OLD BRIDGE – Long-time Republican Mayor Owen Henry will face Democratic candidate David Merwin, who is currently serving as Ward 1 councilman, as he seeks re-election to the four-year mayoral term open in the November election.
Owen Henry, 59, who is a 58-year resident of the township, is seeking his third term as mayor. He has two grown children and a grandson.
“I was born in Hoboken and along with my family relocated here. I still live in my original house purchased by my parents,” he said.
Henry oversees his contracting business, which has been in operation since 1996. He is a graduate of Cedar Ridge High School [a former high school in the township] and earned his bachelor’s degree from Trenton State College [now The College of New Jersey].
“I now consider myself a full-time mayor in Old Bridge, a promise I made eight years ago when first elected,” he said. “A town of this size needs a person dedicated 24/7 to the position. I want to reaffirm that commitment.”
In the community, Henry has served on the Old Bridge Environmental Commission, the Old Bridge Planning Board and the Old Bridge Board of Education.
“My professional career has allowed me to donate my time, abilities and provide monetary assistance to all in need,” he said. “I continue to support continued education with scholarships for students within our community.”
Henry said he is running for re-election because he not only loves the town, but “cares deeply for those who live and work” in the township.
“Under my administration we have improved upon all services the township provides,” he said. “All departments have made customer service a priority. Public safety continues to be foremost and dedicated men and woman are ready to assist our residents at a moment’s notice. Old Bridge’s financial position continues to improve. Sound management and fiscally responsible decisions have enabled the town to do more with less.”
The 2019 budget does not include a municipal tax increase nor rely on one-time revenue sources, but yet continues to improve services and make additional investments into the community, Henry said.
“The town has had bond rating upgrades through my terms, now at AA1, which is a reflection of the financial improvements we have made,” he said.
Henry said his administration has accomplished what most said was impossible and could not be done.
“The results speak for themselves and I am proud of what has transpired in Old Bridge over the last seven-plus years,” he said. “I hope all want to continue making progress and moving Old Bridge forward in the right direction which benefits all our residents. I hope all of you will continue to support good government and not return to a mismanaged, self-serving political atmosphere as in the past.”
Henry said his goals and objectives remain consistent for the upcoming election, “complete dedication to the office of mayor, presenting myself and acting on your behalf as a professional.”
“I will continue to address the issues which directly impact the taxpayers of Old Bridge,” he continued. “Sound and sustainable economic growth will allow us the ability to reduce the tax burden on our residents. The focus will be to maintain and improve the services our residents deserve. Old Bridge will be in a position to help its residents as long as the finances of the town are managed with good, sound and conservative principles. By following the road to success my administration has built and implemented, all our residents enjoy a high quality of life here in Old Bridge and a greater opportunity for all to achieve their goals.”
David Merwin, 64, who has lived in the township most of his adult life, is seeking his first term as mayor. He currently serves as Ward 1 councilman and has two adult children.
He is retired from the Township of Old Bridge where he served the community as a police dispatcher, housing officer, code enforcement officer and manager of parking facilities for 42 years from 1974 to 2016.
Along with serving the Township Council since his election in 2018, Merwin has been a volunteer member of the Laurence Harbor First Aid Squad for more than 40 years; current member of the Planning Board; member of the N.J. Planning Officials; served as union president of Chapter 7, Local 196 IFPTE; member of Teamster Local 469; current member of the Citizens Advisory Group working with the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the township’s beachfront; coordinator of the Old Bridge Memorial Day Parade for 10 years; and coordinator of the Salt Water Day Festival and Fireworks Show for the past 18 years.
If elected mayor, Merwin said he will have the opportunity to give back more to the community that he loves.
“Old Bridge is currently stagnant, and it needs new leadership and vision,” he said, noting the current mayor and council have been in control for eight years. “It needs smart growth that will expand our commercial and industrial base with clean ratables.”
Merwin said since the current administration has been in office, they pat themselves on the back claiming they have had ribbon cuttings in more than 200 businesses, adding the truth is in the numbers.
“The real numbers are that our commercial ratables are down $4.3 million since they took office and our industrial ratables are down $5.1 million,” he said. “Those ribbon cuttings are mom and pop locations that would have opened no matter who is in office, and as a matter of fact several of those locations have had several openings of different businesses, meanwhile they are giving 30-year tax abatements to new businesses in town.”
If elected, Merwin said he would concentrate on shared services to make sure residents get more bang for their tax dollars.
“I will concentrate on the building department to ensure that our residents and new businesses flow through the process with ease, something which is not currently happening,” he said, adding most importantly, he will institute bulk pickup throughout the town.
Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 5.