Two slates of Democratic council candidates will vie for nominations during June primary

Scott Jacobs
Residents of Edison Township enjoyed a beautiful day at Edison's Roosevelt Park on August 27, 2017

EDISON – Two slates of Democratic candidates – four incumbents and four newcomers – are vying for the four, four-year seats up for grabs during the primary election in Edison.

Joseph A. Coyle and Ajay Patil, both incumbents, and newcomers Richard Brescher and Joyce Ship-Freeman are running with the support of the Edison Democratic Organization, which they garnered during a nomination screening in March.

Michael R. Lombardi and Leonard D. Sendelsky, both incumbents, and newcomers Bhavini T. Shah and Nimisha Shukla, are running on the Edison Democrats 2019 slate.

The four candidates elected during the primary election will face Republican challengers Russell Azzarello, Cathleen Lynch Kilic, John J. Roche and Gerald T. Shine in the November election.

Middlesex County Democrat Organization

Joseph Coyle, 50, a lifelong resident of Edison, is seeking his second term on council. He has one son and one grandson. He attended Middlesex County College and serves as president of the Edison Chamber of Commerce.

In the community, Coyle is the founder of a Neighborhood Preservation program, which engages in projects to improve homes and living conditions for Edison’s senior citizens, beautification projects in Clara Barton and supports small business communities. He also is a former emergency medical technician with the volunteer Edison First Aid and Rescue Squad 1.

During his time on the dais, Coyle has introduced ordinances that target quality of life issues, including a comprehensive parks ordinance, and he has also helped attract businesses that do not disrupt the neighborhood.

He also believes multi-unit apartment complexes, such as the 220-units on Jackson Avenue, congest roads, create unsafe environments, and overcrowded schools.

If re-elected, Coyle said he will continue to work on quality of life issues, continue touring parks and walk neighborhoods, and continue identifying issues such as graffiti, potholes and safety hazards. He said he will also work on attracting new businesses, making sure they conform with the nature of the neighborhood and create a true economic development program, creating jobs for Edison residents.

Ajay Patil, 49, who has lived in the township for more than 15 years, is married with two children who attend the Edison public schools. He is seeking his second term. He formerly served as council president and is currently serving as council vice president.

He is employed in the information technology sector. He has a master’s degree in technology, industrial engineering and management.

In the community, Patil serves as co-chair of the Edison Public School Overcrowding Task Force, has organized Thanksgiving turkey distributions in partnership with the Edison Housing Authority and organized programs for teens and adults with special needs through the Lions Club of Edison.

Patil said he is running for re-election to continue an agenda of transparency and accountability in local government.

He said he believes the township must regulate developers who build multi-unit residential properties, solve the overcrowding crisis, clean up parks, and reinvest in the township’s infrastructure.

As councilman, Patil said he introduced an ordinance holding big banks accountable for abandoned properties. He also introduced a pay-to-play ordinance to stop special interests from buying elections. Along with Coyle, Patil voted against a proposed tax increase, citing systemic fraud, waste and abuse in the budget.

Patil said he would also like to implement an E-Governance program that identifies wasteful spending and increases transparency for residents.

Richard Brescher, 55, who is a 45-year resident of the township, is seeking his first term. He is married with two children and two grandchildren. He attended Stockton State College and is employed as a commercial construction manager. He currently serves on the Edison Board of Education.

“My decision to run for the council was based on my proven track record serving on the Board of Education,” he said. “We saved taxpayers $4 million by cutting fraud, waste and abuse by school vendors and successfully advocated for $3.7 million in additional state aid.”

Brescher said he also advocated for and lobbied Trenton for fair funding for schools noting Edison schools has received almost $8 million in additional state aid so far. He said the board also introduced an online student residency verification system.

If elected, Brescher said he will bring the same efficiencies to municipal government by introducing impact fees to regulate builders, work on modernizing the township’s sewer and water systems and maintain buildings so they do not fall into disrepair.

Brescher said he will also work with the Board of Education to help solve the overcrowding crisis and save taxpayers money, through the use of shared services and collaboration on school construction projects. He said he will also optimize municipal government by holding vendors who overcharge and under perform accountable.

Joyce Ship-Freeman, 64, who has lived in the township for more than 42 years, is seeking her first term. She is married and has one child.

She is a retired educator and a local New Jersey Education Association representative on the policy committee. She earned a bachelor’s degree from The College of New Jersey and a master’s degree from Kean University.

In the community, Ship-Freeman currently serves on the Edison Public Library Board of Trustees, is a treasurer and fundraising chairperson for the Edison YMCA, and serves as president emeritus for the Perth Amboy Association of School Employees.

Ship-Freeman said she is running to increase access to government services for residents and to cut wasteful spending on vendors and special interest groups.

As a trustee for the libraries, she has worked on expanding the hours of operation for the Clara Barton library and identified tens of thousands of dollars of wasteful spending in the libraries through a performance audit.

As an experienced educator, Ship-Freeman said she believes it is imperative for the township to work with the Board of Education to solve the school overcrowding crisis. She said she also understands the importance of offering parents full-day kindergarten.

Collectively, Coyle, Patil, Brescher and Ship-Freeman said they were against the proposed 40-year Suez water and sewer deal and would like to work on ensuring utilities remain public.

With the support of Edison residents, Patil said he looks forward to defeating the Suez proposal and implementing a reasonable, rational alternative where Edison hires qualified professionals to run the township’s water and sewer systems.

Coyle said as a Clara Barton resident he understands the impact Suez will have on the quality of water to Clara Barton residents as well as the potential for exponential water and sewer rate increases.

Edison Democrats 2019

Michael R. Lombardi, 37, who has lived in the township for 32 years, is married with two young daughters. He is seeking his third term. He has served as council president.

He is employed as an attorney. He is a graduate of St. Joseph’s High School in Metuchen, earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Loyola College and earned his law degree from New England School of Law.

In the community, Lombardi has served on council committees in finance, public safety and economic development, served on the Edison Township Planning Board, and he is a communicant of St. Helena’s Roman Catholic Church.

Lombardi said Edison’s economic future and the integrity of the local Democratic party are at stake in the upcoming primary.

“I want to preserve both,” he said. “My top priority, however, is to keep Edison moving forward and to ensure it remains an affordable, enjoyable place for families and senior citizens.”

Lombardi said he will keep working hard to ensure local taxes remain stable for homeowners and affordable for senior citizens, ensure the road resurfacing program continues to make neighborhood streets drivable, and the township’s parks and recreation areas remain attractive and enjoyable.

“I want Edison to continue hiring and promoting professional, well-trained police officers and firefighters to protect our families,” he said. “Finally, I am committed to broaden diversity among Town Hall employees, and on boards and committees. Local government should reflect the community it serves.”

If re-elected, Lombardi said he would like to continue helping Edison attract new commercial and corporate investors with responsible projects that do not strain municipal or school services, but help offset residential taxes.

“Since 2014, new business investors have created over 3,500 jobs, raised our total property value by $100 million, and helped taxes remain stable. That’s a big win,” he said.

Lombardi said he would also like to see Edison’s old municipal landfill using new, alternative capping measures. He said the state-of-the-art process may save taxpayers about $10 million in closure costs and it may also create 20-acres of land for use as a solar farm, and for much-needed cricket pitches and playing fields for baseball, soccer and lacrosse.

Leonard Sendelsky, 60, who has been an Edison resident for 35 years, is married and has one daughter. He is seeking his second term and has served as council vice president.

He is employed as vice president of a property management/general contracting firm. He earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in civil engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

In the community, Sendelsky serves as chairman of the Edison Memorial Tower Corp., serves on the Edison Economic Redevelopment Committee, is a former chairman of the Edison Zoning Board, a church elder and food pantry volunteer at the Oak Tree Presbyterian Church, and is a foster care-provider for rescue dogs from Castle of Dreams Animal Rescue in Keyport.

Sendelsky said he is running for another term because he has “more work to accomplish for the people I am privileged to represent.”

“I want to ensure Edison’s cost-efficient road resurfacing and infrastructure improvement programs continue,” he said. “These benefit our residents and make Edison a desirable destination for new and growing businesses.”

He said his work on the council’s Economic Redevelopment Committee is important, successfully bringing in many new commercial ratables into Edison.

“These businesses – large and small – do not strain municipal services, but significantly contribute to our tax base,” he said. “That, in turn, provides property tax relief to homeowners.”

Sendelsky said with his civil engineering training and experience, it would be instrumental in creating a new Edison Community Center and closing the old municipal landfill.

He said through resident suggestions, design is underway for a new community center that may include an indoor track, a pool, a state-of-the-art fitness center and gym, multi-purpose spaces for community meetings and other recreational activities. He said he would like to see the project through completion.

In addition, Sendelsky said he and Lombardi are exploring innovative, new techniques to cap and close Edison’s old municipal landfill. If these prove to be safe and feasible, he said Edison may save $10 million and reclaim over 20 acres of land for use as a solar farm and for recreational purposes.

Bhavini Tara Shah, 49, who has lived in the township for 27 years, is seeking her first term. She is married with four children.

She is employed as an attorney. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University and her law degree from Syracuse University College of Law.

In the community, Shah serves as legal counsel for the Edison Democratic Organization and attorney for the Edison Zoning Board. She previously served as a zoning board member, municipal prosecutor, and provided legal representation for Central Jersey Legal Services.

She has also been involved in Manavi of New Brunswick and is active in Edison Parent Teacher organizations.

“Edison is one of America’s best places live and work, to raise a family, and to grow older, she said. “It is also one of New Jersey’s most diverse, dynamic, predominantly Democratic towns. I want to help Edison to continue to be both of those, and so much more.”

Shah said her community involvement over the past 18 years has helped her appreciate the evolving needs of her fellow residents.

“Being active in my children’s schools has given me significant insight into needs and challenges that many local families face,” she said. “This has inspired me to run for Town Council where I can use my experience, knowledge and my understanding of our community to meet the evolving needs of our residents.”

If elected, Shah said she wants to help Edison continue to be a safe, affordable and positive place for families, young adults, and senior citizens and wants to nurture a greater sense of community spirit and pride.

“I want to take a more active role attracting new, strategically-planned commercial development into our community,” she said. “These investments help to improve our tax base, ease the tax burden on homeowners, provide Town Hall with greater fiscal stability and enable it to provide enhanced municipal services for residents.”

Nimisha Shukla, 54, who is a 22-year resident of Edison, is seeking her first term. She is married with twin daughters.

She is employed as a pediatrician and owner of a pediatrics office in Edison and South Plainfield. She earned her medical degree from Seth Gordhandas Sunderdas Medical College/King Edward Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, India, and Fellow of American Academy of Pediatrics.

In the community, Shukla serves on the Edison Health Advisory Board, Lincoln Tech, Curriculum Advisory Board; is the owner of WWRL Radio-1600 AM serving South Asian American listeners; is the charity co-founder of “Art Speaks for Autism;” is a board member and past president of South Asian Community Outreach; and is co-chair of the South Asian Chamber of Commerce.

“I am running for Township Council to be a voice of reason and harmony,” she said. “To bring together people with divergent viewpoints from various age groups and walks of life and from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. I am running to enhance understanding and cooperation so we can all work together to make Edison a better place to live.”

Shukla said as a physician, she would advocate for the health, safety and wellness of Edison families, children and the aging population. As a businesswoman, she hopes to make Edison a welcoming place for new small businesses and larger commercial enterprises.

“This would create more jobs, broaden Edison’s tax base, and provide relief for our residential taxpayers,” she said.

The primary will be held on June 4. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.