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VOTE411 Voter Guide

Mercer County Freeholder {_getChooseLabel(this.selections.length)}

Description of Race: 4 candidates for 2 offices for the Board of Chosen Freeholders . 3 Year Term.The Board acts to formulate policy, to provide a check on the powers of the County Executive. It approves all county contracts and appointments, as well as county budgets.
  • John A. Cimino (Dem) Vice President of Project Development for CHA Consulting

  • Jeff Hewitson (Rep)

  • Candidate picture

    Michelle Noone (Rep) Independent Licensed Professional

  • Lucylle R.S. Walter (Dem)

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Biographical Information

What do you consider the most important challenges facing Mercer County? What priorities for the county would you like to see addressed in the next year’s budget from the County Executive?

Given the Board’s role of formulating policy, reviewing the county finances, contracting with municipalities, and enacting ordinances and resolutions, what personal and professional experiences will you bring to the Board to assist in its multifaceted role?

Is there any specific department(s) or agency(ies) that you consider particularly in need of Board attention? Please specify areas in need of oversight or funding, and what you would do. (Note the Board oversees funding for multiple county agencies or units, including its technical school, Community College, Geriatric Center, Park Commission, Library system, etc.)

How well do you think the current Board of Freeholders is performing, and what, if anything, would you like to improve?

Current Elected Position Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders
I think the most important challenges facing Mercer County in the coming year's is to ensure that the administration and the Freeholder Board are holding the line on property taxes so that our residents can continue to enjoy the services that they have become accustomed at an affordable price. I am hopeful that businesses will continue to invest in our community and that new businesses will look towards Mercer County as a place they would like to call home. We can retain and attract these businesses by having a predictable tax structure so they can make the decisions based upon what they feel is in their best interests to grow and prosper here in Mercer County. I believe that Mercer County has done a tremendous job in balancing out our growth while preserving as much open space as possible. It is important for the County to invest our open space dollars in order to make sure that the County continues to be a community that people want to call home. I would like to see the County Executive present an expansion plan for Trenton Mercer Airport. The airport is a real asset to not only Mercer County but the entire region. We need to balance the concerns of our neighbors in the area of the airport with any plan that is presented to make sure that their quality of life is not too impacted. I do believe that we can achieve both. But, we need to be open and transparent as we embark on this large project. The County needs to make sure that any plans of expansion at Trenton Mercer Airport are done in a thoughtful and meaningful way. I know that the County Executive, his team and the Freeholder Board are committed to that objective.
I believe that I have a strong background of personal and professional experiences that help guide me in my role as a member of the Board of Chosen Freeholders. I graduated with a degree in Health Care Policy from Providence College. I started my career in the financial services world as a financial advisor and then as a public finance banker. The year's I spent in this role gave me a solid foundation to understand government finance and how best to utilize our tax dollars to promote sound fiscal policy. I am currently a Vice President of Project Development at CHA Consulting. CHA is a full service engineering and consulting firm that provides services to private, public and non profit entities. I believe that my experiences at CHA have given me an opportunity to understand how to deliver infrastructure projects that are important to our communities. It is no secret that the infrastructure in New Jersey and throughout our region is aging and needs attention. I feel that with my experience in engineering and project development I have a background that helps enhance my role on the Board. Finally, I serve as Chairman of the Hamilton YMCA and as Chairman of the Lakeview Child Care Centers. I feel that my non-profit experience allows me to better understand our community and the needs that are out there and require attention. The Y is a social service organization that serves everyone and provides programs to meet the needs of our community in the greater Hamilton area. Lakeview is about educating and caring for our most valuable asset, our children. I believe that my experiences in the professional world and the time that I volunteer in the non-profit world have given me a solid foundation to help formulate policy that improves our Mercer County community.
One of the things I like about being a Freeholder is that we provide oversight to all of County government. Through our budget process every department comes before the board to discuss their budgets and the priorities they have outlined for that given year. The Board then has an understanding as to where the dollars are being spent and how best to fund the programs and services that are needed in our community. I would look towards providing more funding to help combat the opioid epidemic that is exploding throughout our Communities. We need to provide the resources to educate our youth and the resources and support to those that have been affected by this awful addiction. This is a problem that affects everyone in our community and I would support any effort to expand and enhance programs that already exist.
I believe that the Board of Freeholders performs at a very high level. In a County Executive form of government, the freeholder board is the legislative branch of government that provides oversight. I believe that the board engages the administration in a thoughtful and deliberative way. The Board is always asking questions to the resolutions that are presented to make sure that we are efficiently and effectively performing our duties as a Freeholder Board. There is always room for improvement. I would welcome more public engagement and interaction with our constituents. I believe we can achieve that in multiply ways. We can and have taken our meetings into some of our Municipalities. I think that is a way to get more people involved. We can also look at how technology can bring the board more into our communities as we look to engage our residents in the coming year's.
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Current Elected Position Committee Woman East Windsor
The current Mercer County government has one party rule, which has existed for over 20 years. This means that Democratic Freeholder candidates voted into office are intimidated to such a degree to “toe the party line” that virtually every single vote is unanimous and in full agreement with whatever the Mercer County Executive, Brian Hughes, wants. The County is in desperate need of a reformed “pay to play” law that will restrict those seeking political favors via payments to political candidates. The County Executive collects hundreds of thousands of dollars each year from those seeking political payback. Once collected, the money is sprinkled down to all of the Democratic candidates, making it virtually impossible for a successful candidate from the other party. Currently, the town of West Windsor has a great pay to play law in effect. It is important that the County adopt a similar set of rules to restrict or eliminate political donations. The County goes out of its way to keep Mercer County citizens completely in the dark. The County budget is virtually unreadable, with no explanations on variances presented. Hamilton Township presents a budget each year in an easy to read format. The County also fails to provide comprehensive P&L information on how certain activities are going, such as the profitability of the Airport, golf courses, etc. A top priority would be the development of an easy to read annual budget with illustrations and explanations of variances. The County Park Commission – and Director Kevin Bannon- were put under a FBI investigation about 2 years ago and the public has heard nothing to date on the results of this investigation. Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph Bochini ( a high profile Democratic political operative) resigned amidst a sexual harassment scandal.
Over 20 years of high performance public relations, community outreach involvement, background in real estate and insurance complete with licenses and local internships, as well as passion for equality, fairness, transparency, and uplifting of the community.
The Mercer County Park Commission is under FBI investigation for, among other possible issues, the formation of a separate entity to siphon off monies that should have been credited to the County. This is also the same department in which nepotism runs rampant. So, this department would be priority # 1 in need of Board attention and reform. The County Counsel’s department also needs immediate attention. Despite the fact that this department’s budget has grown significantly in size, a disproportional amount of the County’s legal services are farmed out to outside law firms. If the current County Counsel cannot handle internally many of the legal problems that the County needs to address, perhaps the County needs to hire a better County Counsel to ultimately save millions of dollars in legal fees paid out each year. It is also important to note that many of these same outside law firms contribute significant amounts of money as political payback in the very weak “pay to play” system that the County has. It has also been noted in news accounts that overtime has been significantly abused on the County level. This demonstrates an inability of department heads and managers to properly budget their staffing needs.
The County system of government relies solely on one branch- the executive branch. Virtually no decision making is done on the Freeholder level. Whatever the County Executive, Brian Hughes, wants gets approved automatically. Most of the current Freeholders are ill equipped to hold such responsible positions. Not one of the seven Freeholders has a background in Finance, yet the Freeholder Board is responsible to manage a $ 350 million budget. Since the prospects of the County Democrats nominating Freeholder candidates with both competence and independence are impossible under this setting, the only hope for the citizens of Mercer County is to elect GOP candidates. In this way, representative government, with needed checks and balances will be introduced on the County level.
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