OCEAN COUNTY – There are three candidates seeking a single, three-year term. In alphabetical order, the candidates are Barry Bendar (Green Party), Helen Dela Cruz (Democrat), and incumbent Joseph Vicari (Republican).
Bendar, an Information Technology Professional for 38 years, is currently a database administrator for a large health care company in New Jersey.
As a third party candidate, he said that residents need a better option than the current two parties, who he said work “hand in glove” with each other. This two-party system has led to some of the best things in Ocean County being ruined. Being separate from them means that he does not owe anyone any favors, and will only serve the people.
“I will look out for the well-being of all Citizens of Ocean County, not just the political bosses and those politically connected (dump the “friends and family” plan),” he said. This kind of corruption has cost taxpayers.
As an environmentalist, he said he will enforce new regulations that will address development projects consistently throughout all towns in Ocean County, with the goal being the preservation of the Barnegat Bay.
Additionally, he said he would remove the county’s representative to the Pinelands Commission for “violating his oath to protect the Pine Barrens.”
Those who opposed a gas pipeline that is coming to a station in Manchester have called for the removal of the county’s representative to the Pinelands Commission, since he was one of the votes that would allow the pipeline.
The county, and even the state, needs to work toward green manufacturing, “which will help save what’s left of our environment while creating sustainable jobs.”
Other promises include making sure no Ocean County resident goes homeless and building a relationship with neighboring counties.
“Having been active in Ocean County politics since 2003, I have seen firsthand that the relationship between the two major parties in New Jersey is not healthy for the average resident,” he said. “Political corruption is a pet peeve of mine and when elected, I will work tirelessly to bring the rampant amount ongoing in Ocean County to light.”
Dela Cruz served as a committeewoman in Lacey for three separate, three-year terms. These were: 1995-1997, 2004-2006, and 2011-2013. “As a Lacey Committeewoman, I was liaison to the Economic Development Council and Board of Health (Public Health Services), Seniors Advisory Group, and the Municipal Alliance.”
She is an active member of Lacey United Methodist Church, also serving as a former trustee, and member of the nominations committee.
“The two biggest issues facing Ocean County are taxes and drug addiction,” she said. “I plan on stabilizing taxes by examining current spending and prioritizing future expenditures. I will propose a 2% spending cut in each department.”
Dela Cruz was a franchisee for 7-Eleven from 1987 to 2002. She is a nurse at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York City, with a specialty in addictions nursing.
“I will help take out the stigma from drug addiction through better education of the public and will also seek to expand drug treatment programs and make them more accessible for those in need,” she said.
Public access to the Freeholders are another issue for her. Freeholder meetings are held in downtown Toms River at 4 p.m., when many people are at work. She would move them to 7 p.m. so more members of the public can attend.
“I also will propose having eight Freeholder meetings a year in different locations around the county, in order that residents that live farther away from Toms River can more easily attend,” she said.
“I will be the fresh voice on the Freeholder Board. For more than 25 years, there has been only one group represented on the Board. I will represent the residents of Ocean County, with compassion and integrity. I will speak up and stand up for them, and will block any effort that calls for outrageous spending and irresponsible borrowing. I will report to the people what goes on in the backroom,” she said.
Vicari has been a freeholder since 1982. He has also served on the Dover Township Committee (currently called the Toms River Township Council) from 1979 to 1994, serving as mayor for five one-year terms. He has also been the Dover Township Police Commissioner, superintendent of Berkeley Township School District, and a teacher and principal in Brick.
He received the March of Dimes Franklin award for chairing the annual Walk America for 16 years, and has been named “Man of the Year” by the Columbia Civic League, the Italian-American Cultural Society of Ocean County, and UNICO.
The main issues in Ocean County are taxes, substance abuse, and the economy.
He said he plans on continuing to hold the line on the tax rate, and ensuring the county’s AAA bond rating, which provides the best credit rate in borrowing.
“There are never any surprises in the county budget. We have kept our tax rate stable because we can carefully plan not just for today, but for the future,” he said.
Part of the drug issue comes from rehabilitation, but part of it is from enhancing counseling within the community and schools. Education is also the key to growing the economy, he said. “As liaison to the OC Vocational-Technical Schools, I am implementing a new specialized training program for students about to enter or re-enter the work force,” he said. It will “work with local businesses to provide the kinds of training that employers are looking for in new hires.”
He also said he is working with professionals in the county to welcome and develop new businesses in Ocean County, “therefore increasing ratables, job opportunities, and to strengthen our local economy.”
There are some problems, like the Route 9 corridor, that are state issues. He said he will continue to lobby Trenton to widen Route 9.
“I have worked hard to provide our residents with the outstanding services they deserve while keeping the cost of government in check,” he said.