ALLENTOWN – Four residents of Allentown are seeking two three-year terms on the Borough Council in the 2020 election.
The residents running for office are Democrat Robert H. Schmitt Jr. and independent candidates John A. Elder III, Linda Cotte and Erica Torsiello.
Cotte has lived in Allentown for 22 years and ran for a council seat in 2018. In 2003, she and her husband, Bill, established Brylin Employee Benefits, LLC, where they continue to work.
“Many residents may know me,” Cotte said. “The masks my husband and I made and donated to residents and essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic were well received. The project has morphed to over 850 masks and still counting.
“Over the past five years I have regularly attended council meetings and have volunteered my time to numerous events and services in the community. I am an active member on the Economic Development Commission and chair of the Senior Citizens Committee since 2019.
“In 2017, I brought the deteriorating road condition on Pondview Drive to the attention of the council. With the help of council President Rob Strovinsky, a grant has been secured to repair the failing infrastructure on Pondview and to address additional borough streetscape projects,” she said.
Cotte said that as a member of the council, she would be committed to improving Allentown’s parks and recreation areas, including the boat ramp in Farmers Park; expanding shared services with other municipalities, keeping operating costs down and
saving taxpayers’ dollars; helping to preserve the charm and integrity of Allentown’s historic village by preserving open space and stopping urban sprawl; and working to secure a location to host more programs and services for Allentown’s senior residents.
She also said she believes traffic calming and speed enforcement are critical to the safety of the borough’s neighborhoods.
“I believe our community is what we make it or fail to make it,” Cotte said.
Elder is completing his first term on the council, having joined the governing body in January 2018.
Asked why he is running to retain his seat, Elder said he is seeking re-election “to keep progress on multiple fronts. The governing body is working very well together and that needs to continue. We discuss what needs to be accomplished and make a determination that is both fiscally responsible while promoting quality of life.
“My experience and working relationships with others that focus on what is best for all residents are qualities I bring to the governing body. Becoming a valuable member of council requires much attention to policy, process, research and dedicated hard work.
“In 2021, Allentown faces many challenges: completing the new wastewater treatment plant; eliminating truck traffic over 4 tons except for local deliveries; reducing the speed limit on county roads to 25 mph as is the case on borough roads. These issues require support from multiple government entities in Monmouth and Mercer counties.
“We also want to work to improve the downtown business environment through the collective effort of the Allentown Business Community Association, the Economic Development Commission, and the mayor and council, while maintaining the historic character of our village,” Elder said.
Schmitt served on the council from 2014-09. He lost his bid for a third consecutive council term in the 2019 general election.
Schmitt was raised in Allentown and is a single father raising a family in the borough.
“I don’t just know the value of a tax dollar, I understand the cost of it in every paycheck. … I started serving the community while I was actively raising young children so my girls could see, firsthand, the tremendous impact and rewards of community service.
“I am the only candidate with six years of experience of actually beginning a project from an idea and seeing it through to completion as a borough councilman,” Schmitt said.
“I grew up in the borough and have a passion and a commitment to this amazing historic village and that drives me to serve and to work hard to find solutions to challenges we face as a community every day,” he said.
The candidate highlighted his public safety track record, which he said includes new police officers being hired, improved morale, detective rank added, chief of police installed, two contracts written and settled, increased traffic stops and speeding crackdowns, new equipment purchased and personnel trained.
Schmitt said he would work toward “traffic calming initiatives and speeding solutions now. … Tractor trailers continue to use the historic village as their high speed shortcut. Allentown residents have spoken. We all want solutions now. No more excuses. I will fight to end the reckless speeding and truck traffic now.”
Torsiello is making her first bid for a council seat and said, “My husband and I live with our two cats in the Lakeview neighborhood. I am a New Jersey native and have a B.A. and M.S. in global affairs.
“I work in fundraising at The Pennington School and have a passion for philanthropy in education, politics, and social justice. I previously worked for the nonprofits Womanspace and the Coalition for Peace Action, and currently serve on the Upper Freehold-Allentown Municipal Alliance and The Allentown Village Initiative.
“I am running for council to represent both the long-term and next generation of Allentown families. The council could use a younger, female voice, and my experience in nonprofit management and community organizing would be an asset.
“My career has provided me with opportunities to learn about politics and to work with law enforcement, religious organizations and nonprofits to better serve the community. I have also completed professional courses in marketing and grant writing, two skills that would be beneficial to our local government.
“My priorities are road and parking improvements, economic development, historic preservation and protecting green spaces. I have long-term and cost-effective plans to address these issues,” Torsiello said.
The winning candidates in the Nov. 3 election will join Robert Strovinsky, Michael Drennan, Martha Johnson and Dan Payson on the Borough Council in January. The winners’ terms will run from Jan. 1, 2021 through Dec. 31, 2023.