Two three-year terms on the Little Silver Borough Council are up for grabs in the November 7 election. On the ballot are four candidates: incumbent Republican Councilman Dane Mihlon; his running mate, Michael Holzapfel; and Democrats Christopher Healy and Matthew Cohen,
Here are Holzapfel’s written responses to questions posed to all four candidates recently by redbankgreen.
Name: Michael Holzapfel
Address: 339 Branch Avenue, Little Silver
How long have you been a resident of Little Silver? Eleven years. We moved from an apartment in Matawan to 339 Branch in August 2006.
Where did you grow up?
North Andover, Massachusetts, a suburb about 25 minutes north of Boston.
Where did you go to high school?
St. John’s, in Danvers, Massachusetts.
Did you graduate from college? If so, which school, with what degree?
Yes, I graduated from the College of the Holy Cross, where I met my wife, Jennifer. I graduated with a BA in 1999.
Have your served in the military? If so, which branch and when?
What do you do for a living?
I am an attorney with Becker LLC (formerly Becker Meisel LLC) specializing in complex commercial litigation. I started as a first-year associate in 2003 and I am currently a shareholder in the firm.
Please tell us a little bit about your community involvement efforts, if any.
I and my family have been actively involved in community efforts over the years. I have served on the Planning and Zoning Board since 2013, I have assisted with my sons’ various Rec team sports, and I along with my wife (who also serves on the PTO board and the Rec Committee) are regular sponsors and donors when it comes to organizations and events like the Little Silver 5K, the annual Charity 1-Pitch Softball Tournament, and several other organization.
Party affiliation: Republican.
How important is party affiliation to you? What does it mean to you to be a member of your party?
While I, like everyone else, have my thoughts, opinions and beliefs on the more partisan issues that divide people on a State or National level (national defense, individual and corporate income tax rates, capital punishment, etc.), I have always said that party lines blur at the municipal level. There is no “Republican” or “Democrat” school of thought when it comes to things like restructuring our trash and recycling pickup schedules. There is no “Blue” or “Red” approach to evaluating which sidewalks in town are in most immediate need of repair. At the municipal level, the focus is – or at least should be – on reasoned, prudent decision making with input from everyone, of all political stripes, without getting entrenched in party “camps.”
Do you have a role model in public life? Who and why?
I have two – Daniel O’Hern, Sr. and Daniel O’Hern, Jr. I was fortunate enough to come of age as an attorney under both of them starting in 2003, when the three of us staffed the Becker LLC Monmouth County office at the Galleria in Red Bank. Dan Sr. was the former mayor of Red Bank, Commissioner of the DEP, Chief Counsel to Governor Byrne, and of course a Justice of New Jersey’s Supreme Court. Dan Jr. is our current Councilman in Little Silver who is wrapping up almost 10 years of dedicated service. If anyone ever embodied the principle of governing with a conscience, it’s them. They never lost sight of the reality that you work toward great results from the ground up, which starts with your family, and your community. They always listened, they always made time for me, and even when we disagreed about things I knew they took all viewpoints to heart. In all these years, I have never heard an ill-spoken word about either one of them, even from those who disagreed with their politics. As role models go, I don’t think I could do better.
Why are you running for Little Silver council?
Jen and I have been very fortunate to have been able to move here and find our house when we did. From the outset our neighbors went out of their way to be friendly and welcoming, and as we started our family we gradually gained a fuller appreciation of just how dedicated our schools are, and how community-oriented our administration is. Our kids are getting a terrific education. Our property values are solid. Our community, including our Council, truly cares about maintaining the quality of life that is important to us all. In short, Little Silver has been great to me and to my family, and I am running because I genuinely want to continue to give back to the community that has done so much for us.
What are the most pressing issues facing the town, and how do you plan to address them?
The cell tower is an issue of tremendous concern, of course. Restricting future proliferation of the tower and ensuring the overall safety of the structure through ordinances that have a realistic chance of withstanding a legal challenge is high on my list.
Continuing to work with the current council to secure grants to replace many of our deteriorated sidewalks is another important endeavor, as our town gets younger and walk and bike to school initiatives continue to grow.
And then of course there is the tie that binds: taxes. There’s no magic wand we can waive that cuts property taxes meaningfully overnight (or at least not without drastically altering our landscape), so we need to take it one expense at a time, and every expense and line item needs to be prudently managed. New Jersians are taxed enough and raising them in our town should always be a last resort.
What if any specific initiatives can voters expect from you if you are elected?
On taxes, one thing I would like to explore with Borough officials is the prospect of implementing a property tax credit to those who saw their property taxes increase tremendously with the last reassessment. Several concerned residents from the condominiums near the train station, some of them elderly and on a fixed income, voiced their concern about their taxes having gone up over $100 per month. That’s real money for anyone, particularly for someone on fixed income. And if you’re an elderly resident on a fixed income living modestly in a condominium, the fact that your property value has increased isn’t much of a consolation where you’re forced to find a way to manage a large tax bill with a finite amount of dollars. Granted our tax dollars primarily fund our schools, which is a tremendous driver of our property values, but for folks who haven’t had children in our schools for several years, and/or who may be on a fixed income, and who have seen their assessment spike disproportionately, I would very much like to explore a graduated property tax credit to lessen the burden on these residents.
Other initiatives include continued improvements to traffic and safety matters. Branch Avenue, where I live, comes immediately to mind – a street where almost no one stops for pedestrians at the crosswalk at Branch and Silverton. There’s a pedestrian crossing sign there now, but one thing I believe could help is making it a flashing LED pedestrian sign, similar to what Red Bank has on Maple Avenue near the YMCA, and what Shrewsbury has on Sycamore.
The new cell tower at borough hall quickly became a hot issue earlier this year. Was that that because of faulty leadership?
No, it wasn’t. Our leadership isn’t “faulty.” Do I think our leadership, if it had the ability, would go back and do it all over with more robust notice such that perhaps something regarding the tower might have turned out differently (site placement, aesthetic, etc.)? Yes. But the leadership motivation behind the tower was understandable enough. Verizon had an application to place antennae on private property before the Planning Board. On a parallel track, our police and first responders required a communications tower of a certain height to service their radio system. So the mechanics of the thinking are understandable enough, there was no malice, and everything was noticed as required. It’s the “as required” part of that sentence that is really the nub of the issue. I believe the Council, in hindsight, recognizes that everyone would have benefitted from more robust, practical notice. Whether the end result would have been different in one respect or another, one can only speculate. But the lesson that came out of the tower was that at the very least communication should keep with the times, and the current Council has already made great strides in this respect.
What should the council do to address the continuing concerns raised about the tower?
The Borough has already spent significant sums of money investigating whether there is any immediate legal solution that might quell all concerns – a relocation of the tower; a buyout of the Verizon lease; etc. The reality is that there isn’t any such immediate resolution, and I am not going to make claims that there is. What we have to do is move forward with the current situation, and as I mentioned, curbing future proliferation of antennae on the tower and continued monitoring to ensure compliance with acceptable standards is paramount.
If there’s anything you’d like to add, please do so here:
I’ve lived here for 11 years. It’s where we decided to start our family. It’s where we hope our own kids will return one day. My family has a deep commitment to this town, which is reflected in our service record. Yes there are issues we need to deal with, but I feel that I have the qualifications and service record necessary to serve the residents as a Councilman.
John Burton of the Two River Times will moderate a candidates tonight (Wednesday, October 24) from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the Markham Place School.
The Little Silver ballot can be found here. And below are the locations of polling places by district.
|1||Borough Hall||480 Prospect Avenue|
|2||Women’s Club||111 Church Street|
|3||St. John’s Chapel||325 Little Silver Point Road|
|4||Women’s Club||111 Church Street|
|5||St. John’s Chapel||325 Little Silver Point Road|
|6||Little Silver Public Library||480 Prospect Avenue|
|7||Borough Hall||480 Prospect Avenue|