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Four candidates campaign for three-year seats on Eatontown Borough Council

Eric Sucar
A budding tree during an sunny afternoon in Eatontown on 23.

EATONTOWN – Four candidates are running for two three-year terms on the Eatontown Borough Council in the Nov. 5 election.

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

The candidates are Democrats Al Baginsky and Tonya Rivera, and Republicans Kevin Gonzalez and Maria Grazia Escalante.

Baginsky and Rivera currently serve on the governing body. Baginsky is the council president.

Baginsky, who joined the council in 2017, has lived in Eatontown with his wife since 1974. He has an MBA in tax and finance and has “been focused on the council being fiscally responsible.”

“I have consistently voted against excessive spending,” Baginsky said. “For example, last year, nearly $650,000 of unused monies were reallocated for other projects, instead of paying down the borough’s debt on the bonds from which the monies originated. I was vehemently opposed to this plan and voted against it.

“We have kept the tax rate level for the last two years. The 2019 proposed budget underwent intense line-by-line scrutiny by the Finance and Ordinance Committee, of which I am a member. As a result, we were able to eliminate $1 million in proposed spending without cutting any programs or services.

“I have also fought for the town to make more environmentally conscious decisions. It is a well-established fact that trees enhance our quality of life by improving air quality, managing storm water runoff, providing oxygen, preserving soil and supporting wildlife.

“Between 1986 and 2012, Eatontown lost approximately 643 acres to urbanization. Since 2012, Eatontown has approved several other large projects and thus that number is even higher now.

“To prevent additional loss, I have sought to add greater protections to our parks to prevent any further development of these spaces. I am running for re-election to continue this important work,” Baginsky said.

Rivera was appointed to the Borough Council in 2019 to fill an open seat. Rivera and her husband have lived in Eatontown since 2017. She has worked in education for the past 17 years.

“I decided to get involved because I thought I could bring a unique perspective to the council. Over the past 17 years, I have served the largest urban and largest suburban districts in the state.

“So I got involved with the sole purpose of creating opportunities, access and equity for all people, regardless of background. A lot of times in government we think about equality when we should really be focused on equity. Equity is at the heart of my leadership and decision-making.

“If you look at the things I have fought for this year, including preserving 80-Acre Park and a pilot program providing childcare to parents who wanted to attend council meetings, they all have one thing in common: providing those silenced, excluded or ignored with a seat at the table.

“If I am elected, I will continue to lead and govern with this goal in mind. I would like to help develop Fort Monmouth, provide indoor recreation spaces, and redevelop the downtown area in a manner that fosters inclusiveness and reflects the diverse culture of Eatontown,” Rivera said.

Gonzalez, who previously served two council terms, moved to Eatontown with his wife more than 23 years ago to raise their three children. Gonzalez is a licensed physical therapist and the owner of Activity First Physical Therapy in Eatontown.

Gonzalez has coached youth sports in Eatontown. He has served as a Cub Scout leader and as a member of the Eatontown Public Schools Board of Education.

“Quite frankly, I thought my time as an elected public servant was over. However, I was troubled by the chaos, petty bickering and mean spirited politics occurring at this year’s council meetings. It is similar to the sentiment I see at the national level.

“This is not what Eatontown is about. This year, four Democratic council members resigned, one of whom claimed the ‘toxic’ atmosphere as one of the reasons for her departure.

“Within the past week, the borough administrator, DPW director and zoning officer resigned. Eatontown deserves a more stable and civil leadership; leadership focused on the residents and borough employees, and not on the childish fighting that has become commonplace this year at council meetings,” Gonzalez said.

Escalante is running for a seat on the Borough Council to provide stability and help resolve issues with feedback from residents.

“I would like to see our town support our local businesses more, as I own my own business. Our public services would also be a priority, as I believe they should continue to be top notch for all residents. I not only want to improve the morale inside Borough Hall, but with residents as well.

“I want our town to be a place of pride and have a sense of community. I will work with any and all committees I am involved with and make sure that if I cannot attend a meeting, that council representation is there.

“If elected as councilwoman, I plan on working with other council members, not fighting with them, to make Eatontown a better place to live and to bring back the old hometown values,” Escalante said.

Republican Joseph Olsavsky and Democrat James David are running for a two-year unexpired term. They will be profiled in a separate article.

Republicans Mark Regan Jr. and Edwin Palenzuela, and Democrat Renata Bodner are running for two one-year unexpired terms. They will be profiled in a separate article.

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