Six candidates seeking two seats on Jackson Township Council

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JACKSON – Six candidates are seeking two four-year terms on the five-member Jackson Township Council in the Nov. 6 election. Jackson has a nonpartisan government and candidates do not run for office under the banner of a political party.

Councilwoman Ann Updegrave, who has served on the council since 2006, is not seeking re-election.

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The candidates seeking the two seats are Scott Martin, who has served on the council since 2006, Denise Garner, Andrew Kern, Brandon Rose, Paul Sarti and Alexander Sauickie III.

Garner has worked as a Geographic Information Systems consultant and has served on the Jackson Environmental Commission for 14 years. She has lived in Jackson for 23 years.

“The reason I am running is because there is a need in this township for an individual with my skill sets to sit on the council, to make important decisions that effect the changes for the future of Jackson. I understand the demographics of the township and the responsibilities of the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Adjustment,” she said.

Garner said she understands how bad decisions adversely affect the tax burden and how good decisions decrease the tax burden. She said shared resources is very important.

“One of the biggest issues is, of course, the taxes we are looking at here in town. As I went out, visited a lot of people and spoke to them about their concerns, many of them have commented that they moved to Jackson because of the characteristics and the natural beauty this township has and these people are concerned about what is happening, the overdevelopment,” Garner said.

She said “proper planning, shared resources and accountability of our government will keep our taxes stable.”

Kern is the vice chairman of the Planning Board. Professionally, he is the managing principal of an energy management firm that helps schools, hospitals, health systems and commercial businesses reduce their utility expenses. He grew up in Jackson and graduated from Jackson Memorial High School. After he was married he moved back to Jackson and has lived in the community for the past 17 years.

“Having been a volunteer my whole life, volunteering for the last five years on the Planning Board, I have always tried to help people. How could I help more? I have coached kids through sports for 10 years. I have worked with a number of organizations to help people. What really (inspired me to run) was when Ann (Updegrave) decided she was not going to (seek re-election), I felt I could do a lot more for the town.”

He said the five years he has sat on the Planning Board have helped him to understand land use laws and said, “That gives me insight in being able to help author ordinances that are fair for the entire community and could keep Jackson the family friendly community it is.”

Kern said his biggest issue is keeping Jackson the family oriented culture in which he grew up.

“Family is everything to me. I am one of six kids, four of us still live in town and are raising our families, putting eight more kids through Jackson schools right now. I want it to remain a place where families like that can grow up and want to have their kids and raise their kids. There are so many people in town right now who I know, who I grew up with, who still live in town, who are raising their families and it is the second and third and fourth generations in town and that is a big deal and that is important to me,” Kern said.

Kern said keeping taxes stable, improving the town’s infrastructure and the quality of life are key issues on which he would focus as a member of the governing body.

Martin works as a retirement education counselor with Empower Retirement and is a lifelong Jackson resident.

“What am I most proud of in my 12 years in office? We brought fiscal responsibility back to Jackson. From 2000-06, prior to us coming to office, the budget increased by $11.3 million. That is a $1.8 million increase each year over a six-year period.

“As you look from 2006-18, our budget only went up by $6.2 million, for an average increase of $522,000 per year. So we reduced/limited spending increases by about 60 to 70 percent. We brought fiscal responsibility back to Jackson while at the same time reducing our debt by $8.7 million, whereas from 2000-06 our debt increased by $7.1 million,” he said.

Martin said he looks forward to embracing change.

“We have a changing population right now, I think we all need to work together to embrace this change. We all need to be open minded as the changes occur in Jackson and we all need to be playing by the same rules,” he said.

Martin said community leaders need to be “proactive on the drug front” to keep drugs out of schools. He said he is very concerned about the possibility that the use of marijuana for so-called recreational use will be approved by state legislators and the governor.

Rose is a law enforcement professional with more than 21 years of experience. He has lived in Jackson since 2010.

“My inspiration to run for office and the biggest issue I want to address is the over-development that has been taking place in Jackson. It needs to stop. If it continues, Jackson will be put in a situation where the infrastructure – roads, water, sewer, schools – can’t support the population,” Rose said.

Sarti is employed by the Division Of Pensions, working with retiree health benefits.

“I moved here in 1988 with my parents. From October 1991 to March 1996, I moved out when I was married, and then in March 1996 we moved back to Jackson,” Sarti said.

The time was right to get involved in the community, he said, adding, “I felt it was time to stop complaining and to do something about the problems in Jackson. Overdevelopment and increasing taxes are threatening our quality of life and Jackson needs new leadership and a new direction,” Sarti said.

In regard to what he termed overdevelopment , Sarti said, “We need to review the type of building and what types of affordable housing credits. We should look to reallocate a large portion of the current 4,960 family units in the (township) plan to go to seniors, disabled seniors and disabled veterans. This would gain the town more bonus credits with less overall development (fewer units). It was a huge mistake for (township officials) to put this agreement through without maxing out senior housing, which doesn’t add more school children.”

Regarding taxes, he said, “First, we would conduct a comprehensive review of the town’s legal bills, which we already know are so much higher than towns that are similar in size and demographics to Jackson. Second, we would audit every department and division to see how spending in each department compares to that of similar towns. This is an easy and inexpensive way to see where we are spending too much money.”

Sauickie is a member of the Jackson Zoning Board of Adjustment. He is the president and chief operating officer of a software company called Scivantage. He has lived in Jackson for 47 years, most of his life.

He said running for local office has been “a lifelong dream since I was a kid. I have wanted to give back. I volunteer a lot and I really just wanted to give back to the town I grew up in, I was raised in and I am currently raising my family in,” Sauickie said.

Sauickie said if he is elected to the council, he wants to continue the council’s fiscal responsibility.

“Keeping our municipal tax rate in check, under the 2 percent cap. I want to continue to see services and infrastructure improve. I definitely want to bring in smart commercial ratables and I want to ensure our quality of life,”  Sauickie said.

He explained how he would bring in what he called smart commercial ratables.

“I have a history of helping to create and run start-up companies … I’m proud of that and will apply that business experience to bringing in smart commercial business. To do that I will work to ensure we promote those areas of Jackson designated commercial and which make the most sense for both the residents and the businesses. It makes no sense for a business to locate in a place where it is doomed to fail.

“The Route 537 corridor is the prime example of where businesses should be booming. My record on the zoning board enforces this. While I am for business in our town to lower the tax burden on our residents, I tend to weigh heavily against any businesses that infringe upon the quality of life of our residents. As a business owner, I know that in general, that infringement is bad for business as well,” he said.

Regarding quality of life, Sauickie said, “Quality of life starts first and foremost with safety. Last year Jackson was rated the No. 2 safest place to live in the entire state. That was due primarily in part to our outstanding police force which has grown by a net 16 in the last four years. I will look to continue to ensure we have the right number of police and the police have what they need to do their jobs effectively, while still keeping our tax rate in check.”

“Second, we have laws. Those laws cannot just be broken by anyone who thinks they can ignore them. Ten years ago we had one code enforcement officer. Today we have four full-time, and one part-time, (code enforcement officers), most of whom are former police officers. I will continue to ensure our laws are upheld and that code enforcement has what it needs to ensure our laws are in fact enforced.

“Lastly is infrastructure and parks. Our roads are in the best shape they have ever been in. … I plan to support the continuation of that trend. Our parks, however, could use some improvement. … Parks like Woodlane Park, the one I spent most of my time in when I was growing up, and Brookwood 4, need some attention. Smaller parks like that and those found in (residential developments) are within walking distance and within the safety of those developments and are critical to the families living there,” Sauickie said.

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