HOLMDEL – Residents who participate in the 2021 general election will have the opportunity to vote on a local public question which asks 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 2021 general election is being held with vote-by-mail ballots, with early in-person voting and with in-person voting on Election Day, Nov. 2.
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 ballot question before residents 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).
During the summer the members of the Township Committee voted to place the question before residents and 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 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.
Adult residents of Holmdel were eligible to file a petition to run for a seat on the five-member charter study commission.
Five residents filed petitions and are running unopposed to serve on the commission, if its formation is approved by voters. Those residents are Janet M. Berk, Gerald Buffalino, Kin Gee, C. Zachary Gilstein and William Kastning.
If, after studying the matter over a period of several months, the members of the charter study commission recommend a change in Holmdel’s form or government, the recommendation would be submitted to voters in a public question at a future election, according to an ordinance adopted by the Township Committee.
In an email to the Independent, Gee said Holmdel’s current form of government is more than 100 years old. He said its history traces back to the Township Act of 1899 with roots that go back to the Township Act of 1798.
Gee said the five individuals who are running for seats on the charter study commission “are Holmdel residents who have demonstrated civic duties, interest in serving Holmdel and spent the time to stay abreast of what’s going on.”
During the public comment portion of the Sept. 28 meeting of the Township Committee, Rocco Impreveduto, who is running for a seat on the governing body, said three of the five individuals who are running for seats on the charter study commission have “significant links” to previous campaigns of current Township Committee members Cathy Weber and Prakash Santhana.
“It feels like more than a coincidence” that those people are running to serve on the charter study commission, Impreveduto said, and he asked how public notice was provided to residents who may have wanted to seek a seat on the charter study commission.
Township Attorney Michael Collins said the matter was discussed when the ordinance that created the charter study ballot question was being considered by the Township Committee during the summer.
He said the discussion noted that any resident would be eligible to run for a seat on the charter study commission if he or she chose to do so.