There is only one contested primary race in Hopewell Valley.
Three candidates are seeking to secure two open slots in the Democratic primary for Hopewell Borough Council on June 7.
The two candidates, who secure the slots, will then compete for the two, three-year terms on the council in the November general election.
The candidates include incumbent Councilman David Mackie and newcomers Chris Malikschmitt and Krista Weaver. Mackie and Malikschmitt are running together in the Democratic primary contest.
Councilman Chris Fossel, currently on the six-member borough council, is not running for re-election.
There are no Republican candidates filed to compete in the Republican primary for council.
In order to provide candidates with an equitable platform, the candidates were each given the same amount of questions and space for their responses and biographies.
David Mackie has served on council for 23 years and on the Planning Board for 13 years. On council, he chairs the Water Supply Planning Committee and is the liaison to the Planning Board, Public Works, and Water and Sewer departments, and on the Buildings, Grounds and Personnel committees.
Mackie is a consulting environmental geologist, with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in geology, and a master’s degree in public policy from the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.
“My wife Mary and I moved to Hopewell in 1992,” he said. “We are both strong supporters of our local animal welfare organizations such as SAVE and the Mercer County Wildlife center (if you see me on the street in a safety vest, chances are I am helping a turtle cross the road). In 1997, I joined a grassroots coalition that was instrumental in preserving the 66-acre Ruhland Tract as open space, now part of Hopewell Park.”
For 23 years, Mackie has applied his technical and public policy skills to the challenges facing the borough, including “maintenance and enhancement of our streets, traffic safety concerns, infrastructure needs, planning and zoning, redevelopment, affordable housing, environmental protection, and open space preservation.
Chris Malikschmitt serves as Hopewell Borough municipal prosecutor, which he said, “puts me at the leading edge of our town’s traffic enforcement.”
Malikschmitt is also the former chair of the Hopewell Valley Democratic Club and has served on the borough’s Economic Development Committee.
He currently runs his own litigation boutique law firm in Somerville, Somerset County.
“Before starting that small business, I worked as a Mercer County assistant prosecutor,” he said. “Prior to my time in Hopewell, I worked as an attorney at a large New York City law firm, served as a clerk in two federal court clerkships, and worked in the U.S. Senate for [then] Sen. Joe Biden as his assistant to the chief of staff. I hold degrees from Brown University and [University of Pennsylvania Law School] Penn Law.”
Malikschmitt has three young boys with his wife, an executive at Bristol Myers Squibb.
Krista Weaver was born and raised in Mercer County. She moved to Hopewell in 2018 and is raising two young daughters with her husband Chris and three cats and restoring a home circa 1880.
A community organizer and volunteer, she currently chairs Hopewell Borough’s Pedestrian, Bike and Safety Advisory Committee, and is dedicated to addressing traffic safety challenges. Street safety is a longstanding interest for Weaver, who also advocated for traffic calming measures in Jersey City, where she previously made her home.
Before moving to Hopewell to raise her family, Weaver was employed in real estate, hospitality, as a copywriter and as a Muay Thai kickboxing coach. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications. Her Hopewell roots go back generations, with grandparents and great grandparents buried in Highland Cemetery.
When Weaver is not fighting to make Hopewell safer, she enjoys organic gardening, brewing kombucha, reading presidential biographies and jogging around town.
Why are you running for re-election, election to Borough Council?
Mackie: “We prosper as a community because of the collective dedication and diligence of our volunteers, elected officials, staff, professionals, residents and our wonderful and vibrant business community,” he said. “I am running for re-election so I can continue the work I have been doing for the last 23 years. I am running together with [Malikschmitt] because of his qualifications and skills, his strong commitment to our community and his keen understanding of the multitude of policy challenges facing the borough.”
If elected, Mackie said his priorities will continue to include ensuring a safe and affordable public water supply; maintaining and improving streets to make them as safe as possible for pedestrians and bicyclists; expanding affordable housing throughout the community and providing diverse housing opportunities for people of different ages and income levels; promoting beneficial redevelopment; fostering public dialogue on critical planning issues facing the community; supporting local businesses and providing incentives for new businesses to come to town; completing much-needed upgrades to the Public Works facility; preserving historic buildings; and protecting the environment.
Malikschmitt: “I am running because I want to make a difference and have the tools, reputation and experience to do so,” he said. “I have extensive experience in administration, from a U.S. Senate office to a political committee, to running my own business and understand how to get things done. I also believe that I have the imagination and ingenuity to find creative solutions to our problems, plus the wherewithal and commitment to get it done.”
Innovation, and seeing it through, is the key to the town’s continued success and appeal, Malikschmitt said.
“For example, I believe one creative approach to traffic safety in the borough is the employment of a dedicated traffic enforcement officer to enforce the laws on the books and therefore, foster a presence and reputation of strict traffic enforcement,” he said. “A similarly creative approach, in the context of softening our tax burden, is to further leverage interlocal shared-service agreements wherever we can and find more outside funding opportunities. Moreover, I champion a creative approach to our climate crisis by making us the first carbon neutral government in New Jersey and setting an example for others to follow. We live in a time of innovation and I am excited to get it done.”
Weaver: Soon after moving to Hopewell, Weaver went to a council meeting to ask what leaders were doing to address speeding on streets.
“I was surprised that some of them dismissed my concerns and seemed annoyed to hear them,” she said. “I went back again and again and got the same response.”
Last year, when a cyclist was killed in a crash, Weaver was heartened that other members of the community began to speak up about traffic safety, too.
“It inspired me to try to be the change that has so far eluded our council in confronting the challenges of vibrant downtown streets that do double duty as busy county highways,” she said. “I am also running because I know many of my neighbors share my frustration about the way some of their concerns and ideas have been dismissed as well. We can do better. After all, we all share the same goals. I have absolutely no political ambitions in pursuing this role.”
Weaver said she wants to fix some problems including traffic safety, affordable housing, accessibility for disabled people and inclusivity in local government.
What is the top challenge facing Hopewell Borough? How would you address it as a member of council?
Mackie: “We are a microcosm of the policy challenges facing our country; there is no single issue that takes precedence above all others,” he said. “Our continued viability as a small town depends on our ability to secure state and federal funding for our capital projects, maximize tax revenue through beneficial redevelopment of vacant commercial properties and minimize the cost of public services through interlocal agreements.”
The measures are essential “to provide critical services and improvements to our community, such as street repaving and repairs, traffic safety enhancements and a safe affordable drinking water supply, flood mitigation measures, affordable housing, and much-needed upgrades to the borough’s Public Works facility, ” he said.
If re-elected, Mackie said he will work to secure federal funds through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for priority infrastructure projects, which include lead service line and sewer manhole replacements along Broad Street with an estimated cost over $725,000, a new water supply well likely to cost over $1 million and stormwater/flooding mitigation projects.
To further affordable housing and redevelopment goals, Mackie said he will continue to promote public engagement and consensus on key planning issues facing the borough, so “we can respond thoughtfully as a community to redevelopment proposals and create incentives to attract beneficial redevelopment projects to the borough.”
Malikschmitt: “Hopewell Borough sits at an inflection point that requires steady, experienced leadership,” he said. “Indeed, we currently face a series of major existential issues such as large redevelopment projects, affordable housing needs, possible cannabis dispensaries, traffic safety concerns, and maintaining an affordable public water supply.”
If elected, Malikschmitt said he is committed to addressing the issues in a way that maintains the character of the town, honors the wishes of the majority of residents, and supports the growth of small and local businesses.
“Towards development, my platform centers around a policy of sustainable development, with an emphasis on sustainable,” he said. “I will fight for new development to be done in a way that makes the experience of living here in Hopewell Borough all the more attractive for newcomers and for current residents alike.”
Malikschmitt said he will see through his commitment towards optimal tax return while balancing other collateral interests.
“I believe all of our developments and initiatives must take into account environmental issues, as well as the need for us to be more sustainable and environmentally conscious as a community,” he said.
Weaver: “We’re lucky to have such a successful and beautiful community, but we need to honestly face our challenges [which includes] staggering property tax bills even before this period of high inflation, an untenable water-supply arrangement long overdue for change and a lack of affordable housing, to name a few that deserve urgent attention and will have mine,” she said.
She said the council has an opportunity to “literally save lives” by taking “a more thoughtful and holistic approach” to streetscape that recognizes the many users of their roads and incorporates sensible traffic-safety measures.
Calming traffic will also benefit businesses by creating more inviting public spaces and increasing foot traffic, Weaver said.
“I’d fight to implement the recommendations of our traffic-safety committee,” she said. “We’re looking at changes to protect pedestrians and cyclists at Broad [Street] and Greenwood [Avenue], which data show is our most dangerous intersection; visual gateways at the town’s entry points; strategic curb bump outs and easy upgrades like repainting faded crosswalks.”
Weaver said she will also work to improve communication with other stakeholders, such as Mercer County’s transportation officials.
“Breakdowns in that channel led to most borough residents learning of the Route 518 closure in 2019 only when it disrupted our [livelihoods] and this is an easy fix,” she said.
Other races in Hopewell Valley:
For Hopewell Township Committee, incumbent Mayor Courtney Peters-Manning and incumbent Committeeman David Chait are on the Democratic primary ballot.
Chait is seeking his first elected three-year term on the township committee. He was appointed in 2022 to former Committeewoman Kristin McLaughlin’s seat when she became a Mercer County commissioner.
No Republican candidates are listed on the primary ballot.
In Pennington, incumbents Charles Marciante and Kati Angarone are on the Democratic primary ballot seeking to earn the two, three-year slot on the council.
Angarone is seeking her first elected three-year term on the borough council. She was appointed to fill former Councilwoman Beverly Mills’ seat in 2022.
There are also no Republican candidates listed on the primary ballot.
Correction: Mackie’s statement that read in the print edition of the Hopewell Valley News “a safe affordable drinking” has been corrected to “a safe affordable drinking water supply.” A clarification was also made from the print edition in identifying Malikschmitt as the former chair of the Hopewell Valley Democratic Club.