, the Department of Public Works, Metuchen Police Department and the residents.

“I would work with these groups to brainstorm ways to improve our sidewalks, add more crosswalks and ramp up enforcement,” he said.

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