Three candidates – two Democrats and one Republican – are vying to fill two open seats on the Hightstown Borough Council in the Nov. 3 general election.
Joseph Cicalese, an incumbent borough councilman, and Cristina Fowler, both Democrats, are squaring off against Republican Party nominee James Eufemia to run for the two open seats, which each carry a three-year term.
Cicalese was elected in 2019 to fill out an unexpired term, and is now seeking election to a full three-year term. He has lived in Hightstown since 2016. He works for Conair in East Windsor.
Cicalese said he is running for a full term on the Hightstown Borough Council so he can continue the work that the current council has done over the last year to improve the quality of life for residents and to maintain the growth in property values.
Asked about the top three issues facing Hightstown, Cicalese cited the maintenance of the town’s aging infrastructure, the planned redevelopment of the “rug mill” property, and ensuring that the streets are safe for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Hightstown Borough faces the same issues as other towns, in terms of the cost to maintain aging infrastructure, he said.
“The fact that we are a small municipality, with limited resources compared to larger towns, unfortunately does not make it any less expensive to maintain our infrastructure,” Cicalese said.
“Our municipal engineer has been very effective in obtaining state and federal grants to ensure that the necessary work is done to maintain our roads and public facilities without excessive expenditures for the borough and its taxpayers,” he said.
City Line at Hightstown, which is the planned redevelopment of the “rug mill” property on Bank Street, also is high on his list of issues, Cicalese said. The mixed-use development was approved by the Hightstown Planning Board last month.
“I have been paying close attention to this project, and I look forward to being a firm advocate on behalf of the town when the development agreement comes before the council,” Cicalese said.
Public safety – ensuring that the streets are safe and accessible for people to walk or ride their bicycles – is a top issue, he said. As the chairman of the town’s Complete Streets Committee, Cicalese said, he has helped to make bicycle lanes, sidewalks and ADA-compliant sidewalk ramps a priority.
Fowler, who is running on the Democratic Party ticket with Cicalese, has lived in Hightstown for three years. She is the marketing manager for Keep Middlesex Moving.
Fowler said she is running for a seat on the Hightstown Borough Council to ensure that the town continues to evolve into a more sustainable, desirable community and destination. She pointed to her background in sustainability and economic development – gained through her work with Keep Middlesex Moving – as an asset to the council.
For Fowler, the top three issues facing the town are simple: economic development, focusing on the “rug mill” project and enhancing communication between the town and its residents.
“I am passionate about our downtown. Its success and growth carry over into the attractiveness of the town. I would like to explore the possibility of creating a Business Improvement District or Economic Development Commission,” Fowler said.
Fowler said she is eager top work with the Hightstown Borough Council to help foster the progress of the “rug mill” redevelopment project.
Fowler also wants to focus on improving communication between the town and its residents by exploring the feasibility of establishing a digital media footprint.
Eufemia, who is the sole Republican Party candidate, is a lifelong resident of Hightstown whose roots go back several generations.
Eufemia is a former police chief of the Hightstown Borough Police Department, and now works as a security manager at One World Trade Center in New York City. He served as a Hightstown police officer for 33 years.
Eufemia said he wants to serve on the Hightstown Borough Council because he is committed to doing what is best for the town.
Eufemia said he has extensive experience in municipal budgeting, and he is quite familiar with the lengthy process to “get to where we are today with the ‘rug mill’ property.”
The top three issues facing Hightstown Borough, Eufemia said, are taxes at all levels of government, redevelopment that is moving “at a snail’s pace,” and slow growth and revitalization.
“I want to assist (in redeveloping the ‘rug mill’) and find developers for several other parcels in town that are in need of redevelopment,” he said.
“All of these things may help to ease the tax burden on our residents, and help to make our community a destination,” Eufemia said.