Pearl Lee at the Bank Street block party earlier this month. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
By JOHN T. WARD
Her name has appeared on campaign lawn signs for weeks, but on Tuesday, a Red Bank political neophyte made it official: she’s running for mayor.
Pearl Lee, a retiree and singer from Alston Court, will top the Republican ticket ballot in November’s election. She’ll also be the first GOP opponent of Democratic incumbent Mayor Pasquale Menna since he won the seat in 2006.
In fact, Lee told redbankgreen, the absence of opposition to Menna is one reason she’s going up against him.
“People need a choice,” she said.
After a 40-plus year career in video production, “my business experience gives me the skills to build an efficient government that benefits the deserving residents and businesses of Red Bank,” Lee said in a formal announcement of her candidacy.
Though she’s spent her life on the political sidelines, 18-year borough resident said she was “outraged” when she read the report on borough management released in June, which she termed as “scathing.”
Based on a study by consultants from Government Strategy Group, the report cited numerous examples of “dysfunctionality” in borough government, including a “breakdown of clear lines of communication, direction, responsibility, and accountability” among borough employees.
“If you ran your business like that, you’d be out of business,” Lee told redbankgreen. “If you ran your household like that, you’d be bankrupt.”
The local Republican party, led by Michael Clancy, had no mayoral contenders in the June primary. But 32 voters wrote in names, and Lee was tops among them, garnering “more than the 13 [votes] she needed to get on the ballot” for November, Clancy said at the time.
The GOP later persuaded her to formally seek the mayoralty, Lee said.
A 64-year-old retiree from a video-production company she ran with her ex-husband, Lee grew up in the Bronx and moved to Monmouth County 35 years ago. In recent years, she took up music, and now sings and plays guitar in a duo called Drummond Place, named for the location of the Red Bank offie space where she and bandmate Jim Murphy rehearse. She has a grown son who graduated from Red Bank Regional.
Asked about the depth of her party affinity, Lee said that she was “fiscally a Republican. At the local level, that’s what matters.”
As for her take on the job of mayor, Lee said it’s like doing business: “You have to play well with everyone.”
After 18 years as a council member, Menna defeated then-Councilman John Curley to succeed Ed McKenna as mayor in 2006. He’s since won re-election every four years since then without a Republican challenger.
Also up for grabs in November are two council seats, both currently held by first-term Republicans who are not seeking re-election: Mark Taylor and Mike Whelan.
Five candidates are vying for those spots: Lee’s running mates Clancy and Allison Gregory; Democrats Hazim Yassin and Kate Triggiano; and independent Sue Viscomi.
The Democrats have a 4- majority on the six-member council.