SEA BRIGHT RACE: CANDIDATES & ISSUES

Seabright1a

Seabright1b

By LINDA G. RASTELLI

At the top of the fight card in Sea Bright this year, Republican Mayor Jo-Ann Kalaka-Adams faces a challenge from Democratic Councilwoman Maria Fernandes, a member of the governing body since 1997.

Kalaka-Adams was a political neophyte when she won election to her four-year term in 2003. Among the issues that she and Fernandes have disagreed upon recently were whether to purchase the oceanfront Donovan’s Reef property for the town and bulkhead regulation.

Republicans Brian Kelly and Peggy Bills are trying to keep their council seats against a challenge by Democrat Susana Markson, Fernandes’ only running mate and a member of the Recreation Committee. Markson won nearly a fourth of the vote in the 2004 election, when Bills also ran unsuccessfully (she was appointed to her three-year term in December, 2004, after Clark Craig resigned).

Here’s the candidate 411:

Jo-Ann Kalaka-Adams
56
Republican
Occupation:
Retired as executive vice president of a medical publishing company
Resident since: 1977
Prior public service: Mayor for four years
What’s the first issue you’ll tackle if elected?
I’ll continue to work on the cell tower, continue to work on the school tax situation, continue work on flooding, shared services with neighboring towns — which will reduce taxpayer costs — those are all things that are in progress. It’s tough, because they’re all important. One affects the other. I can’t say there’s any one thing. I’m most excited about the development of the oceanfront. My 40-foot by 1,500-foot-long boardwalk. We’re looking at things to offset taxes. Our beautiful beach actually costs us money every year. Putting in a pool club and boardwalk will make us money.
What’s the best thing about Sea Bright?
Location, location, location. It doesn’t get any better than this. Once you cross over that bridge, no matter where I’ve been, when you see that span of ocean… Especially after it rains, it smells so good here. At night, there’s a little bit of wind, and you can hear the sailboats clanking. There’s no place else I’d rather live.
What’s the worst thing about Sea Bright?
I don’t think there’s anything bad about it.
Favorite spot in town:
Along the beach. It doesn’t matter where you are in Sea Bright, along the beach.
If you want to know what’s really going on in Sea Bright…
Call me.

Maria D. Fernandes
55
Democrat
Occupation:
Retired middle manager at a dental manufacturing company
Resident since: 1958
Prior public service: 13 years on planning board, 11 years on the council (three as council president. We can only serve three years consecutively as president).
What’s the first issue you’ll tackle if elected?
Shore Regional taxes. We’re extremely, unfairly taxed on Shore Regional High School. It’s nothing against the school, but the way the state has devised the T&E [thorough and efficient funding] formula. Small municipalities like Sea Bright are adversely affected. For example, we have the lowest equalized property values and the least amount of students, yet we’re taxed the highest. It’s just the way that formula is figured out. The only way to solve it is to work through the legislature. If we did it as a referendum, it would mean that Monmouth Beach, Oceanport, West Long Branch and Sea Bright would vote. Clearly, those other three towns have more people than we do, and we’re now their cash cow. They would not vote to allow us to get out of the system. I’d prefer if we could send our children there as a sending district. It costs approximately $13,000 to educate a student at Shore, but we pay $78,000 per student. Not seven or eight — $78,000. That’s outrageous. You could send someone to Harvard and have money left over. We only have 32 or 34 students going there.
What’s the best thing about Sea Bright?
The eclectic character of the town. It has the coziness of a small town and yet the amenities of a city. It’s a cute little package.
What’s the worst thing about Sea Bright?
Shore Regional taxes. [laughs] It’s very bad.
Favorite spot in town:
I enjoy the river. I think the river has a calmness about it. I know a lot of people prefer the ocean; I prefer the river.
If you want to know what’s really going on in Sea Bright…
You can just ask me. Seriously — I manage to get myself involved in just about everything and people like to talk to me and ask me what’s going on.

Seabright2b

Susana Markson
34
Democrat
Occupation:
Manager at Donovan’s Reef, Realtor, and freshman girls’ lacrosse coach at Red Bank Catholic
Resident since: 1997
Prior public service: President of Smart Growth Committee, and serves on Recreation Committee
What’s the first issue you’ll tackle if elected?
When I’m elected, it’s going to be November, probably flooding will be on my mind about then. We need a comprehensive flood mitigation plan. We need funding. We (running mate Maria Fernandes and I) have new ideas, such as the height of bulkheads. I’m most interested in protecting our downtown residents from getting swept away every fall like they have been for the last God knows how many, years, and it really is getting worse, not better. I remember being in college and seeing boats going up and down Ocean Avenue and I don’t want that to happen again. I’m very excited about the government feasibility study that’s just been done. It looks like it’s really going to happen. Our whole beachfront is going to be awesome — a new entranceway to the beach. I’m reserving judgment on the pool club, but with the addition of the skate park that will hopefully be approved by the county, and cleaning up that whole area, let’s get this show on the road.
What’s the best thing about Sea Bright?
Everything. You’ve got the ocean, the river, the downtown, the people, the restaurants, the ice cream places. When I graduated college, I’d majored in art history and I figured I’d move to Manhattan and eventually come back here. My family got a chance to buy this apartment. I walked in and said, ‘OK, I’ll stay here a little bit until I figure out what I want to do.’ Living in this town was like coming home. I can walk into anyplace here and I know someone.
What’s the worst thing about Sea Bright?
Traffic in the summer kind of stinks. I don’t drive Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the summer. I can walk to whatever I need.
Favorite spot in town:
That’s easy. My apartment — I’m right on the beach. It doesn’t get any better than that.
If you want to know what’s really going on in Sea Bright…
Get involved in the local politics and join committees and go to the council meetings and participate and volunteer for things like Sea Bright Day and the Beach Bash and the Skim Bash. The people in government, those are the people who love this town more than anything. It’s all volunteer – nobody’s getting paid to do it.

Seabright2c

Peggy Bills
51
Republican
Occupation:
Banker at Wachovia
Resident since: 2002
Prior public service: Appointed to council last year, Planning Board for one year
What’s the first issue you’ll tackle if elected?
To work toward having a boardwalk in Sea Bright from Donovan’s Reef all the way to Chapel Beach Club. I’m really excited talking about that, so it’s the first thing that comes to mind, but also the flood mitigation. That’s going really well and we should be able to get some funding for that. That’s exciting. We’ll see a big difference with the flooding. The boardwalk will be great for the residents — it’ll look nice, there will be a place for people to walk and so much more for them to love about where they live.
What’s the best thing about Sea Bright?
I love the ocean and being able to walk out of my house and being able to walk anywhere and being 100 feet from the ocean. You know what I like the best? I’ve met some really nice people here.
What’s the worst thing about Sea Bright?
Some overdevelopment. Big houses next to me.
Favorite spot in town:
My backyard. The ocean.
If you want to know what’s really going on in Sea Bright…
Come to a council meeting. I say that knocking on doors: ‘If you really have something to say, come to a council meeting.’ It’s important if you’re going to live in a town.

Seabright2a

Brian Kelly
Republican

Could not be reached for interview.