METUCHEN – Three candidates will vie for the two, three-year terms available on the Metuchen Borough Council during the election in November.
Incumbent Councilman Daniel Hirsch and newcomer Tyler Kandel, both Democrats, will face Stephen Kitsko, a Republican.
The general election is Nov. 3.
Dan Hirsch, 54, who has lived in Metuchen for 27 years, is seeking a second elected term on council. He was appointed to the council in January 2019 and ran successfully for the one-year unexpired term in November 2019. He and his wife Debra have two adult daughters.
He earned his bachelor’s degree from The State University of New York at Albany and a law degree from Indiana University/Purdue University at Indianapolis. He is employed with Zurich American Insurance Company as a program manager for three books of professional liability business – lawyers, travel agents/tour operators and municipalities.
In the community, Hirsch has volunteered in many roles for more than a dozen years. He is a member of the board of directors for Congregation Neve Shalom, and was later elected to the executive committee at Neve Shalom acting as recording secretary, vice president and president.
“One of my main goals as president was to get the synagogue more involved in the local community, which has been borne out in many ways,” he said.
Hirsch has also served as a member of the borough’s Planning Board, the Technical Review Committee, the Environmental Commission and the Parking Authority. He participated in the design phase of the Woodmont Project, particularly around the Metuchen Plaza.
“I am running for a seat on the council because I possess good judgment and feel that service to my community is important,” he said. “As an attorney, a businessman, and proven leader in the community, I possess the knowledge, experience and skills to help my town be the best town that it can be. I have a clear understanding that anything I do in my position as councilperson is not about me and my desires, but must be what’s best for Metuchen. I also understand that there are limited resources and that interests must often be balanced against each other.”
As the liaison to the borough fire department and Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Hirsch said the most pressing need in Metuchen for the next few years is creating a plan to build an affordable, but effective, home for the fire and EMS services.
“The safety of our neighbors is the highest priority a councilperson can have,” he said. “It’s why we reduced our speed limit on major roads. Likewise, the need to make the new home attractive to volunteers and meet their technical needs is so very important. I look forward to continuing to work with [Fire] Chief [Robert] Donnan, with [EMS President] Peter Fairclough and the council to make this happen.”
Tyler J. Kandel, 51, who has lived in Metuchen for 19 years, is seeking his first term. He and his wife Stephanie have two daughters.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from The State University of New York at Binghamton and earned his law degree from the New York Law School. He is employed as an attorney who specializes in commercial litigation and employment litigation. He is a partner in the law firm of Sills, Cummis & Gross, PC.
In the community, Kandel has served as head coach or assistant coach on various sports teams his daughters have played on over the past decade. He has also served as commissioner of several T-ball and softball divisions of the Metuchen Baseball and Softball League.
In 2010, Kandel served on the Mayor’s Commission to study full-day kindergarten. In 2014, he founded the Metuchen Daddy-Daughter group, which annually charters buses for a day of snow tubing and river rafting for up to 200 fathers and their daughters. He has raised thousands of dollars each year to local charities and he has also been an annual volunteer at the Metuchen Cookie Walk, a local event, which contributes thousands of dollars to the Fuccile Foundation.
Since 2016, he has served as a member on the borough’s Zoning Board of Adjustment.
“I decided to run this year as I watched the impact that the COVID-19 crisis has had on our community and local economy,” he said. “I am eager to devote my efforts and abilities to help support Metuchen throughout the pandemic and rebuild after the crisis has subsided. Although I was not born and raised in Metuchen, having spent the last two decades in our beautiful borough, it is our home. I believe I can be a strong voice aimed towards Metuchen continuing to be an amazing place in which to live and raise a family.”
If elected, Kandel said he will focus on the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting revenue shortfalls, which are the predominant issues facing Metuchen’s residents and local businesses.
“As the council and the mayor [Jonathan Busch] have done so well so far, we need to listen to and support our local business owners and be as flexible as possible as circumstances change,” he said. “In addition, I will be involved with the development of the Arts District, since, as a musician, it is a cause close to my heart, and which I know will contribute significant value to our community.”
Stephen Kitsko, 64, who has lived in Metuchen for 26 years, is seeking his first term. He and his wife Jill have two adult sons.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Drexel University and an MBA in finance from Temple University. He is employed as a technical business analyst.
In the community, Kitsko has been the pack master for the Cub Scout pack sponsored by the First Presbyterian Church. He served on the Metuchen Municipal Alliance for eight years, where he served as treasurer for six years. He simultaneously served as the treasurer of the Metuchen Police Department’s D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program. He also created the Metuchen Music Enrichment and Development Organization, a tax-exempt registered charity for the Metuchen High School Band Parents.
“I am running for [council] because I believe I can add some diversity of thought on the council,” he said. “Less than half of registered voters in Metuchen are declared Democrats, but 100 [percent] of the council seats are held by Democrats. They are all good people with good intentions, but they vote as if their way is the only way. There is no independent voice. There is rarely a differing opinion offered that highlight the views or concerns of the majority of voters who are not Democrats. That attitude must change if this borough is to survive, grow and prosper.”
If elected, Kitsko said there must be focus on getting the borough’s spending priorities in order.
“That means developing a long-term capital budget where we identify infrastructure needs on the distant horizon and put plans in place to prepare for them,” he said. “We also need to rein in our operating budget. For years, Metuchen was fiscally responsible. In large part, it still is. But note in the past 10 years the town’s budget has increased 50 [percent], from roughly $16 million in 2014 to $24 million in 2020. We have to find a way to hold the line so that Metuchen remains affordable for young families and senior citizens.”