Incumbents, newcomers vie for three ward seats, unexpired council-at-large seat on Monroe Council in November election

MONROE – Incumbents and newcomers will vie for the three, four-year term ward seats and a two-year unexpired term for council-at-large available on the Monroe Township Council in the upcoming election.

Democratic candidate Terrence G. Van Dzura, who was appointed on Feb. 1 to fill the council-at-large seat vacated by Stephen Dalina, will face Republican candidate Peter Tufano, a newcomer.

Democratic incumbent Elizabeth “Betty” Schneider faces Republican candidate Melody Amantea-Henry, a newcomer, in Ward 1.

Democratic candidate Rupa P. Siegel and Republican candidate Timothy Eosso, both newcomers, will vie for the Ward 2 seat. Incumbent Ward 2 Councilman Leonard Baskin, a Democrat, is not seeking re-election.

Republican incumbent Charles Dipierro will face Democratic candidate Alton B. Kinsey II, a newcomer, in Ward 3.

The general election is Nov. 2.


Unexpired Council-at-Large seat

Terrence “Terry” G. Van Dzura, 65, has lived in Monroe for 25 years. He has a girlfriend and two children.

Van Dzura attended Woodbridge High School and is a 1978 graduate of Rutgers University. He earned a law degree from New England Law in Boston. He has been a licensed New Jersey attorney since 1981.

He served a judicial clerkship under four judges in Middlesex County and then served three years in the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office as an assistant prosecutor. He previously served as an arbitrator for the Middlesex County Superior Court and also as the municipal prosecutor in Edison and Carteret and have represented several homeowners associations. Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, he joined Trial Lawyers Care and gave advice to families affected by the attacks. He continues to represent injured victims and also provides a variety of legal services from his office in East Brunswick.

In the community, Van Dzura currently serves on the Monroe Planning Board. He served as chairman before his appointment to council. He also serves on the township’s Recreation Advisory Committee and the Citizens Review Board. He serves as chairman of the township’s masterplan revitalization initiative.

Van Dzura is seeking his first elected term.

“Nothing makes me feel better than when fellow residents tell us our work has improved their life in some way or contributed to Monroe being a great place to live,” he said. “There are a number of exciting things happening in our township that I look forward to playing a role in for the next few years and I would like to continue as councilman so I can continue the work the mayor and council have undertaken. I would like to continue towards our goal of preserving 50% of Monroe as open space and use my understanding of the law to work around unnecessary development. I am proud that the first budget introduced since the mayor and I came into office in January and February, respectively, decreased municipal taxes and will work towards maintaining our AA+ bond rating and keeping Monroe affordable.”

Van Dzura said he has taken a leading role in the masterplan revitalization process.

“We were able to get feedback from thousands of residents on how we can better zone our township to increase safety and better meet the needs of those living in Monroe,” Van Dzura said. “Through the public survey given to candidates, in the coming years, I look forward to implementing some of those suggestions that came in and improving our township in many ways to preserve land and increase recreation all while improving quality of life and keeping residents safe.”

Peter Tufano, 50, has lived in Monroe for 14 years. He has five children, ages 15 to 24.

Tufano has been a small business owner for 30 years. He owns Bella Appliance Installations.

In the community, Tufano currently serves on the Recreation Advisory Board. He is a current member of the Monroe Township Board of Education (BOE) and a member of his local Knights of Columbus organization.

Tufano is seeking his first term.

“I am tired of our current elected officials ignoring the voice of the people,” he said. “Monroe is a beautiful town and home to many wonderful families. Many families do not like the developers destroying our town. These same developers donate thousands upon thousands to the campaigns of those candidates me and my team are looking to unseat. How can they look their constituents in the eyes and lie to them year after year … claiming they cannot stop the developers while taking huge cash donations from them? This has to stop. Our schools are overcrowded and underfunded all while builders and developers rake in billions.”

Tufano added the township’s seniors moved into Monroe to spend their remaining years in a quiet peaceful town.

“They are overtaxed and taken advantage of …e nough is enough,” he said.

If elected, Tufano said in regards to state aid for the Monroe Township School District he would “make it clear that if we do not get funding they (state legislators) will not be welcome to campaign in this township.”

“The Monroe Township School District is severely underfunded,” he said. “Our state and state legislators have ignored Monroe Township, its residents and children long enough. If they want our votes they need to earn them … earn them same as the hard working residents of this township earned the money they are asked to shell out paying their high school taxes. Monroe deserves better representation.”

Ward 1

Elizabeth “Betty” Schneider has lived in Monroe for more than 20 years in the Rossmoor community. She is widowed with two children and two grandchildren.

Schneider is a graduate of public schools in Hightstown and attended Middlesex County College. Before retiring, she worked in administration in the Middlesex County Department of Corrections. She also worked at a family business, a full-service travel agency, which was operated for a long period of time.

Before moving to Monroe, Schneider served for more than 20 years on the North Brunswick Board of Education where she worked to help students have the best education possible and helped achieve a Blue Ribbon school district.

“That experience was beneficial in so many ways and helped me prepare for being a township councilwoman,” she said.

When Schneider originally moved to Monroe, she wanted to get involved in her community so she joined the Rossmoor Kiwanis Club and served as a mutual director in Rossmoor. On the council, she has served as liaison to the Monroe Township High School Key Club, the Human Relations Commission and the Commission on Aging. She previously served on the Monroe Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Schneider has served on the council since 2013. She is seeking a third term.

“I am running for council because I am proud of the work I was able to accomplish on the council so far and want to continue that work,” she said. “Monroe is a great place to live because we have qualified leaders who listen to the community and advocate for the best interest of the residents. It is important for residents to enjoy the town they live in, as well as feel safe where they live. I love living in Monroe and in Rossmoor where I never have to worry about feeling unsafe. I will work to keep taxes stable as well as work to provide for our veterans. We have accomplished so much in these two areas already by adopting a budget this year with a municipal tax decrease for residents as well as adopting a new program allowing for affordable housing units for veterans in Monroe. I am very pleased with this as my late husband [James] was a courageous veteran, who served on the front lines as a sergeant in Korea. As councilwoman, I will continue to advocate for seniors, veterans and promote fiscal responsibility.”

Schneider said she is concerned about senior issues.

“My ward in Monroe is home to several senior communities,” she said. “I am proud of the services we provide to our seniors, a state of the art Senior Center and recreation programs. People may think it is just a place for parties and games, it is so much more than that. We have phenomenal staff which provide necessary services such as bereavement programs and help for seniors in filling out forms.

“This year, the [Monroe Police Department’s] detective bureau was able to do a series of programs to inform and help seniors identify online scams. I serve on the Commission on Aging where I have prioritized senior services and care. Last year, the township undertook 12,000 trips for disabled and senior residents to receive necessary care.

“Our Senior Center played a vital role in getting folks vaccinated against the coronavirus, of which 90% of our seniors have received their shots. I would like to continue advocating for seniors, promoting the safety of our township, keeping taxes low and Monroe affordable and preserving 50% of Monroe as open space.”

Melody Amantea-Henry has lived in Monroe for six years. She is married with three daughters and four grandchildren.

Amantea-Henry earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Queens College, a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) from Long Island University Graduate School of Business and has a secondary mathematics teaching certificate in New York.

Before retiring, she worked in finance, operations, engineering, contracts, billing, budgets, process and quality.

In the community, Amantea-Henry serves as president of the Clearbrook Hampton Village Section 8 Board of Directors; as president of the Clearbrook Republican Club; as a member of the Monroe Senior Chorus; and said she is a strong advocate for the adult senior communities. She began the “Monroe 55+ Communities United” Facebook page.

Amantea-Henry is seeking her first term.

“I am running for Council Ward 1 because I can affect change in Monroe,” she said. “I have a diverse background in business and education and also strong leadership and motivational skills. This, combined with interpersonal skills and extensive analytical  experience, make me an excellent candidate.”

If elected, Amantea-Henry said she “would like to concentrate on reducing Monroe taxes and ensuring appropriate responsible town development and planning.”

Ward 2

Timothy Eosso, 51, has lived in Monroe for 16 years. He is married to Linda with a son, 20, and daughter, 17.

Eosso earned a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University. He has been a firefighter for 26 years.

In the community, Eosso has served as division director for seven years for the Monroe Township Baseball Association; coached in the Monroe Township Baseball and Softball Leagues for more than nine years; started a fundraiser, raising over $100,000 in his fire department for the St. Baldrick’s Association, an organization where participants shave their heads to raise money for children stricken with cancer; participated in the Fill the Boot for Muscular Dystrophy Association; played in charity outings for the Children’s Specialized Hospital Foundation; is a former member of the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) and Parent Staff Association (PSA) in Monroe Township Schools; is a community advocate for fair funding and equalization aid for Monroe Township Schools; and is a community advocate for building a veterans facility in Monroe Township.

Eosso is running for his first term.

“I am running for council for various reasons,” he said, stating he is an advocate in Trenton for ‘State Equalization Aid’ for Monroe schools; [building] a veterans facility in Monroe, which he said has been promised for decades; and [fighting] against the special interest groups and current politicians who he said are destroying Monroe.

Eosso said state equalization aid “will lower taxes across the board for our residents in Monroe.”

He said special interest groups and current politicians are “allowing irresponsible development of single family homes causing overcrowded classrooms, higher taxes for our senior communities and residents.

“All the aforementioned areas are very important to me, but State Equalization Aid is of vast importance,” he said. “The entire state formula is flawed and seems to be discriminatory in that the procedures for aid determination is not consistent throughout the state. Simply stated, if New Jersey is going to penalize a community such as Monroe by the income of its seniors and residents it has earned and the value of their home without taking into consideration doing the same to all municipalities across the state … then how is this fair? It is not fair. This is what I will fight for in Trenton for our residents of Monroe.”

Rupa P. Siegel, 48, has lived in Monroe for 12 years. She is married to Paul with two sons – one, who is a sophomore in college and one who is a senior at Monroe Township High School.

Siegel earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Rutgers University. She works at a global pharmaceutical company in human resources and learning and development.

Community service is important for Siegel.

“It was instilled in me at an early age by my parents,” she said. “One of my earliest memories is making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for victims of a flood in my town. Community service and helping people has always been a family value. When I moved to Monroe and didn’t know many people so I decided to get involved in numerous ways to help the community.”

Siegel has been involved in the township schools, holding officer positions in elementary and middle School PTAs/PTOs supporting the students and staff. She has served on the Monroe Township BOE since November 2018. For several years, she has served as a member of the District Wellness Council, District Education Council and hiring committees for assistant superintendent, supervisors and principals.

She has volunteered for Monroe Township Baseball Association and Monroe Travel Basketball.

She is also a member of the League of Women Voters and supports the India-US Forum of Monroe (IFM).

Siegel is seeking her first term.

“I am running for council because I want Monroe to have strong leadership,” she said. “I want to help make Monroe the best version of itself. My experience on the BOE the last two years has prepared me for this next step to serve the community as town councilwoman for Ward 2 and to work together with community members to advocate for the best interests of all Monroe residents.

“I want to keep taxes low. Monroe has the second lowest tax rate in the 25 towns of Middlesex County and the mayor passed a tax decrease this year, all while continuing to fund our extraordinary services and programs for public safety. I will work to ensure Monroe is a safe and affordable place to live and continue the work done by Mayor [Stephen] Dalina and the council to invest in our police and EMS (emergency medical service) forces, acquire grants for improvements to road and infrastructure and work towards preserving 50% of Monroe as open space.

“If elected, I will be the first Southeast Asian to hold elected office in the township, which would be historic and bring much needed representation to our diverse community,” she said.

Siegel said recently, Dalina and the council “have done a wonderful thing” by “embarking on a re-look of the master plan.”

“Mayor Dalina, through a series of surveys, invited the public to comment on how they would like Monroe to look for future generations; that has never been done before,” she said. “This is our opportunity as residents of the community, to have our voices heard. We can share ideas, have great discussions and come up with solutions. We do have a commitment to preserving land and just recently more acreage was preserved. As your Ward 2 councilwoman, I look forward to implementing some of the suggestions to better zone our township to suit the needs of our community that arise from this process. That includes expanding and improving upon our recreation facilities, all while keeping residents safe.”

Ward 3

Charles Dipierro, 60, is lifelong resident of Monroe. He is married to Beth and has two adult children.

Dipierro is a graduate of Monroe Township High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Stockton State College. He is a business owner and real estate broker in Monroe.

In the community, Dipierro serves as a fire commissioner for Fire District No. 1.

Dipierro is seeking his second term.

“I am running for re-election for Ward 3 Council [because] I would like to continue to represent our Monroe residents,” he said. “My goals would be to work on stabilizing taxes and control the overbuilding. I would work on improving our infrastructure, shared services with county and state. I would increase recreation fields, courts including special needs parks from county and state grants. My experience of 60 years and knowledge of Monroe is very beneficial as a councilman. I would like to continue to be the voice for Ward 3 residents.”

If re-elected, Dipierro said a priority would be “to work on stabilizing along with cutting expenses to reduce taxes.”

“Monroe is a growing town and I would work on the overbuilding,” he said. “I would support more commercial building with the new masterplan. I would work for a township wide contracts for cable, trash [and] electric.”

Alton B. Kinsey II, 69, has lived in Monroe for six years. He and his wife have two adult children.

Kinsey II earned a bachelor’s degree in natural sciences from Hofstra University, a master’s degree in public health and nutrition from Columbia University and doctor of medicine degree from the University of Wisconsin. He is a retired board-certified anesthesiologist and practiced in New York and New Jersey. He was the assistant director of Anesthesia/Respiratory Therapy at Harlem Hospital and later the director of anesthesia at East Orange Medical Center. He retired in 2013 from James Street Associates at JFK Medical Center in Edison.

In the community, Kinsey II is completing his sixth year on the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) board, an agency advocating for children removed from their home due to abuse or neglect.

He is currently completing his third consecutive term on the Regency at Monroe HOA (homeowner’s association) board.

“While on the board, I served as secretary and on the following committees, the Rules and Regulations, Bylaws, and the HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) committees as well as the committee overseeing the transfer of common property ownership from Toll Brothers to the homeowners association,” he said.

Kinsey II also created the first Regency Disaster Recovery Plan and is serving on the Mayor’s Senior Advisory Committee.

He is seeking his first term.

“I am running for town council to make sure the needs of Ward 3 residents are heard and addressed,” he said. “As a Ward 3 councilman, I want to keep Monroe safe, to lower taxes, to advocate for seniors and to continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. I was already impressed with Mayor Dalina’s ability to keep our taxes stable and his acute action on initiating a COVID vaccination program for seniors. In addition, the mayor’s initiative to create a master plan survey allows Monroe residents a voice in the future planning of the township.

“My dedication to the community, attention to detail and integrity, I feel, will be useful for serving as a Monroe councilman. Throughout my career, I have always been a good listener with a passion for understanding details. I want to be part of moving Monroe forward.”

If elected, Kinsey II said one of the areas he would concentrate on would be public health and safety.

“Monroe Township has consecutively been named one of the safest townships in New Jersey,” he said. “Public health and safety includes police and EMS, roadway conditions and traffic patterns and health and well-being of the community. This is supported by the mayor’s health advisory board. I am very pleased that the council recently installed a traffic light at Matchaponix Avenue and Pergola Avenue and will work to advance similar road improvements. We look forward to the installation of the traffic light on Mounts Mills Road and Englishtown Road.”

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 2.

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