Stephanie Keenan. (Click to enlarge.)
Little Silver voters will be asked to fill two three-year terms on the borough council in the November 3 election.
On the ballot are four candidates: Democrats Joan Gotti and Stephanie Keenan, and Republicans Kevin Brennan and Michael Holzapfel.
Here are Keenan’s written responses to questions posed to all four candidates recently by redbankgreen.
Name: Stephanie Keenan
Address: 260 Willow Drive, Little Silver
How long have you been a resident of Little Silver? I have been a homeowner here since 2005.
Where did you grow up? I grew up here in Little Silver, my parents still live in my childhood home.
Where did you go to high school? Red Bank Regional
Did you graduate from college? If so, which school, with what degree? I have a B.S. from MIT and an M.A. from The College of William and Mary.
Have you served in the military? If so, which branch and when? I served in the Navy as a Supply Corps Officer from 1988-1992
What do you do for a living?
During years of moving around as a military spouse, mainly overseas, I started working as a substitute teacher with the DOD schools. I really enjoy working with the wide variety of different students and classes, and I am fortunate to be able to continue subbing, mostly here in Little Silver. I also worked as a planning engineer for the Navy when we were stationed in Iceland.
Please tell us a little bit about your community involvement efforts, if any.
This spring, I was honored to be selected to fill an unexpired term on the Little Silver Borough Council, it has been a whirlwind from the day I was sworn in by the Mayor (in my backyard due to the Pandemic!) Prior to joining the council I served on the Board of Health for several years, including a term as president. I have volunteered at many local events including activities at the Library and clean-up days sponsored by the Environmental Commission. I am very active in a local quilt guild where I am pleased to participate in a program that makes quilts for combat veterans. I was a Girl Scout leader for many years, including a term as president of the London area overseas council.
Party affiliation: Democrat
How important is party affiliation to you? What does it mean to you to be a member of your party?
The hyper-partisanship that we see nationally has no place in local politics. However, I stand by the Democratic vision-that every individual is important, and that people should come before corporate convenience and profit. We need find the balance that protects individuals as well as the health, safety and sustainability of our community.
Do you have a role model in public life? Who and why?
My family. My parents both worked, sometimes more than one job. But when something needed to be done; coach, scout leader, class parent… you could always count on one of them to step up and do it. And in our house the mantra was, “If you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain.” But if you want people to vote, someone has to step up to give them a choice in who to vote for.
Why are you running for Little Silver council?
Little Silver is a great town. I actually resisted suggestions about running for office for years, because I was happy with our local government. But, over the past few years, it has become obvious that we need to consider Borough projects and policies with a more critical eye. I am committed to ensuring that everyone has a chance to be heard when decisions are being made.
A wider variety of perspectives on the council is the best way to anticipate potential concerns before actions are approved.
What are the most pressing issues facing the town, and how do you plan to address them?
In the short term, we need to continue to pursue creative solutions to managing the COVID crisis, supporting local businesses, pursuing grant funds and facilitating eventual distribution of a vaccine. But we can’t lose sight of the ongoing need for environmental stewardship, inclusive community engagement and increased government transparency. I will be a voice on the council to advocate for thoughtful solutions which consider the pressing problems of climate change and the needs of all of our residents.
What if any specific initiatives can voters expect from you if you are elected?
For years I have been saddened by the steady loss of the beautiful tree-lined streets of my childhood. I was very disappointed by the council’s rejection of an ordinance limiting clear-cutting of trees. However, leadership is not limited to making decrees. I hope to spearhead initiatives to increase tree planting around town. I will seek every opportunity to educate and inspire residents to be proactive in replacing tree cover and I will advocate for initiatives to assist, encourage and recognize residents and developers who work to retain and replant our local landscape.
A Master Plan review may be on the agenda in 2021. What if any changes do you think should be made to the plan, and why?
The current Master Plan was developed before the devastation from Hurricane Sandy. Although a Sustainability Element was added in 2014, a revised plan needs to fully incorporate the lessons learned and include a commitment to prepare for the challenge of climate change. The plan needs to account for the demands of increased severe weather events, including flooding, as well as changes from the development of Fort Monmouth.
How would you rate the borough council’s fiscal management, and what if any changes do you think are needed?
We have some very talented Borough employees who have done an outstanding job of managing the town’s operating expenses, keeping the budget flat for several years. The town actively pursues grants and low interest loans for projects such as the ongoing sidewalk upgrade and expansion. However, the council’s resistance to pro-active measures to deal with the reality of climate change such as reducing clear cutting of mature trees and updating storm water management procedures puts us at increasing risk of expensive infrastructure damage.
Controversy over a cell tower three years ago prompted calls for better borough government communications with residents. Have communications improved? What more if anything needs to be done in this area?
The Borough has made strides in making communications with residents clear and accessible, especially through the use of text updates and social media. Our website continues to improve, although there are still some gaps (such as the absence of the zoning chapters from the online Borough Code information.) However, technical improvements cannot replace a true commitment to openness. For example, Council liaisons attend and report to the public about the activities of our local school boards, but we ignore the activities of the other recipient of our property taxes, the Board of Chosen Freeholders…If we want transparency, all of our governmental relationships should be made clear to residents.
Since the start of the pandemic, public meetings have been held remotely via Zoom and phone. What if any lessons from this change should be carried forward when in-person meetings can again be held?
Almost every Council or Committee meeting I have attended during the pandemic has received at least one audience comment about how much people like the remote access format. It has the potential to make town government accessible to people who might be unable to attend in-person meetings, such as parents with young children or older adults who might be uncomfortable coming out on winter nights. Of course, Zoom can’t fully replace face-to-face interaction and engagement, but we should make every effort to keep a remote option for those who want it. Borough employees have made great strides in running meetings online format, and I am confident that once in-person events resume we will be able to host hybrid events.
If there’s anything you’d like to add, please do so here:
The Little Silver ballot can be found here.
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