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 An outdated list of polling places was incorrectly included in the original version of this post.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 Sonja Trombino had to say in response to a questionnaire sent to all four by redbankgreen.
Sonja Cox Trombino
Address: 10 Brookside Farm Road, Fair Haven, NJ 07704
Where did you grow up?
I was born in England, lived in Hong Kong as a child and became a US citizen at age 26.
Where did you go to high school?
Illinois Valley Central High School, Chillicothe, Illinois
Did you graduate from college? If so, which school, with what degree?
Southern Illinois University, Bachelor of Science, Journalism, minor in Marketing.
Certifications in Lean Six Sigma, Project Management and Product Management.
Have your served in the military? If so, which branch and when?
I have not served in the military.
What do you do for a living?
I am a Senior Director for a Biotechnology company in South Plainfield in the IT Project Management Office.
How long have you been a resident of Fair Haven?
Ten years ago, my husband and I moved to Fair Haven for all that the town has to offer, such as the great schools and small-town feel. We are raising our two children here. Our daughter is a sophomore at RFH, and our son is in second grade at Sickles School. Having lived in different places around the globe, I feel so fortunate to call Fair Haven my home and to live in a community that has so much character and charm.
Please tell us about your community involvement efforts, if any.
Besides volunteering with the PTA, recreational sports, school, and community events, I am also a member of the Fair Haven Facilities Committee and Green Team. I also assist the borough in writing the mayoral newsletter and other communications.
Party affiliation: Democrat
How important is party affiliation to you? What does it mean to you to be a member of your party?
I don’t think party affiliation should play into local politics. When I became a US citizen, the judge who spoke at the swearing in ceremony said that US citizens are given the awesome responsibility to vote, and we must learn about each candidate and vote for whom you feel will do the best job and represent your needs. I have always taken that to heart and tried to vote with that in mind.
Do you have a role model in public life? Who and why?
One of the role models I learned about when I lived in Chicago was Jane Addams. She was the first woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. She was part of a new generation of college-educated, independent women who sought to put her education to greater use and expand the greater society, especially in women’s rights, protecting children and advocating for peace.
Why are you running for Fair Haven council?
A few years ago, I started to look for more information about improvements in town. For instance, I wanted to know when we would be making improvements to McCarter Pond, when the sidewalks on Fair Haven Road would be fixed, and how the town planned to improve the brush grinding operation. I started attending the Council meetings and I realized that for a small town there is a lot going on!
One of the first things I noticed is that the borough communications could be improved. I started helping the borough write the mayoral newsletter and other communications to ensure that the most important happenings were getting out to our residents each week. I want to see how we now improve community engagement so that residents can provide meaningful input and timely feedback on matters of public concern.
I joined the Fair Haven Green Team to help maintain our Sustainability New Jersey Certification as well as to support environmental initiatives in town. We need to find a better way to keep our parks, ponds, streets, and river clean, and I am proud to be part of a very creative and active group of dedicated individuals.
I am also a member of the Facilities Committee and was instrumental in providing resident feedback on the new Police Department and Department of Public Works building plans.
What are the most pressing issues facing the town, and how do you plan to address them?
Over the past several months I have been knocking on doors and asking our residents what they would like the Council to focus on:
- Engaging Residents:
- Encourage community participation in strategic planning
- Prioritize project portfolio with residents
- Engage residents early and throughout lifecycle of community projects
- Focus on Character and History:
- Provide careful oversight of the new Police Department and DPW construction
- Restore Bi-Centennial Hall for broader community use and enjoyment
- Update our zoning ordinances
- Safer Routes and Sidewalks
- Advocate for residents’ safety prioritizing Harding and Ridge Road sidewalks
- Support Local Businesses
- Help our existing businesses thrive and attract new businesses
- Municipal Financial Stability
- Maximize tax dollars by leveraging professional experience in financial management and corporate strategy
- Recreation Upgrades and Preservation
- Keep our Natural Area clean
- Introduce more recreational offerings
- Bring back Fair Haven Day
What if any specific initiatives can voters expect from you if you are elected?
My highest priority will be to build a portfolio of all the upcoming borough projects, detailing any dependencies, such as grants, that are impacting deadlines. Besides providing more transparency, this will also allow our residents the opportunity to help prioritize where we spend our tax dollars and efforts.
Another focus of mine if elected is the zoning ordinance. We all share the common goal of keeping Fair Haven’s character as charming as ever.
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 support both plans. Both buildings desperately need to be updated. The Council and the Facilities Committee have done a good job engaging with the public on the plans by having multiple sessions to obtain feedback and suggestions early on. However, both projects will need oversight as they enter the construction phase. In addition, we are finalizing the restoration plans for Bi-Centennial Hall. It is my goal to strike the right balance between the practical upgrades to make the hall suitable for borough and community meeting use and thoughtful restoration that preserves its historical value.
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.
Thankfully, the council was able to find a compromise that allows for the needed repaving while preserving the character of the neighborhood — sidewalks will not be installed, and the trees will be preserved. There are so many lessons learned in this project. First and foremost, a community improvement project must involve residents early on to understand all the impacts to the neighborhood and that these types of projects are not a one size fits all. Second, all borough projects should be prioritized so our scarce resources are working on the right things at the right time. And lastly, the project should be driven by prioritization in the strategic plan, not from grant deadline dates.
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?
I love the idea of having a waterfront park next to the Fair Haven dock. However, I worry about the cost, the impact to residents, and how it will be used. It’s a very expensive piece of property. I think more information is needed before we can determine whether this initiative should be supported.
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 still miss Lairds, the stationary store that was there before Dunkin, although my children are thrilled to have Munchkins so close by. I think the issue at hand is not about one store/restaurant but having a clear understanding of what businesses our residents want to have in the borough, what our infrastructure can safely support, and how we can help our local businesses prosper. I would like to see that the council appoint a liaison with the Fair Haven Business Association, so we can have a better dialog with our existing local business owners. I would welcome the opportunity to clarify and streamline processes to make it easier for new local businesses to come to Fair Haven.
If there’s anything you’d like to add, please do so here:
I truly appreciate the support in the community for my candidacy. It has been a very exciting and humbling experience, and I look forward to serving Fair Haven on Council.
***** 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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