Meet the candidates

| 01 Jun 2012 | 02:05

WEST MILFORD — On Tuesday, June 5, West Milford Republicans will go to the polls to choose their party’s candidates for the general election in November.

There are four candidates vying for the two positions on the ballot: Golden Rule Republicans JoAnn Blom and Marilyn Lichtenberg are facing Passaic County Regular Republican Organization candidates Vivienne Erk and Mike Hensley.

The West Milford Messenger compiled information about each candidate and asked two questions of them. Here are their answers.

JoAnn Blom Family information: Married to Neil; one daughter Joy.

Years in West Milford: 37 Education: Laboratory Institute of Merchandising NYC, bachelor's degree from Montclair University, master's degree St. Peter's, Colorado St., Mary Grove plus 60 credits

Profession: Marketing/Business teacher at West Milford High School 37 years; former owner/manager of Benetton store in Summit, N.J.

Volunteer activities: Member ofCASA Committee, Recycling and Beautification Committee, Heritage Committee, West Milford DECA advisor for 37 years; students have received awards on regional, state and national level.

1. What are the two biggest issues facing West Milford right now and how would you deal with them if you are elected to the council?

Taxes and the lakefront taxes. I believe West Milford citizens need to have their taxes reduced. The burden of the taxes on many community members has become quite a hardship for our residents, especially during these economic times. If you drive around town and the lakefront areas and see all the homes for sale or short sales, I wonder, how we can continue to thrive? And so, for those of us who are committed to West Milford, we need to be more aware about how we use our tax revenues for the needs and wants for our community. As a member of the council, I would like to evaluate and analyze how and where we use our tax revenues as well as what costs can be cut without causing any harm to our public safety. Public safety is important to me because we need to make sure our citizens and children feel safe living here.

The lakefront communities have a serious problem with a higher tax burden during this weak economy. I think we need to examine and find out if Newark Watershed properties are paying their correct share of taxes. We are all residents of West Milford and we need to pay what is fair and balanced for our property. I feel the lake front communities should be given the opportunity to be evaluated again, especially during the time of our weak economy.

2. What makes West Milford a desirable place to live?

I have lived in West Milford for 37 years and I have no desire to move anywhere else, even when I retire. West Milford has many opportunities for the citizens to enjoy the surroundings such as hiking trails, our recreation area of Bubbling Springs, and a wide variety of town sports programs for the children.

Also, our museum will be offering historical background information on West Milford for all citizens to find out the history of our town.

Most of our citizens shop within the town because there is a relationship we have developed over the years. The owners and individuals working are friendly and put customer service as a top priority.

West Milford is unique with 70 percent of watershed property that can never be developed which creates a nature-friendly community. We are close to major cities but will never be over-run by development of our land. The types of people who come to West Milford seek a quality of life that involves quiet neighborhoods, a warm, community atmosphere, and the natural, serene environment that surrounds us.

As a council member, I will remain focused to working on situations to help our citizens and to make it more equitable, whether you are living on a lakefront or in a neighborhood. I love living in West Milford for all the positive qualities it has brought me and my family.

Vivienne Erk Age: 58 Family Information: Married to Karl; two grown children whom we raised in West Milford.

Years in West Milford: 30 years; parishioner of St. Joseph Church

Education: BA Montclair State University. I went to college as an adult while working and raising my children and graduated magna cum laude in 2005.

Profession: Paralegal, for over 20 years.

Volunteer activities: Member of the West Milford Zoning Board of Adjustment and the Heritage Committee; former member of the West Milford First Aid Squad, with 10 years of service; recently volunteered with the Faith in Action program of the Journey Church at Lincoln Hill Village; participated in Beautification Day.

1. What are the two biggest issues facing West Milford right now and how would you deal with them if you are elected to the council?

Real estate taxes, by far, is the biggest concern. Almost everyone I spoke to voiced fear of rising property taxes and being taxed out of their homes. And concerns abound over the disproportional assessment. Residents ask: Where will we be in 10 years? Income, fixed or not, is not keeping pace. West Milford does not have the ability to increase revenues from commercial sources to offset property taxes. I intend to take control of the municipal portion of your tax bill, change direction and adapt to do more with less, just like every resident has had to do within their own households. Simultaneously, we need to ensure our residents’ safety by supporting our emergency personnel, volunteers and essential services. We must continually establish priorities to address essential needs and services.

Additionally, we have recreational programs for our seniors that need to be preserved and great recreational programs with self-supporting sport organizations that provide enormous opportunities for our children. These organizations save taxpayer dollars and we are grateful for the services they provide to the township and its youth. We keep hearing about the streetscape plan to improve town center. Grant money has been allocated but little action taken. We need to focus on getting the job done. As to the MUA, a new team of commissioners has been appointed and I, with current council members, have the full intention of supporting the commissioners with their responsibility to upgrade an aging system. By working together, we can accomplish the desired goal.

2. What makes West Milford a desirable place to live?

West Milford is a beautiful, semi-rural town in the heart of the Highlands. We have many lakes for swimming, boating and fishing for summer activities. Nearby are ski areas for winter activities. We have hiking trails and riding trails for year-round enjoyment. We even have a local airport which puts on some spectacular air shows! Our town is a commutable distance to New York City for work and entertainment. West Milford has a wonderful community spirit with many volunteer organizations, sports organizations and church communities. It is a wonderful place to raise a family. I did.

Mike Hensley Age: 37 Years in West Milford: 30

Education: Graduated from Eastern Kentucky University, major in philosophy, minor in history; Certified Personal Trainer-The National Personal Training Institute, Lyndhurst, N.J.

Profession: Substitute teacher in the West Milford School District, holding two teaching certifications in K-6 elementary and 7-12 social studies; personal training business where I can help people to reach their fitness goals.

Volunteer activities: Member of the Heritage Committee and Sustainable West Milford; volunteers time and sound equipment for West Milford's annual Green-fest; currently a member of the Republican Club; always looks forward to participating in ALF each year.

1. What are the two biggest issues facing West Milford right now and how would you deal with them if you are elected to the council?

The two biggest issues that the residents of West Milford are facing are obscene property taxes on one hand and a worsening economic outlook on the other. Taxes continue to go up little by little with each passing year. I do not want to see the people of West Milford be taxed out of house and home. I do not think it should be necessary for young families to move out of West Milford to try and be able to afford to raise a family. I do not think it should be necessary for those residents who have made their home here and raised their children to move just as soon as their youngest child graduates from high school, thereby leaving their friends, neighbors and extended relatives in pursuit of a “better life” somewhere else. We also need to be mindful of our senior citizens and anyone else who may be living on a fixed income. These yearly tax increases do dramatically impact our lives and our well being. By electing Vivienne Erk and me, the residents will have sent two very determined people that mean business when it comes to protecting West Milford from any future municipal tax increases. I have much more to say about our overall economy as a town and a nation, its potential strengths and its systemic weakness. I look forward to sharing my thoughts and working constructively with others to ensure that West Milford and its residents are on the right path.

2. What makes West Milford a desirable place to live?

West Milford is a desirable place to live because it is uniquely situated in the heart of the Highlands. We all have a wealth of natural beauty that awaits us just outside our door. With our lakes, woods, streams, trails to hike and ride on, mountains to climb and wildlife to enjoy. We have an abundance of recreational fields and programs for our children to use and enjoy throughout the course of their lives as they get involved in organized sporting events. West Milford has managed to keep much of its small-town charm in a state that is often derided for its development and pollution. The town benefits tremendously from residents who give freely of their time, strength and talents as they actively volunteer in a whole host of organizations that make West Milford safer, cleaner, and a more cultured place to live. We have all this while still being within commuting distance to one of the greatest cities in the world, New York City.

Marilyn Lichtenberg Age: 64 Family Information: Married with three adult children and one grandchild

Years in West Milford: Resident since 1962

Education: West Milford High School graduate; attended Morris County College; real estate school

Profession: Real estate representative and lifetime volunteer

Volunteer activities: CASA member, Senior Citizens Advisory Committee, Rotarian, Interact Club advisor, Heritage Committee, Beautification & Recycling Task Force, Health Advisory board, West Milford Chamber of Commerce member, Newcomers Club, Golden Age Circle member, National Youth Sports Coaches Association clinician, Friends of the Library, Sustainable West Milford, Salvation Army volunteer.

1. What are the two biggest issues facing West Milford right now and how would you deal with them if you are elected to the council?

The two most important issues facing West Milford are high property taxes and road conditions. Due to the sheer size of the township, our roads, garbage pickup, and school busing account for a larger proportion of our tax dollars than most towns. While these are all necessary to cover in our tax structure, there are still hidden items which must be done away with. I worked as the municipal treasurer for West Milford when I was 23 and as your councilwoman for three years. I have lived here since 1962. I am quite familiar with our township and the needs of taxpayers. I previously saved the township over $500,000 from undesignated capital, prevented a lawsuit, and brought in revenue for the town. As a realtor and former corporate CFO, I have experienced all types of economic situations. Our public works and engineering departments have continued difficulties maintaining our roads. This is an example of an area we could save time and money. As you know, a number of our roads remain unpaved. We spend more on maintenance for these roads than if they were paved.

2. What makes West Milford a desirable place to live?

West Milford is a special place to live because of its environmental aesthetics. People come to our town to get away from inner-city congestion and pollution. You can step outside your door into the greenery and breathe fresh air. We offer many more programs for our youth and senior citizens than most towns provide.