WOODBRIDGE – Four Democrat incumbents will face four Republican challengers for four four-year at-large seats that are available on the Woodbridge Township Council in the Nov. 5 election.
Gregg Ficarra is seeking his fourth term, Kyle Anderson is seeking his third term and Lizbeth DeJesus and Brian F. Small are seeking their second terms. Paul Lund Jr., Thomas E. Maras, Frank Trombatore and John Vrtaric are seeking their first terms.
Lizbeth DeJesus, 47, has lived in Woodbridge for almost 19 years. She is married with four children ages 11 to 22. She is employed as a paraprofessional in the school district. She earned a degree in broadcast journalism from Syracuse University.
DeJesus said she started becoming involved in the community through the PTO at her children’s schools as well as the sports organizations they were involved in.
“I am running for a second term because I believe it is important for all people to have representation in government,” she said. “I am the first Hispanic to be appointed/elected in Woodbridge. The demographics in Woodbridge as well as the nation have changed and the Hispanic community is growing everywhere, so I take great pride in representing my community.”
DeJesus said it is important for children to see themselves represented in elected office so they can aspire for greater things.
“It was through my involvement in the PTO that I realized there was a need in the Hispanic community that needed to be addressed,” she said. “They needed a voice and to feel included in Woodbridge. I believe we have made big strides in accomplishing that.”
DeJesus said she is a big believer, if children can identify and relate to those in government office or those who come and speak to them, they will believe in themselves and strive for higher goals.
“I’m also a big supporter of women and girls achieving greatness,” she said. “My opportunity to represent not only the Hispanic community, but women, gives me pride.”
Gregg Ficarra, 64, is a 59-year resident of Woodbridge. He and his wife, Maritza, have three adult children, two grandchildren and another grandchild on the way. He retired in 2012 as a district administrator for the Perth Amboy Public Schools. Currently he is chief operations officer for Career Council/National Hispanic College Fairs Inc.
Ficarra is a graduate of JFK Memorial High School in Iselin and earned a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education from Trenton State College (now The College of New Jersey) and a master’s degree in adaptive physical education from the Kean University School Administrative Certificate from Kean University.
On the council, Ficarra has served as vice president and president. He has served as chairman of the Woodbridge Housing Authority; member of the Woodbridge Affordable Housing Council; member of the Woodbridge Township Athletic Alumni Association; board member of the Raritan Bay Area YMCA; board member of Heroes and Cool Kids; and chairman of the Woodbridge Township Wellness Committee.
“I want to continue to make sure our day-to-day services remain at a high level,” he said. “Basic services like our trash and recycling pick-up. Now we have the ability to clean our trash containers. Also to continue our excellent snow removal. It is important to further develop our relationship with the Board of Education, which will result in state-of-the-art facilities, strong curriculum and safe schools.”
After 13 years of public service, Ficarra said he would like to further the township’s development of health and wellness initiatives in the community.
“Our Wellness Committee has sponsored annual road races, bike tours, health expos and screenings,” he said. “Our ‘Wellness Woodbridge’ TV 35 show highlights and discusses pertinent health topics. All of the shows are currently on YouTube and easily accessible if you miss it on TV 35.
“Moving forward, I would like to expand [the township’s] Share The Road program, and also expand walking opportunities. If we walk and ride our bikes more we are certainly helping the environment, saving a few bucks on gas and hopefully staying healthier and avoiding chronic disease,” he said.
Paul Lund, Jr., 56, was born and raised in the Hopelawn section of the township. He is married.
Lund is a high school teacher. He earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Rutgers University and earned a certified K-12 special education and science degree from Georgian Court University.
In the community, he is a member of Conservative Republican Organization of Woodbridge; serves as a Middlesex County committeeman; volunteer for Children’s Ministry in Epic Church in Sayreville; and a spokesman for the South Asian Republican Coalition.
“I am running for the same reason I always run,” he said. “Conservative voices like mine are simply not represented in local government. The powers that be are proud to have a lock on every election even though voter participation rate is usually less than 30%. There are many folks, Democrat and Republican alike, who are not happy about overdevelopment, unrelenting tax increases, and unresponsive government, but many are too intimidated by the political machine to speak out. I will be their voice. I will provide a check and balance.”
If elected, Lund said his focus will be to shed light on the backroom dealings that may negatively impact the quality of life of residents.
Thomas E. Maras, 74, has lived in the township since the mid 1950s, with absences for military service and employment in the private sector.
“While my family has had a continuing presence in the township for over 60 years, I have enjoyed, and am enjoying, over 40 years of life in the township,” he said. “Home is where the heart is; my heart has always been in Woodbridge.”
Maras worked in executive management in international business development, procurement and project construction with major engineering and construction corporations.
He has lived and worked in various locations in the United States, Europe, the Middle East and the Far East. He earned a pipefitter apprenticeship, did his undergraduate studies in business and is licensed in real estate.
Maras said he is running for a seat on the council “to restore accountability and transparency on the Township Council’s dais.”
If elected, Maras said he would like to establish and enforce fiscal responsibility to ensure that the needs of the township, not the wants of politicians and developers, are met in the most cost-efficient manner; to make sure bond debt is retired as soon as possible; to increase tax ratables, not tax breaks for developers; and ensure schools, safety and infrastructure are the foremost business of government.
Brian F. Small, 54, is a lifelong resident of the township. He has four adult children and one grandchild on the way.
He is a retired Woodbridge police officer and currently is the coordinator of security for the Woodbridge Board of Education and a fire official for District No. 2 in Port Reading. He is a Woodbridge High School graduate.
In the community, Small serves as president of the Port Reading Fire Company, president of the Port Reading First Aid Squad and is a member of Don Bosco Knights of Columbus and Woodbridge Elks.
Small said public safety is a top priority for him.
“I believe that good working relationships between our township’s emergency service departments is an asset to everyone,” he said. “I also believe that educating our residents in safety and awareness from our youth through our senior citizen population is imperative to keep Woodbridge ‘A Great Place to Be.’ ”
Frank Trombatore, 70, has lived in the township for 34 years. He is married with three adult children and six grandchildren. He is employed as a broker/dealer; prior to that he worked in executive management in the chemical/pharmaceutical industry. He earned an associate’s and a bachelor’s degree from Monmouth College.
Trombatore said he is running for a seat on council “to limit citizen abuse by elected officials.”
“Too often I and other citizens have been treated with contempt and derision from the council and administration at town meetings,” he said. “I want to wake up as many patriots as I can while I am still alive. I’m doing this for my grandchildren, my father, a D-Day veteran, and my buddies who didn’t come back from Vietnam.”
Candidates Kyle Anderson and John Vrtaric could not be reached by press time.
Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 5.