CORRECTION: ALL borough voters in the November 2 election are to cast in-person ballots at the Church of the Nativity parish center at 180 Ridge Road. An outdated list of polling places was incorrectly included in the original version of this post. Apologies to those who were inconvenienced.
Fair Haven voters will have four candidates to choose from when they elect two council members November 2.
Here’s what candidate Bob Gasperini had to say in response to a questionnaire sent to all four by redbankgreen.
Address: 673 River Road Fair Haven, NJ
Where did you grow up? West Long Branch
Where did you go to high school? Shore Regional High School
Did you graduate from college? If so, which school, with what degree? Yes, from Penn State University with a BA in Administration of Justice. I also received my MBA from Monmouth University.
Have your served in the military? If so, which branch and when?
What do you do for a living?
I am a Vice President at a community bank in North Jersey. I manage the loan servicing and loan closing departments for the bank.
How long have you been a resident of Fair Haven?
Please tell us about your community involvement efforts, if any.
I currently serve on the Finance and Facilities Committees for the Borough
I have coached youth sports at various levels over the years.
I serve on Board of the RFH Touchdown Club
I have worked with Fair Haven Sailing Club/River Rats over the years in various volunteer capacities.
Party affiliation: Democrat
How important is party affiliation to you? What does it mean to you to be a member of your party?
My party is important as it is the foundation of many of my personal beliefs. However, I do not limit myself to thinking of “party only”, especially at the local level. What it means to me to be a member of my party? It provides me with the opportunity to discuss relevant topics important to the town with like minded individuals. However, I am always open to and eager to learn from and work with people from all different backgrounds and party affiliations. I am naturally curious and eager to learn as many viewpoints as possible.
Do you have a role model in public life? Who and why?
A role model in public life would be Warren Buffet. Not for his wealth or success, but for his steady reasoned approach to business and his modesty and humility. His success was born out of his ability to not follow fads or act rashly when faced with difficult times. He always acts on well-reasoned, researched, practical and unemotional decisions. He always has a steady hand and listens to everyone around him. He seeks out those that are smarter than him and surrounds himself with those people. He follows a strict investment style that yields modest but consistent and steady returns.
Why are you running for Fair Haven council?
For many years, I have been able to enjoy the many benefits of living in a unique town like Fair Haven. My wife and I joke that we hocked everything as a young couple with a 6 month old to get into Fair Haven. It was the town at the top of our list. The schools, the location, the small town experience and energy. We have many friends that we met when our children were toddlers that have become parts of our family. We love that we can walk everywhere. We love that there are parks to enjoy in every direction you go. We love the traditions of a town like Fair Haven. So, why do I want to run for council? Because it’s time for me to give back to the town that has given so much to our family. It’s time for me to offer up the many valuable skills that I have acquired in my 25 years in the financial services industry. I want to ensure that all the qualities and values and experiences that drew us to this town so many years ago live on for generations to come. That every benefit is available to all residents to enjoy. That people who love this town for what it has to offer and its impact on everyday life help guide it forward in vitally important roles such as Boro Council and the many volunteer opportunities.
On a nuts and bolts level, first, I want to reform the process of capital project planning to ensure that the affected residents are heard and that all residents understand what projects are being undertaken and why. All residents should have a “a seat at the table” from the very early conceptual planning phase through completion. Second, I want to bring fiscal transparency to the town, ensuring that the budgeting process is conducted openly and in line with not only what’s best for the town, but what the top priorities are of the residents. I am currently working in my role on the Finance Committee to bring a forward looking 3 to 5 year budget process to fruition, so that as a town we ensure that not only can we tackle all of the most important projects, but that we do so in a fiscally responsible manner that maintains a stable tax rate to the greatest extent possible.
What are the most pressing issues facing the town, and how do you plan to address them?
I see two pressing issues in town right now. First, the large capital project bids (the new PD and DPW buildings) must come in somewhere near where the various committees expected them to and those projects must get underway soon. Second, there needs to be a top to bottom review of the zoning ordinances in town. As a member of the Finance and Facilities Committees I feel I have a good head start on the first issue, as by the time I would take office I would have about a year under my belt on both committees. As a commercial lending professional, I have a unique skill set that would allow me to ensure that the projects are moving in the right direction. I have been active in the process so far, so, again, I would have a good head start. On the second issue, there is an effort to begin soon to look at the zoning ordinances. As a twenty year resident, I have the historical experience to help guide me. But, I would work very closely with both the residents and the various builders that are active in town to work towards revisions that would keep the character of the town alive and not stifle new development in town.
What if any specific initiatives can voters expect from you if you are elected?
My first priority in office would be to reform the capital project planning process to ensure that there is a clear, consistent, public and transparent roadmap for each and every project. I will work to ensure that residents are involved in the process from day one. I will work to make the town’s project planning matrix a living, breathing document where information can be accessed by everyone involved, most importantly the residents. It’s vitally important that everyone is on the same page. At the same time, it is equally important that projects are vetted and prioritized based on a fixed set of criteria to ensure that projects are evaluated based on the same criteria every time.
The borough is now pursuing simultaneous plans constituting the largest capital projects in borough history: a new police headquarters and a public works yard. Do you support the plans? What if any concerns do you have about them?
I 100% support the plans for the new DPW and PD buildings. These buildings are functionally deficient and outdated for their uses. Maintaining the existing structures would continue to eat away at precious tax dollars, with no real return on investment. As a member of the Facilities Committee I have been privy to the inside workings of the process to complete the design and begin the planning process. This project, in its final stages has been an example of community engagement and involvement, as well as cross department/committee collaboration. After a slow start to the design, the process was reworked and reimagined to bring together all of the available resources and to directly engage the residents in the process. The result are designs that were applauded by many residents and the Boro Planning Board as thoughtful, deliberative and collaborative. Many of the recommendations and suggestions were able to be incorporated into the project. As a professional in the construction industry, my only concern is bringing the project to completion on time and on budget. Timelines are fragile given the constraints on the supply chain. The budget is faced with a certain level of volatility in the prices of raw materials and supplies. Proper planning, staging and materials acquisition will be required to best manage these challenges. I am confident in the town’s ability to bring this successfully to conclusion as there are many very talented individuals with extensive industry experience working on these projects.
Do you agree with residents of the Hance Road/Cooney Terrace neighborhood who argue that sidewalks and curbs should not be installed, even if it means sacrificing a $350,000 NJDOT grant for roadwork? Please explain your answer.
I never think it is a good idea to let a grant go without making every best effort to make the project work. The governing body and the administration have been working feverishly for the past few months to ensure that the project fits within the wants and needs of the impacted residents, while ensuring that it ensures a safe and maintained roadway. The town’s number one priority is always the safety of its residents and the maintenance of its most valuable assets. Whether or not I agree with the specific points of the Hance/Cooney project is not important. What I do feel strongly about is that the town maintains is infrastructure in a manner that provides safe passage for all residents. It is always incumbent on a town to ensure the maintenance of its infrastructure. What I also feel is just as important is that projects involve the residents that are directly affected from the very beginning of any project. I feel strongly that the governing body and administration has learned a valuable lesson during the process; that planning and resident input from the earliest stages is essential and there is always room for improvement to the processes that the town follows. I also feel it is important to recognize that our town is fortunate to have very dedicated and talented processionals working for us in our administration and engineering departments.
The borough has applied for Green Acres funding to help finance the possible acquisition of 21 Fair Haven Road, next to the municipal dock, for use as riverfront open space and recreation. Do you support this initiative? Why or why not?
As a general rule, I am always a proponent of additions to and improvements of open spaces. In our unique town, we have the luxury of access to many open spaces for the residents to enjoy, all of which are within reasonable walking distance for almost every resident. The town is presented with a unique opportunity to bring a valuable asset into its portfolio of public lands. The acquisition of 21 Fair Haven Road would create significant open space adjacent to an already popular public feature. The acquisition could greatly enhance access to the town’s greatest natural resource, the Navesink River. Currently, access to the river is somewhat limited and public open space is also fairly limited on the riverfront. However, I do feel that each and every capital project or acquisition must be evaluated in context; they cannot be looked at in a vacuum or in a silo. The town is undertaking two of its largest public projects (the DPW and PD buildings) in a long time and careful consideration must be given to every dollar spent that could potentially impact the taxes of the residents. The acquisition of 21 Fair Haven Road is still in the very early stages of discussions and negotiations. I would support the acquisition, so long as it fits within the town’s fiscal plan for the coming years. There is the potential to obtain outside funding in the form of grants to assist in the acquisition which would further improve the cost/benefit analysis of this project. The town should and will pursue every opportunity to offset the cost of the acquisition of such a potentially important piece of public land. What I do not support is acquisition for the sake of acquisition; it must present a clear public benefit and it must be done in a fiscally responsible manner. If outside funding is limited or the scope of the use of the property would be limited for one reason or another, I would have no problem voting against the acquisition out of responsibility to the town and its residents.
After months of controversy, the planning board approved a Dunkin’ shop in the Fair Haven Shopping Center in 2019, and the store has now been operating for nearly a year. Has its presence diminished the small-town charm of Fair Haven, as some objectors feared? Would you be concerned if additional chain stores or restaurants wanted to set up shop in town?
I was originally against the application out of fear of a negative impact on the traffic patterns and the safety of the residents, especially children going to and from school. I was not a “fan” of having a chain establishment in town, but was not necessarily against it. I don’t believe that it has diminished the small town charm of Fair Haven, as I feel the storefront and operation were tastefully done to fit within the community and not “stick out like a sore thumb.” When I view the business with my commercial banker hat on, I understand the plan of the landlord and the business owner. When thought about from a logical business and marketing standpoint, it’s obvious that the fears of massive lines of people and cars would not bear out in the end. The business fits a niche in town and for a select few residents nearby in Rumson. The other breakfast and coffee related businesses nearby are doing just fine. People will shop where they have always shopped and having a new “chain” establishment in town would not change that dynamic much.
As for other chain businesses, I am not concerned about either a slow creep or an overrunning. Chain businesses operate on very specific models for traffic and volume. Most national or even regional chains would not find success in Fair Haven because it would not provide the level of foot traffic and patrons to satisfy their evaluation and analysis models. For national chains, it’s all about the bottom line. Fair Haven is too small of a market for anything larger than a Dunkin.
If there’s anything you’d like to add, please do so here:
I feel that I am best suited for a seat on the council for a couple reasons. First, my extensive financial industry background has provided me with the tools necessary to provide valuable guidance and support to our talented town professionals in preparing and analyzing the annual budget. Second, my career has been highlighted by my many accomplishments related to efficiency and effectiveness of operations. I always seek to leverage technology and to fine tune processes to achieve the greatest results in the most cost efficient manner. I have been at the 50,000 foot level while at the Federal Reserve and now I have boots on the ground working directly with businesses and individuals. Third, I have more than 10 years experience working directly with businesses in a lending and planning capacity. I have a true passion for working with small businesses to help them achieve their goals and grow. Finally, I am a hands on manager. As a rule, I always ensure that I know how everything works that crosses my desk, only at that point can I feel comfortable delegating or explaining it to someone else.
***** ELECTION GUIDE *****
• Find the Fair Haven ballot here.
• For information on the various ways to cast your vote, check out this article. It includes information on mail-in ballots and early, in-person voting, which begins October 23.
• Monmouth County election offices (300 Halls Mill Road, Freehold Township) will offer extended hours to allow for voters to apply for and drop off vote-by-mail ballots. The offices will be open on Friday, October 29 from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday, October 30 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• Finally, here’s a video on using Monmouth County’s new digital voting machines, which employ touchscreen technology familiar to users of smartphones and tablets:
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