OLD BRIDGE – Two candidates will vie for the Ward 2 one-year unexpired term on the Old Bridge Township Council for the election in November.
Councilwoman Mary Sohor, a Republican, vacated her Ward 2 seat, which expires on Dec. 31, 2021, after she was sworn in for the council-at-large seat in November 2019. The Old Bridge Republican GOP offered three names and the council selected Erik DePalma in January to fill her unexpired seat until the November election.
DePalma will face Newcomer Zeeshan A. Siddiqi, a Democrat, in the general election on Nov. 3.
Erik DePalma, 39, has lived in the township for 11 years. He is married with two young daughters, eight and four.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Wagner College and a Master’s of Business Administration from New York University’s Stern School of Business and is currently enrolled in the executive Master’s of Public Administration program at Rutgers University.
He is employed as a financial services professional and college professor.
In the community, DePalma is a volunteer member of the Lakeridge community board; is a member of the township’s Redevelopment Agency and Planning Board; and volunteers as a soccer coach for the Old Bridge Girls Soccer League and parent volunteer for Lakeridge’s swim team.
“I am running for council to continue the great work being done within our municipality,” he said. “In my life, I have a track record of never sitting on the sidelines when I can have a positive impact and this drive leads me to continue my tenure as councilman. When my wife and I moved to Old Bridge in early 2009, we knew Old Bridge and our community was where we wanted to start and raise our family and we are proud to call Old Bridge our home. I am committed to ensuring our public safety, delivering responsible government and to support the business and economic development of our township.”
DePalma said, if elected, he will continue to concentrate on the township’s commitment to public safety.
“After being recognized as the 15th safest small township in America, I feel it is important to support the Old Bridge Police Department in its mission to protect, preserve and safeguard our township,” he said. “I am extremely proud to be part of an administration that has made it a priority to ensure the safety of our residents. I look forward to the day we are the [the number one] safest small township in America.”
Zeeshan A. Siddiqi, 40, has lived in the township for 29 years. He and his wife have three young foster children: two daughters, ages 11 and 8, and a son, 10.
He is a graduate of Old Bridge High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a minor in business administration from Rutgers University. He is employed as a managing partner of a growing information technology firm and is working as an architect with the Department of Defense for the U.S. Army.
In the community, Siddiqi currently is the head of a youth leadership group, along with his wife, educating and encouraging youth for civic and political engagement. He previously served as a teacher and a principal at a local Sunday School. He also coordinated several youth programs, taught computer literacy classes for Old Bridge residents and recently completed the New Jersey State Police Citizens Academy to educate the community about law enforcement.
Siddiqi said he is running for council based on three initiatives: honesty, integrity, and business experience with a vision.
“Honesty: you may not make friends with everyone when you speak the truth, but in my humble opinion you need to be willing to stand up for what is true and right even if it means you might not be popular.
“Integrity: politics seems to attract people who need their ego stroked. I am not running for office to garner headlines and sound bites. The council seat is way more important than your ego. The decisions [the] council makes can have a profound impact on the lives and livelihood of tens of thousands of people. I have the humility, confidence, drive and determination to be of service and make a difference in our community.
“Business experience, being part of a business, I realize that Old Bridge is a multimillion-dollar business and need to be treated as a growing business. One needs to understand how a business works including budgets and balance sheets.”
If elected, Siddiqi said he wants to be the voice of the community.
“I want to meet everyone in Ward 2, listen to them and vote soundly,” he said. “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There are actually few new ideas. Innovations have already been implemented in other cities. We don’t need to deviate our resources to be creative or innovative, [we can] find out what other cities are doing and make it better.”
Siddiqi suggested using shared services and work as partners to lower the township’s overall operation costs whether to promote smart growth to protect open space or educate and address prescription drug abuse.
“We can solve issues if we work together,” he said.