Six candidates vie for three Township Council seats in Old Bridge

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June Dungee

OLD BRIDGE – Three Democratic candidates will challenge three Republican incumbents for the three council, four-year seats open in the November election.

The three Democratic candidates are former longtime Councilman Dennis M. Maher, former Councilwoman June Dungee, and newcomer Raya Arbiol.

The three Republican candidates are Anita Greenberg-Belli, Eleanor “Debbie” Walker, and Mary Rita Sohor.

Raya Arbiol, 35, who has lived in Old Bridge for 14 years, is seeking her first term on the council. The eldest of seven children, she said she helped raise her younger siblings after her mother passed away at a young age.

She has been a principal consultant with Raya Enterprises LLC since 2005 and is an outbound operations area manager for Amazon in Staten Island.

In the community, Arbiol has been part of the Old Bridge Democratic Organization since 2017. She said she started formally getting involved in the political system after the 2016 presidential election. Prior, she had only been involved as a volunteer for Representative Rush Holt’s (D-Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset, Union) bid for U.S. Senate and as a summer fellow for Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president in 2016.

Throughout the years, she has volunteered in organizations in the northeast region including New York Cares, American Red Cross, United Services Organization and iMentor.

“I am running for office to bring new perspectives in Old Bridge,” she said. “I want to be the voice of compassion and inclusion. Old Bridge is an evolving diverse society and our township government should reflect that.”

If elected, Arbiol said she has four core concepts she would like to work on as a council member: reinvest in the township’s children and community services, incorporate strategic planning in all governmental endeavors, shift focus from overdevelopment to improving quality of life, and champion youth and young adult engagement and development.

June Dungee, who is an 11-year resident of Old Bridge, is seeking her first elected term on council. Dungee had previously served as Ward 3 councilwoman to fill the seat after the untimely death of Reggie Butler, the council’s longest serving member, in June 2016.

She is a widow and has two adult children. Dungee is retired after working many years in the private sector.

In the community, she has served as commissioner of the Old Bridge Housing Authority, is a member of the Old Bridge Cultural Arts Committee, the Old Bridge Community Wellness Program and Silver Linings at Old Bridge.

Dungee said representing Ward 3 was thoroughly enjoyable.

“My interest in running for council again as a council-at-large is to help unify and represent Old Bridge Township,” she said.

Dungee said, if elected, she pledges to reinvest in the community. She said she wants to work on attracting entrepreneurs, offering individual-based incentives to fill vacant stores and buildings, creating jobs; embracing and supporting diversity in all areas; encouraging residents to voice their issues and concerns and to submit applications to serve on boards and committees; charging seniors based on actual water usage because most are living on a fixed income; providing senior after-hour transportation; and improving infrastructure in the township.

During her time on the council, Dungee said she worked on getting a youth center in her ward, which she said would also benefit other wards.

Dungee said, if elected, she will also focus on challenges seniors face away from the township Senior Center and when they are alone.

“Many are dealing with depression and loneliness, [and] social isolation from family and friends, due to lack of evening and weekend transportation, medical and financial obligations,” she said. “It is very real for seniors. I am also concerned about transitional senior housing and affordable housing for all residents.”

Dennis Maher, 67, who has lived in Old Bridge for 61 years, is seeking his fourth term on the council. He has four adult children and five grandchildren.

He previously served as councilman for 12 years from 1997 to 2007. During his time on the council he served as council president for four years. He is a retired AT&T executive.

In the community, Maher served as past trustee of the Most Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Church, and formerly was active in various youth sports leagues – baseball, basketball, soccer and cheerleading – in various leadership roles when his children were growing up.

“I am running again for Township Council because the challenges we face in our schools, preserving open space, protecting the character of our community, creating vibrant business districts, expanding our commercial tax base, property taxes, and the environment affect the quality of life of every Old Bridge resident,” he said. “I have built a deep understanding of our community and the way things work. We have many issues that must be addressed now, and I can hit the ground running without a learning curve.”

Maher said his running mates share the same concerns and have many ideas that would “save money, improve township services or otherwise benefit our community, but we have no authority to implement them.”

If re-elected, Maher said he would like to focus on the preservation of open space with respect to the township’s master plan, which is critical to the future success of the community.

“All pending and future housing projections need to take a closer look at quality of life impacts to township schools, roadways, public safety and other emergency services,” he said.

Anita Greenberg-Belli, 62, who has lived in Old Bridge for 25 years, is seeking her second term for the council-at-large seat. She and her husband Daniel have an adult daughter. She is a veterinarian.

Along with serving as council vice president, she has served as a member of the Old Bridge Planning Board; served on the Economic Development Corporation; worked on the Open Space referendum; liaison for the Open Space committee; liaison for the Shade Tree Commission; member of the Trap Neuter Vaccinate Release committee; served as chair of the Old Bridge Republican Municipal Chair for eight years; serves as a commissioner on the Old Bridge Municipal Utility Authority; and is a member of Madison Township (Old Bridge) Historical Society.

Greenberg-Belli said she is running to continue the positive strides which she, along with her running mates, have made in Old Bridge.

“As much as we have accomplished, there are projects that we have introduced that I want to see to fruition,” she said. “I care deeply about the town I live in and the people who call Old Bridge home.”

Greenberg-Belli said with her experience and business skills running a veterinarian practice for nearly 30 years, she is confident that she can positively contribute to the community. She said she is able to multitask and prioritize in order to achieve the goals that will inspire Old Bridge to flourish into the next decade.

During her years on the council, Greenberg-Belli said she is proud of the stabilized financial well-being of the township.

“This year we have had a zero municipal tax increase and achieved a [Moody’s Investors Service] Aa+ bond rating, all while improving services town-wide, focusing on capital improvements and energizing new businesses to invest in Old Bridge,” she said. “Due to our leadership skills, Old Bridge has been voted one of the safest communities in the state, and our police department has been accredited by the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police for following best policy and procedures. In conjunction with the Municipal Alliance, we will continue to fight the opioid epidemic.”

Greenberg-Belli said she was drawn into government service by the issues of open space and environment, and she will continue to work toward providing recreation, active and passive, for everyone to enjoy throughout the town, including the anticipated completion of the Cottrell Farm project.

“I will continue pursuing the preservation of open space in order to maintain greenbelts between existing developments,” she said.

Mary Rita Sohor, 63, who has lived in the township for 42 years, is seeking her third term. She has served as a Ward 2 councilwoman for 10 years and is the widow of the late Councilman Roman N. Sohor.

She is retired after 32 years as a manager of the Peterpank Diner on Route 9 in Sayreville and manager at the South Brunswick Motor Vehicle Agency.

In the community, Sohor has served as a housing authority commissioner for 10 years, served on the Local Welfare board for six years, is a current member of the Recreation Advisory Board, and is a current member of the township Historical Society. She is a former member of the Parent Teacher Associations at McDivitt Elementary, Carl Sandburg Middle and Old Bridge High School (OBHS). She is also a former OBHS marching band parent member.

Serving 10 years as Ward 2 councilperson, Sohor said she believes she has been a strong voice for her residents and she would be proud and honored to represent all the people of Old Bridge.

“I ran for office to improve the quality of life here in Old Bridge,” she said. “Major accomplishments have been made. If elected again I will continue to support our local businesses and encourage more growth, maintain our financial stability, expand our recreational opportunities.”

Sohor said she encourages all residents to be more involved in town and enjoy the many wonderful things Old Bridge has to offer. Together, she said, they can accomplish many great things.

Eleanor “Debbie” Walker, 63, who has lived in the township for 31 years, is seeking her third term for the council-at-large seat. She and her husband have two adult children and two grandchildren. She is retired from the Monroe Transportation Department.

In the community, Walker served as a fire commissioner for six years, she is a member of the Planning Board, a member of the Redevelopment Agency, member of Recreation Board, liaison for the Open Space committee and member of the Historical Society.

“I’m a principled leader with a record of success and clear goals for Old Bridge, such as keeping our municipal tax rate stable while improving all township services,” she said. “I want to continue on the path of keeping our community safe.”

If re-elected, Walker said she would like to continue to work on keeping Old Bridge the financially stable and safe community that it is.

“I would also like to bring new recreation ideas to Old Bridge such as the new pickleball courts that were just opened at the municipal complex,” she said.

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 5.