HOWELL – Democrat Theresa Berger and Republican Suzanne M. Brennan are running for a four-year term as Howell’s mayor in the November 2020 election.
Berger is seeking her second four-year term as mayor. She is joined on the Democratic ticket by Township Council candidate Andre de Garmeaux.
Brennan, a former member of the Howell K-8 School District Board of Education, is seeking her first term as mayor. She is joined on the Republican ticket by Evelyn O’Donnell, who is a current member of the Township Council.
The Township Council candidates are profiled in a separate article.
In seeking a second term as mayor, Berger said, “My top priority is to stop the building. If we plan properly, we can control over-development. Our opponents welcomed developers into our town and gave them everything they wanted. This must stop. We need to elect people who will stand up to the developers instead of welcoming them to our town.
“I have been working during my first four years to increase our sense of community. One of our biggest successes is the new Howell farmers market that we started this summer and extended into the fall. The farmers market has dozens of vendors, music, food and crafts in a place where residents can shop safely and enjoy the day,” Berger said.
She said she is planning to initiate a summer concert series in Soldier Memorial Park, adding, “Businesses are eager to sponsor these community events and the costs would be minimal.”
Berger said the Howell police force as currently constituted is understaffed according to recommended state standards and said, “We need to give our police the resources and support they need to do their job.
” … We need to hire several police officers, but the Republican majority has blocked my efforts to hire them. We also need to replace our outdated communications towers so our police and first responders will have reliable communications in an emergency.
“It’s a lot to get done and I can’t do it alone. The current council has actively blocked me when I worked to curb development, hold community events and give the police the support they need, but with the cooperation of a new council, we can do it.
“My running mate, Andre de Garmeaux, and current Councilman John Bonevich share my priorities and together we can preserve Howell’s suburban character and make our great town even better,” Berger said.
In making a bid for the mayor’s seat, Brennan said she has four areas she considers immediate priorities.
Those issues are holding the line on taxes; enhancing public safety; stopping what she said is unnecessary development; and working to make Howell more business friendly.
“Regarding taxes, we need to continue to run the township like a business and find ways to be more efficient in all we do. We will seek more opportunities and engage in shared services with Monmouth County and other communities.
“We need to responsibly boost our commercial tax base to relieve the burden on homeowners and use technology to create operational improvements in how we provide services to the residents. Republicans have held the line on spending in Howell and we will continue to follow that path,” Brennan said.
“Because public safety is vital to our town, we must continue to fully support our police department and our EMS (operation). With the level of social unrest across the nation that now exists, we will ensure Howell is safe and protected.
“Our police serve with respect and are part of the fabric of our community. It is imperative to continue to invest in the resources necessary to maintain the high level of service our police department provides,” Brennan said.
“On development, our farms and open spaces are important to the beautiful, rural character of Howell. Republicans have preserved 22 farms and more than 650 acres that will never be built on.
“We must continue to protect farms and open space and have the toughest zoning standards to stop large-scale development.
“While the Democrats say they are against more development and affordable housing, it is their party at the state level that has created the mandates. We will fight hard to oppose (affordable housing) policies and prevent high density housing,” Brennan said.
The candidate said she will advocate for the elimination of any obstacles that could hinder the manner in which the economy recovers from the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.
“To promote a healthy business climate, we will continue to partner with our Chamber of Commerce and Howell’s COVID-19 Business Recovery Task Force to cut red tape and help businesses to recover from the pandemic.
“I would advocate for eliminating any obstacles that are within the governing body’s purview to allow businesses an easier path back to stability and success. We will work to develop a local shopping program and seek ways to implement programs to streamline things for businesses,” Brennan said.
She said she is committed to ensuring consistent, meaningful communication with residents.
“I believe it is the mayor’s responsibility to make sure residents are fully informed, especially during times of crisis. Our town deserves a strong leader who will not only advocate for the residents, but will work alongside them,” Brennan said.