Mayor, council races contested

WEST MILFORD. The Republican mayor and Township Council members face Democratic opponents in their bids for re-election Nov. 7.

| 19 Oct 2023 | 09:42

Races for mayor and two seats on the Township Council are contested in the Nov. 7 election.

Mayor Michele Dale, a Republican who has held that job since 2018, faces Melissa Brown Blaeuer, a Democrat, in her bid for another four-year term.

Councilmen Michael Chazukow and Dave Marsden, both Republicans, are opposed by Democrats Mary Granata and Karen Phelan. The council terms are for three years.



Why are you running for election as mayor?

I am running to end our town’s stark partisan divide that discourages good people and gets in the way of real talent and progress.

Let’s represent all parts of town with a nonpartisan ward-based system and bring out each other’s best. Let’s be laser-focused on local bottom-up prosperity, good will, strength and stability.

What are the top three things you aim to accomplish if elected?

1) Represent all residents by returning to a nonpartisan ward-based municipal government.

2) Promote sustainable energy and build community solar and electric vehicle-charging infrastructure.

3) Build tourism and property values with investment in signage, marketing, better trails, accommodations and services, a Fun in the Highlands identity, and enable booking for local outdoor guides.

What makes you the best candidate for this position?

I am passionate about local volunteerism, the rights of the individual, and liberty and justice for all as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

I served for many years on township boards and commissions, including the West Milford Economic Development Commission, where we worked as a team to host events, give out awards, imagine the future and plan many great projects.

Background and qualifications

I am an IT design and development consultant with extensive local to global business and leadership experience.

I practice agile design-thinking problem-solving methods that get at root causes and fix big problems.

I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and elevate our profile and community.

I’m empathic and pragmatic and a great listener who loves to talk to people. We have more in common than not.


Why are you running for re-election as mayor?

I am running for re-election to continue my service to the township I have called home for my entire life and to lead our local government to a strong financial future while improving services and amenities for all residents.

It has been a great privilege to serve as mayor. I seek every day to improve the operation and character of our township, learning from my interactions with residents of all ages.

Through COVID and natural disasters, I have remained steadfast in my hands-on approach to leading West Milford and have used collaboration and forward-thinking to serve the community to the best of my ability.

My phone remains on and my door remains open to always be there for every resident, and I commit to maintaining this open line of communication in my next term with your support.

What are the top three things you aim to accomplish if re-elected?

1) Continue to keep township taxes flat as we have over the past five years.

2) Increase federal and state grant funding to upgrade infrastructure, reducing the tax burden to our residents.

3) Lead the completion of the new senior center as well as the new youth athletic facilities.

What makes you the best candidate for this position?

I believe I am the best candidate to lead West Milford for the next four years because I have the experience and expertise to work through government constraints to get things done.

I have worked with every facet of the community in this leadership role to improve the quality of life and property values for all residents.

I am able to balance the time required to do the job well with integrity, honesty and transparency, as I have done for the past five years.

In addition, my corporate experience uniquely qualifies me to run a large organization. As a people person, I look forward to interacting with every resident to solve problems and hear and implement creative ideas.

I truly understand that my job as mayor is to manage the township and serve the people collaboratively and inclusively.

Township Council


Why are you running for re-election to the Township Council?

I am running for re-election to serve the people of the township in which I have lived for my entire life.

I care deeply about the community as I am raising two wonderful children in the township that my family has been residents of for five generations.

I hold my role in working on behalf of our residents and businesses in the utmost importance and would like the opportunity to continue my service for another term.

What are the top three things you aim to accomplish if re-elected?

1) Continue and complete the Greenway Trail System, which will connect our local business districts in town center and Hewitt.

2) Focus on small-business development and tourism by working with the Economic Development Commission to implement the recently developed ecotourism map

3) Streamline local ordinances to simplify and clarify interactions with local government for both residents and businesses

What makes you the best candidate for this position?

I am the best candidate for council, along with my running mate Councilman David Marsden, because I have had experience advocating for various causes as a grassroots volunteer.

I am currently working through projects that will grow the tax-ratable base and improve the quality of life in our community.

I have proven to dedicate my time and effort toward critical projects both as a volunteer and an elected official and will see them through with the same level of enthusiasm to benefit our community.

Background and qualifications

With two young children involved in the community, West Milford’s future matters to me immensely.

I take great pride in the history of our township and want to see it continue to improve and develop to provide efficient services, innovative programs and fiscally accountable governance for all residents to enjoy for generations to come.


Why are you running for election to the Township Council?

I felt the need to make a difference in our town, whose government seems to have lost touch with the majority of people who live here and no longer listens to anyone with an opposing view

What are the top three things you aim to accomplish if elected?

I would work to see a more open governing process that would include streaming of all council meetings and a way to have a clearer idea how decisions are being made

I’d work to widen the tax base by diversifying our outreach to tourists, beyond Greenwood Lake. We are a historic town; we have the most haunted road in the state (according to “Weird New Jersey”); and we have an abundance of natural resources that should be bringing more people to our town

I would push hard to keep zoning laws, as they pertain to housing, the same in order to save what I think is one of the best parts of West Milford, its small-town rural charm

What makes you the best candidate for this position?

I’m honest, I have no business interests related to town business and I’m more interested in local issues than some of the town council members who are always using their positions to push national issues.

Background and qualifications

I work in an industry where compromise and negotiation is a bit part of my job. I’m used to dealing with many things at once.


Why are you running for re-election to the Township Council?

I am running for re-election to continue to serve my friends, family and neighbors. As a professional, I have placed high value on organization, persistence and involvement in every project I have worked on. As an entrepreneur, I will continue to bring my work ethic and know-how to benefit the West Milford community and each and every resident.

What are the top three things you aim to accomplish if elected?

1) Be a small-business liaison to create an environment to responsibly develop our local economy.

2) Spearhead and complete the online permitting process transition.

3) Work with residents to bring new ideas to the Township Council for review and implementation.

What makes you the best candidate for this position?

I am the best candidate for the position because I am committed to working tirelessly on behalf of this township.

Throughout my professional career, as a medical physicist and an entrepreneur, I have proven to be goal-oriented and results-driven.

With children and grandchildren, I believe it is my duty to serve the community and bring my expertise to the table to assist the mayor and the Township Council in the betterment of our community

Background and qualifications

I enjoy working with others toward a common goal. Whether it was in graduate school, one of my businesses or coaching boxing, I’ve always been detail-oriented and committed to hard work and visible results. As I continue to be your councilman, I will do the same.


Why are you running for election to the Township Council?

I am running for Township Council because the residents of West Milford deserve to have a choice of candidates and to have representatives who will listen to their needs and serve the public interest.

What are the top three things you aim to accomplish if elected?

Three things I would like to accomplish are, first, to build trail infrastructure that connects our parks together and to our downtown and then do a much better job of promoting tourism in our area. If we can attract tourists to patronize our shops and restaurants, our local businesses will have a better chance of succeeding.

Secondly, I’d like to make our township government more transparent and accessible. Not everyone can attend the council meetings, which occur at dinnertime, and many of us have cut the cable.

We can use social media and virtual meeting platforms to hear from more residents and involve more people in the decisions that affect us all.

And, finally, I am nostalgic for the days when local politics wasn’t influenced by the divisiveness of the national party system. I’d like to start the petition process of returning to a nonpartisan ward system of government (with an elected mayor) so that all parts of our town can be equally represented.

What makes you the best candidate for this position?

I hold two engineering degrees from MIT, so I’m comfortable using and implementing technology. My career has been in business transformation, enacting big visions for big companies, as a management consultant for Deloitte & Cap Gemini and in several management positions at Pfizer and J&J.

These skills consist of bringing people together to understand their issues and create a common mission, developing viable plans for enacting the vision, and then making it happen. I’d like to use these change skills to build a better life for the residents of West Milford.