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Democrats will face Republican challengers in Metuchen Council race in November

METUCHEN – Four candidates – one incumbent and three newcomers – will vie for the two, three-year terms available on the Metuchen Borough Council in the upcoming election.

Democrats Jason Delia, an incumbent, and newcomer Joel W. Branch, will face Republican newcomers Stephen Kitsko and Eric Lignell.

The general election is on Nov. 2.

Councilwoman Sheri-Rose Rubin is not seeking re-election.

Joel W. Branch, 42, has lived in Metuchen for two years. He is married with two children.

Branch earned a doctoral degree and master’s degree, both in computer science, from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a bachelor’s degree in systems and computer science from Howard University. He is employed as a software engineer and executive.

In the community, Branch serves as a member of the Metuchen Planning Board, served as co-planner of the 2021 Downtown Metuchen Juneteenth Celebration, facilitated Lens on Black Life Panel Discussion for the Juneteenth celebration, is a volunteer for Metuchen’s Greenprint vision community engagement and has volunteered for Middlesex County Greenway environmental cleanups.

Branch is seeking his first term.

“I have always been taught to serve others, whether I know them or not; that is what being a part of a community is all about,” he said. “My admiration for Metuchen makes it an easy decision to pursue service as a councilman and join efforts to improve the borough. I want to add to the well-being and enrichment of its residents and businesses, as well as the enjoyment of its visitors. As a Black man, I bring a unique perspective to council and will draw on these insights to continue to help Metuchen be welcoming to people of all backgrounds.”

If elected, Branch said he’s “excited to focus on ensuring that our residents have equal opportunities to engage with borough government and each other in healthy, rewarding ways.

“This includes improving information flow between the borough and its residents,” he said. “For instance, there’s a lot of helpful information on Metuchen’s website – records, processes, and fun events – however, access to it can be simplified. As Metuchen continues to grow in diversity, it’s essential to continuously improve borough practices and support community efforts in the interest of inclusivity and equity. I look forward to partnering to advance other critical pursuits as well.”

Jason Delia, 41, has lived in Metuchen for 10 years. He is married to Courtney with a 13-year-old child, who attends Edgar Middle School.

Delia earned a bachelor’s degree from Seton Hall University and a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) from New York Institute of Technology. He is employed as a director of software engineering.

Along with serving as a council member – liaison to the Board of Education, the Traffic and Transportation Committee, the TV and Technology Committee, and as an alternate on the Finance Committee – Delia has contributed to reducing the speed limits townwide, to Greenprint concept planning, to the COVID-19 business revitalization strategy, and to other ongoing projects in the borough.

Delia is seeking his second term.

“I ran for council three years ago because I wanted to make a positive impact on the community and I thought that I could bring a unique perspective to the council,” he said. “My experience in product design and engineering leadership proved useful when the pandemic forced the borough to become more nimble and iterative to address the constantly changing landscape. I’m running for re-election because I want to continue to help move Metuchen forward.”

If re-elected, Delia said he looks forward to continuing the work on the Main Street safety improvement project. In 2017, Middlesex County was awarded a $9 million federal grant for the project.

“Working with borough and county officials I have been able to play a major role in shaping the direction of this transformative project,” he said.

Stephen Kitsko, 65, has lived in Metuchen for 27 years. He is married to Jill with two adult sons.

“My wife and I grew up in Johnstown, Pennsylvania,” he said. “We moved to Metuchen because of its school system, ease of commuting to [New York City] and it provided housing that a young couple could afford.”

Kitsko earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Drexel University and earned an MBA from Temple University. He is employed as a financial analyst.

In the community, Kitsko said he has always “tried to give back to my community” having volunteered for various things since moving into the borough. He has served as pack master for the Cub Scout Pack sponsored by the First Presbyterian Church; served on the Metuchen Municipal Alliance for eight years, including six years as treasurer; served as the treasurer of the Metuchen Police Department’s D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program and created the Metuchen Music Enrichment and Development Organization, the tax-exempt registered charity for the Metuchen High School Band Parents. He currently serves on the Metuchen Historic Preservation Committee.

Kitsko is seeking his first term.

“I am running again for this office because I believe in Metuchen’s success,” he said. “We are in a crisis due to missteps in decisions and competing projects. Less than half of registered voters in Metuchen are declared Democrats, but 100% of the council seats are held by Democrats. They are all good people with good intentions, but they vote as if their way is the only way. There is no independent voice. There is rarely a differing opinion offered that highlights the views or concerns of the majority of voters who are not Democrats. That attitude must change if this borough is to survive, grow and prosper. I will bring that independent voice to the council.”

If elected, Kitsko will focus on the borough’s spending priorities.

“That means developing a long-term capital budget where we identify infrastructure needs on the distant horizon and put plans in place to prepare for them in order to rein in our operating budget,” he said. “In the past 10 years the budget has increased 50%, from roughly $16 million in 2014 to $24 million in 2020. Managing from crisis to crisis leads to bad decisions. We have to find a way to hold the line so that Metuchen remains affordable for young families and senior citizens.”

Eric Lignell, 55, has lived in Metuchen for 23 years. He is married to Angelika and they have three daughters.

Lignell earned a bachelor’s degree in history and public administration from the University of the Ozarks. He is employed in professional sales.

In the community, Lignell has served as a volunteer swim official at the Metuchen Municipal Pool since 2002 and served as a Level 2 swim official and referee at the Metuchen-Edison YMCA from 2003-17.

He has been an active member of the Metuchen Knights of Columbus helping provide local charitable work since 2010.

Lignell is seeking his first term.

“My wife and I have been blessed to have raised a family here and soon we will become empty nesters,” he said. “It is refreshing to meet new residents as we evolve as a community. I want to give back to the community by representing every resident and seeing them enjoy what we enjoyed. To be an advocate to those who feel least represented, and to build necessary, timely and relevant transparency to government affairs. Everyone must have a chance to live and retire in this community regardless of social economics. I will help champion programs to address the affordability crisis.”

If elected, Lignell said he hopes to bring transparency to the process before he casts any votes.

“There are consequences of over development to quality of life for all residents,” he said. “Our borough invests on new projects like Greenprint, yet we are also being forced to react to a common theme structure crisis for the past 10 years [including the] firehouse building hazard, municipal pool, [and a] dilapidated building for Public Works. Even our beloved trees have been neglected and our residents are dealing with falling tree limbs that are dangerous to people and their property.”

Polls are open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 2.

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