Four candidates seek two council seats in Eatontown municipal election

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EATONTOWN — Democrats and Republicans in Eatontown are seeking two available three-year terms on the Borough Council.

Republican incumbent council members Maria Escalante and Kevin Gonzalzez will face off against Democratic challengers Meir Araman and Virgina East for the three-year council terms.

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Voting is underway with vote-by-mail ballots and with early in-person voting that will continue through Nov. 6. Election Day is Nov. 8.

Araman, a resident of Eatontown since 2000, served on the Borough Council from 2010-13. He is currently a member of the Planning Board and previously served on the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

On the council, Araman was the liaison to the Tenants’ Rights Committee, the Police Commission and the Economic Advisory Board.

“I seek the council seat to address the dramatic property tax increases Eatontown has been experiencing, as well as to improve the town’s communication with its local businesses,” Araman said. “I aim to use my past experience on the council, as well as on various committees and boards as a foundation to help achieve these goals.”

Professionally, Araman is a licensed real estate broker with more than 20 years of experience involving business to business negotiation.

“I believe I can contribute to Eatontown by leveraging my experience and acting as an ambassador to its local businesses,” he said. “The goal is to help them achieve long-term success and by doing so we can ensure Eatontown’s economic growth while stabilizing the property tax increases.”

If elected, Araman said he intends to address the issues of public safety, business relationships and the development of Fort Monmouth.

“Something I plan to emphasize immediately is the safety of our residents,” he said. “There has been a recent increase in car thefts as well as home burglaries that must be addressed. I aim to drive business toward Eatontown by improving our relationship with those already here. Additionally, I intend to secure Eatontown’s interests in the development of Fort Monmouth.”

East, has resided in Eatontown for more than 40 years, where she raised her two children. She is a former member of the Borough Council. East is currently a member of the Eatontown Public Schools Board of Education, a term that will end by the end of the year, and she is a member of the Planning Board.

On the council, East was the liaison to the Office of Emergency Management, the Building and Grounds Committee, the Traffic Advisory Committee, and the Department of Public Works Committee. She also served as police commissioner and established the Complete Streets Advisory Committee.

“I am seeking a seat on the Borough Council because I love Eatontown and I want to contribute to its growth and vitality,” East said. “I have volunteered in Eatontown for as long as I have lived here and will bring certain skills to the table. I will work with our residents and business owners to make Eatontown a safe, affordable and prosperous community.

“In the near future we will be asked to make important decisions regarding the Monmouth Mall, the redevelopment of Fort Monmouth, as well as our mandatory affordable housing obligations,” she continued. “I look forward to these challenges.”

Professionally, East is a retired educator and school principal.

“My role in education has prepared me well in making decisions regarding organizational structure, budget development and personnel assignments,” she said. “I am comfortable with setting goals, researching resources and expressing the rationale for my decisions. I enjoy meeting with the public and listening to their perspectives on issues vital to the community.

“Over the next three years, important issues facing Eatontown that will need to be addressed include the Monmouth Mall, the redevelopment of Fort Monmouth, our affordable housing obligation, the stability of our tax base and the overall safety of our roads,” East said. “I understand the concerns the residents and business owners have on these issues and I will engage with them to seek real and practical solutions.”

Escalante has been a member of the Borough Council since 2020 and a resident of Eatontown since 1967. She is the council liaison to the Recreation Committee, Historical Committee, Library Board of Trustees and Senior Housing Authority.

“I believe the current council works well together and would like to continue to work toward improving Eatontown,” Escalante said.

Professionally, Escalante owns a small business based in Eatontown, which has served the borough for 20 years. She previously worked in corporations as a program and project manager in software development.

“Both (careers) have taught me how to work with teams of people to reach a desired end goal all parties are happy with,” she said. “Owning a small business has shown me the importance of community involvement and support.

If re-elected, Escalante said she will address the issues of taxes and growth.

“I would like to see our taxes at the very least stay stable (hoping we can do something to provide relief),” Escalante said. “We also have lots of new businesses coming into town. I would like to ensure they do not change the small-town feeling we have here.

“I love Eatontown, I think it’s a great place to live,” she continued. I have grown up here, my husband (a naturalized immigrant) and children have, too. I have always called it home and always will.”

Gonzalez, who is serving as council president in 2020, has served three non-consecutive terms on the Borough Council. He first served from 2010-12, then from 2014-16, and began his current term in 2020.

A resident of Eatontown for 26 years, Gonzalez served on the Eatontown Public Schools Board of Education from 2000-09.

“I am seeking re-election to ensure Eatontown remains an affordable, safe and great place to raise a family,” Gonzalez said. “I moved to Eatontown in the Wedgewood Circle Apartments in 1996 after getting married. After seeing the promise Eatontown offered for a growing family, I purchased my current home here in 1997.

“I could not have dreamed of a better place to live with my beautiful wife and raise our three wonderful boys,” he continued. “Also, my previous years as an elected official have allowed me to make contacts at the local, county and state levels, which have enabled me to help my constituents with many issues.”

Professionally, Gonzalez is a physical therapist with more than 28 years of experience. He has owned Activity First Physical Therapy in Eatontown for more than 16 years.

“My years in the medical field have taught me how to listen, analyze and come up with a resolution to many complex and sensitive issues,” he said. “My years as a business owner have taught me how look at budgets and be fiscally responsible with your decisions. This translates directly into my duties as a member of the governing body.”

If re-elected, Gonzalez said he will address the issue of quality of life.

“To this end, I will continue to work to stabilize our tax base with sensible development and fiscal responsibility and ensure that our programs, parks and police are second to none for the sake of our families’ future,” Gonzalez said.

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