Republicans try to gain seats on North Brunswick Township Council



NORTH BRUNSWICK – The two Democratic incumbents on the North Brunswick Township Council are trying to retain their seats during the general election on Nov. 6.

Carlo Socio and William Lopez will be challenged by Republicans George Callan and Richard Pender. Republican Thomas Lichwa dropped off the ballot.

Callan could not be reached by press time.

William Lopez has been a resident for 12 years. He is a podiatrist.

He has served on the council for one year.

He is a volunteer for the NYC Marathon and provides community foot screenings in and around Staten Island.

If re-elected to the council, Lopez said he would like to improve conditions for North Brunswick seniors by expanding programs and resources.

“It is imperative that we continue to review the services that we provide to our seniors and look for additional ways to improve those services. We also need to realize that the needs of the senior community continue to change and that we need to change along with it. This is why I would like to see us become more interactive with a broader cross section of the senior population in order to seek out a greater diversity of opinion as to how we can help address those needs.

“One way to do this would be through a survey of the senior population, perhaps through a questionnaire included with regularly scheduled township mailings that would [provide] ample opportunity for senior residents to provide their own thoughts as to how we, as a community, can better address their needs, help them improve their quality of life within the township, and help them, if they so wish, become even more active participants in the comings and goings of our community,” he said.

He is also focused on further commercial development of the town.

“The mayor and council have successfully helped to foster economic development in town, but this is a job that will always be ongoing. The redevelopment of the old Pathmark and Barnes & Noble strip malls with such a quality mix of retail and dining establishments is a real testament to our overall vision of smart development and exemplifies how we need to continue to move forward with a continued mix of new ratables, new revenues and a business mix which meets our residents’ needs. Multiple new hotels have added into this mix by maximizing the advantage of our unique location along the I-95 corridor, and by providing additional revenues into township coffers through ratable growth, the local share of the Hotel & Occupancy Tax and the increased patronage of our local businesses. Continued growth at the transit village will also continue to bring in new ratables and revenues as well as further diversify the mix of business establishments desired by our residents.

“The continued success of this record, however, requires us to be always forward-thinking, always on the lookout for how we can continue to attract new business establishments, how we can continue to make township policy more business-friendly, and how we can continue to balance the needs of the business community with the needs of our residents.

“If re-elected to the council I intend to continue to actively work with township officials toward this end while at the same time providing an important bridge to the community by actively seeking out our residents’ opinions as to what they would like to see and how our community’s business growth be directed toward meeting their needs both currently and in the years to come,” he said.

Lopez said he also pledges to work with the local police to ensure town safety.

“We are fortunate to have, under this administration and under the current leadership of our police department, developed an outstanding working relationship which allows all of us to focus on providing and constantly improving our public safety approach rather than get bogged down in the type of constant infighting that many times occurs between other local governments and their police force. Having said that, we also know that our community, like all communities, faces many challenges such as the ongoing drug epidemic, school safety issues, home and neighborhood security challenges and traffic safety, to name just a few. With the foundation of good police/township relations serving as a base, it is our role as governing officials to not only provide the police with the necessary tools and equipment to do their jobs, but also to help serve as a bridge between the police, the community as a whole, and the many demographic subgroups within our township.

“Public safety, along with schools, are the bedrock of any successful community and as a councilman I am determined to continue to ensure that we continue to achieve this balance. Again, we have been successful to date in achieving this balance but it is also, like economic development, an ongoing task, one which I look forward to continuing to build upon,” he said.

Richard Pender is a 30-year resident of North Brunswick. He is a retired multi-disciplined engineer.

He was a member of the Governor’s Commission for Water Conservation in the late 1970s and was nominated for the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence by the State of North Carolina in 1981. He said he was the inventor of several pieces of industrial equipment and processes used in the treatment of wastewater, the conversion of industrial waste into usuable energy and closed-loop industrial process water cooling systems. He is a member of the World Congress of Energy Engineers and the author of white papers for peer review by that organization and the American Petroleum Institute.

Pender is a Korean War veteran and the senior vice commander of American Legion Post 459 in North Brunswick. In the past, he was part of the American Legion baseball program. He was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame in Elizabeth and the Union County Baseball Hall of Fame, achievements based on his early days playing baseball.

Pender said real estate property taxes are of paramount concern.

Pender said real estate property taxes are of paramount concern.

“The school tax portion (62 percent) of our property tax is out of control. Funding for schools should be achieved by a broad-based tax that removes the burden from the property owner. Since North Brunswick is becoming a shopping mecca, and a great portion of the shopper are from out of town, a local sales tax might be something to consider.

“Statistics and rankings indicate that the North Brunswick school system is not the stellar system some would like us to believe. Rankings by many organizations place the district in the bottom third of the state. Our school board, administration and faculty appear to have ‘a go along to get along’ mentality. I am not trained as a primary or secondary school teacher; however, I have taught and lectured at the graduate level and I can readily compare that experience with the experiences speaking to students at North Brunswick Township High School. I saw areas where the system has flaws. … The political situation within the schools prevents these flaws from being addressed,” he said.

Pender said he would be in favor of an independent ad hoc committee of qualified citizens to examine the schools programs and methods.

An octogenarian, he also mentioned quality of life issues, especially among seniors in the community.

“Increasing population, changing demographics and increased traffic seem to threaten the safety and independence of the senior community. Whether with the foundation or unfounded, some folks feel their quiet neighborhoods are being invaded by strangers making multi-family use of single-family homes. The number of retail establishments opening in the township has brought an increase in traffic and people from outside the area; a reliable transportation system is needed for those who cannot drive,” he said.

He added that a housing inspector should police the residential community as is done in urban towns.

Also, the senior taxi service needs to be refined to make the program better for both the senior community and the operator, he said.

Cologero “Carlo” Socio has lived in town for 42 years. He is a project supervisor for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.
Socio is a coach for his daughters’ baseball and soccer teams. He is on the board of the North Brunswick Baseball and Softball Association, is an active member of the Judd Elementary School PTO and has been a class parent for the last six years.
He is the council liaison to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, a member of the Traffic Safety Committee, and a member of the Middlesex County Transportation Coordination Committee.
He is a former youth wrestling coach as well as a current wrestling referee.
Socio has been on the Township Council since 2001. During that time he has served as council president and council vice president. He has served on the Media Advisory Board as well as the Planning Board.
“To date, my biggest achievement on the council was being a part of the Veterans Park reconstruction. Through input from the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, community meetings and my experience as a Judd School parent, we were able to create a state-of-the-art facility that re-established the township’s summer complex. Since the re-opening of the park, summer camp has been brought back to Veterans Park which enables us to link Summer Camp, Summer Enrichment and the Extended School Year. These programs all happen between Judd School, Veterans Park and North Brunswick Township High School.
“We expanded the curbside dropoff and pickup area for parents to have safer access to Judd School, men’s softball returned to Veterans Park, the basketball courts have been moved up to the front of the park and residents can just relax in the sprawling grass area in the middle of the park. Lastly, the tennis complex got a much needed facelift, continuing our collaborative relationship with the Board of Education as they serve as the home courts for the high school boys and girls tennis teams,” he said.
Socio said he is running for re-election because “there is still much more to do.”
“We will be embarking on a long awaited renovation of Babbage Park in the near future. We need to make more improvements on our code enforcement and continue to reconstruct our infrastructure. …
“Another big issue is attracting new businesses in town. We have seen a renaissance in the Walmart shopping center as well as the Raymour & Flanigan shopping center. We need to continue to attract new businesses into our existing shopping centers in order fill the voids left by stores that have closed down. This will help expand our tax base to assist us in the services we provide to the residents of town.
“Lastly, but equally important, is maintaining services that we provide. We have and will continue to achieve this by keeping a mindful eye on the budget, making sure that any decision we make takes into account our residents and the services that they have come to expect. We pride ourselves in providing a wealth of service to our residents and it is our responsibility to maintain that,” he said.


Contact Jennifer Amato at [email protected].