GOP chooses Castronova, Gerst

Incumbents Erik, Lichtenberg fail to get county committee vote

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  • Steve Castronova and Tricia Gerst were selected by the Republican County Committee on Tuesday night as its council candidates. Incumbents Ada Erik and Marilyn Lichtenberg failed to get a majority of the county committee votes.

The Republicans are not backing their incumbents for council this year.

Instead, the West Milford Regular Republican Municipal County Committee voted Tuesday for Steve Castronova and Tricia Gerst to be its candidates for council this year.

Republican Councilwomen Ada Erik and Marilyn Lichtenberg, whose terms end in December, also had their hats in the ring for the committee’s nod.

Republican Municipal Chairman Matthew Conlon said after receiving letters of interest from all four along with resumes, the committee formed a vetting subcommittee made up of five county committee members, including Councilmen Lou Signorino and Tim Wagner. This subcommittee came up with questions for the applicants, he said, and distributed its vetting report to all members.

Castronova and Gerst both received a 10-6 vote on the first ballot to secure their nominations, according to Conlon. Erik and Lichtenberg came up with six votes in favor and eight against, not enough for the nomination. Just 16 members of the 26-member county committee were present for the vote.

“I want to thank the members of the committee for entrusting me with their support,” said Castronova, a 55-year township resident who is a current member of the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Adjustment, and Municipal Utilities Authority, in a prepared statement. “As the owner of a local restaurant, I hear many concerns from my fellow residents and want the opportunity to put solutions into action to benefit West Milford.”

“I am excited to run for a seat on the council,” said Gerst, the mother of three school-age children who has served as cheerleading director of West Milford Midget Football Association for the past three years and currently sits on the Recreation Advisory Committee, in that statement. “I want to serve West Milford with diligence while bridging the gap between the current council where too many votes are split down the middle.”

Vice chairperson for the Republicans and former councilwoman Michele Dale told the Messenger she was disappointed by the vote. She said committee members were given 48 hours to review the vetting reports.

At the forum, she asked the three candidates present (Erik was not there) three basic questions about the municipal budget, the largest areas of that budget and the loss of transportation grants.

“I was really shocked as vice chair that the candidates chosen didn’t know even basic financial information about the township,” said Dale, who was unsuccessful last year in the Republican primary.

She said she was even more surprised that the vetting committee, with two sitting council members, did not ensure the candidates selected had the basic knowledge of the municipal budget or issues.

Conlon said good questions were asked at the forum and by the vetting committee. Castronova and Gerst expressed their intent to continue to do more research, he said.

Erik and Lichtenberg would not comment when asked if they plan to run a primary in June.

Castronova and Gerst, both first time candidates, will run on the official Republican Party line in the June 6, 2017 primary.

- Linda Smith Hancharick

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