Four candidates race for two open Spotswood Borough Council seats

Marylin Israel

SPOTSWOOD–One incumbent and three newcomers will face off to secure the two open Spotswood Borough Council seats. Election day is Nov. 3.

Councilman Jose Rivera will go up against newcomer candidates Marylin Israel, Edward Lesko and Diane Charlesworth to earn one of the two open seats on the council, with each seat holding a four-year term.

Councilman John Melillo is not seeking re-election. Council President Larry Kraemer put in a bid for the mayor’s seat.

Diane Charlesworth has lived in the borough since 1995. She said her age is irrelevant: “let’s just say I’m a ‘seasoned citizen,’ ” she said.

Charleworth is retired, but spent more than 30 years in the eyeglass business, selling eyeglass lenses wholesale for different manufacturers to various optical labs in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

“After attending council meetings for about two years, I decided to run for the council because I saw a need for leadership in the challenges that Spotswood will be facing in the next few years,” she said.

In 2015, Charlesworth said she founded a knit/crochet group, Stitch in Time, where members meet weekly at the Spotswood Senior Center.

“In addition to working on our own personal projects, we do a lot of charity work, such as making sleeping mats from recycled plastic shopping bags that get distributed to homeless veterans through the American Legion,” Charlesworth said. “We also make hats and scarves that get distributed through the CUP Food Pantry in Spotswood, for those who are less fortunate than we are.”

Charlesworth said the group has a few members who are retired nurses from the Mother and Child Department at Saint Peter’s University Hospital, and through this connection they are able to donate handmade baby blankets to many newborns.

“We need to definitely tighten our belts when it comes to spending because there are several lawsuits that the borough is facing from current and former employees,” Charlesworth said about the changes needed in Spotswood. “We need to settle these lawsuits and mitigate current employee issues and concerns by ensuring that a new business administrator is trained appropriately and has the necessary skills when hired.

“Also, we need to bring more ratable businesses into the borough, especially since the Schweitzer Mill will be closing at the end of the year. There are several empty commercial spaces located throughout town that could be operational and helping to lessen the tax burden on the residents,” she said.

Marylin Israel, 59, has been a borough resident for more than 10 years.

“I have decided to run again because I truly love Spotswood. For the love and passion I have for the town, running again speaks volume that shows that my intentions are real,” she said. “I need a change for my town. Spotswood needs a facelift. I will be honored to represent the town that I love with respect, integrity and grace.”

Before retiring, Israel was working for a law firm as a senior paralegal for 10 years.

“I am a member of the liturgy committee for Immaculate Conception Church in Spotswood, [where I] serve as an eucharistic minister and a reader,” Israel said. “I am a member of the Board of Trustees for Spotswood Public Library and I am also a member of the Friends of the Spotswood Public Library.”
Israel said she is also a Neighborhood Watch member.
If elected to the council, Israel said some issues she wants to tackle are the continuation of improving DeVoe Lake, controlling the municipal budget, stopping unnecessary spending, creating more activities for seniors on weekends, and more programs for children.
Edward Lesko, 22, is a lifelong borough resident, and is currently a field organizer for a congressional campaign in north New Jersey.
“I work seven days a week, upwards of 12 hours a day, and will be doing so through Nov. 3. Here, I oversee a group of more than 60 volunteers,” Lesko said. “While that might sound like a lot, the experience continues to be rewarding, both personally and professionally.”
Lesko said he decided to run for a seat on the council to inspire residents, especially young adults, who have not previously been involved.
“I want them to believe that it is never too late, or too early, to find their voice. I personally know people from many different age groups who are under the impression that because they have not previously been involved, or because of their age, that they don’t feel they have the right to start,” Lesko said. “This should not be the case. Every resident deserves to be heard and considered. As a council member, I hope to bridge this gap and improve collaboration efforts.”
Now that he has graduated from school, Lesko said he looks forward to having more time to devote to the community on a regular basis. In high school, he said he was a member of the National Honor Society, track and field team, and soccer team.
“I enjoy running the annual Spotswood 5K and attending the Memorial Day Parade. I also am a former employee at MJ’s in Spotswood, where I became familiar with countless members of the borough,” Lesko said. “I hope to get more involved with the youth in our community, investing in them, and creating new ways to encourage engagement.”
If he is elected, Lesko said one major issue he will work to address is Devoe Lake. The project has a hefty price tag that will not fully be covered with existing funds.
“Our residents have grown tired of the condition of the lake, and they deserve to live in a town that has their quality of life as a priority. Another issue I feel strongly about is supporting the town’s small businesses,” Lesko said. “Now, more than ever, they need our support. We must utilize social media, word of mouth and other platforms to promote these stores and services. They are the backbone of the economy.
“That being said, I propose we explore advisory groups that allow our business leaders the opportunity to come together to collaborate with each other, and with Spotswood,” Lesko said.
Jose Rivera, 56, moved to the borough in 2005 with his family.
“I don’t accept the status quo and am known to do my own research into issues. These past four years have been hard and at times, very uncomfortable, but it has also been worth the effort to move things forward in this town,” Rivera said. “I want to continue to ask the hard questions, find solutions to our problems and help make Spotswood even better than it is today.”
Rivera is a retired officer for the State of New Jersey. He worked for the Corrections Department in the Parole Division and his last assignment was on the Fugitive Squad.

“I am a member of the Spotswood Fire Department and have been serving as president for the past two years. I grew up in Perth Amboy and joined the fire department there when I was 18 years old, eventually rising to the rank of fire chief,” Rivera said. “In Perth Amboy, I also belonged to the volunteer First Aid Squad. I am also a member of the Knights of Columbus.”

While finishing up his first term on the council, Rivera said he is also the borough’s Office of Emergency Management coordinator and has held that position for six years.

“I was able to find a grant to start the [DeVoe] lake project but we will need much more in order to properly complete this. I will work with the administration to find this money because the Spotswood taxpayer cannot afford to pay for this,” Rivera said. “I also want to find a water supply solution for Spotswood so that we no longer need to rely on East Brunswick. I will work to find more grant money to improve our parks and to complete our road projects.”

Rivera said he works closely with the Office of Aging and would love to find them additional grant money to help seniors who can’t afford to fix their homes.

“Most importantly, we need to be better at being as transparent as possible with where our money is going and what exactly is happening in town,” Rivera said. “I will work with the administration to find additional avenues of communication to make this possible.”

Contact Vashti Harris at [email protected].