HOLMDEL – Five residents have thrown their hats into the ring to run for five seats on a charter study commission in Holmdel.
Municipal Clerk Wendy Patrovich confirmed to the Independent that municipal officials have received petitions from the following residents who wish to serve on the charter study commission: Janet M. Berk, Gerald Buffalino, Kin Gee, C. Zachary Gilstein and William Kastning.
Gee announced his candidacy for the position in a Sept. 8 press release.
Gee identified himself as the president of the citizens group CHARGE (a consumer advocate in the utility and energy sector) and as the co-president of RAGE, which he said stopped Jersey Central Power and Light’s proposal for a high-power transmission line through Holmdel.
Gee said he is the editor/writer for Better Holmdel and the recipient of the 2017 Holmdel Annual Service Award.
Gee identified the other four candidates seeking seats on the charter study commission as:
• Janet Berk, a former member of the Township Committee; a member of the Holmdel Green Team; and a member of the legal team for the citizens group RAGE;
• Jerry Buffalino, the president of the citizens group Preserve Holmdel, which works to preserve open space and residents’ quality of life; a member of the Holmdel Zoning Board of Adjustment; and a member of the Holmdel Finance Advisory Committee;
• Zach Gilstein, the chairman of the Holmdel Finance Advisory Committee; a member of the Holmdel Planning Board; and a member of the Holmdel Environmental Commission;
• Bill Kastning, the executive director of the Monmouth Conservation Foundation; the chairman of the Holmdel Environmental Commission; and a member of the Holmdel Planning Board.
According to a previous article published in the Independent, when residents go to the polls on Nov. 2, they will be asked by the Township Committee if they want to create a charter study commission whose members would examine Holmdel’s current form of government and possibly recommend changes in the township’s form of government.
The following question will appear on the ballot: “Shall a charter commission be elected to study the charter of Holmdel and to consider a new charter or improvements in the present charter and to make recommendations thereon?”
Holmdel currently operates under the Township Committee form of government. There are five members of the committee, all of whom are elected at large and generally identified by their affiliation with a political party (i.e., Democrat or Republican).
Holmdel’s mayor is not directly elected by voters, as is the case in municipalities that operate under a different form of government.
Instead, each January, the five members of the Township Committee elect one individual who sits on the governing body to serve as mayor for the year. The mayor runs the Township Committee meetings.
The Nov. 2 ballot question does not state that Holmdel will change its current form of government if the ballot question is approved by a majority of voters.
The question asks voters if a commission should study Holmdel’s charter and consider a new charter or improvements in the present charter.
One option could be a change to a nonpartisan form of government in which candidates seeking elected office would not run under the banner of a political party (i.e., Democrat or Republican).
Municipal officials have said state law “authorizes the governing body to adopt an ordinance submitting a public question to the voters on whether a charter study commission shall be elected to study Holmdel’s current form of government and consider a new charter or improvements in the current charter and make recommendations thereon.”
In the ordinance the Township Committee adopted during the summer, the committee members said they believe voters “would benefit from a public question on whether to explore alternative forms of municipal government, including options that provide for the direct election of the mayor, rather than the current system that denies voters that opportunity.”
If the Nov. 2 ballot question is approved by a simple majority vote, a charter study commission comprised of five individuals will be created to study Holmdel’s current Township Committee form of government and to consider a potential new charter.
Berk, Buffalino, Gee, Gilstein and Kastning are the residents seeking to serve on the charter study commission. Voters will be able to cast ballots for those individuals on Nov. 2.
If, after studying the matter, the members of the charter study commission recommend a change in Holmdel’s form or government, the recommendation would be submitted to Holmdel voters in a public question at a future election, according to the ordinance.