Town's growth limited, new administrator predicts

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:18

    WEST MILFORD-Being a young man, what the new township administrator, Richard S. Kunze, might lack in experience, he more than makes up for by having been raised here. "I'm really excited about coming back to the place where I grew up and having an opportunity to participate in the public life here. This town is what sparked an interest in public service for me. It's where my interest in public life started," said Kunze. Although he's been in the job just about a month, his depth of experience as a resident gives him some solid views on the town and its growth potential. Because of that experience, The West Milford Messenger asked Kunze to analyze the town's problems. "I'm not going to say it has problems, but issues. The one that most people have spoken to me about is the need to control property taxes. That probably is one of the most challenging issues we have, because the whole property tax issue is complex, with other taxing entities entering the picture, including the board of education and the county. That's the way it is. I think that the Highlands Act is going to play into that whole property tax question as well." From what I know of the Highlands Act as it was passed, most growth in this community has come to an end. From what I'm learning of the act and its exemptions, I'm sure there'll be a little bit of development but I don't think you're going to see much more, with the exception of things that were exempt, such as Eagle Ridge, that was ruled exempt by the Department of Environmental Protection. For almost four years Kunze held the borough administrator's post in Highland Park, and "the deputy township manager in South Brunswick for four-and-a-half years" before that. "I felt he was very capable," said a woman who should know by virtue of having worked with him, Janet Potenza, the borough clerk of Highland Park. "I liked working with him. He understood what an administrator is supposed to do in a municipality. He's very responsible, a serious person and very professional. I wish him well," she said. The new administrator knows the town well. "I'm a graduate of West Milford High School, Class of 1989. I was raised in West Milford and my parents still live here, in the Oak Ridge section. Although he has a twin, they're fraternal twins and won't be mistaken for each other. Kunze is married. He and his wife, Jessica, have a three-and-a-half year old daughter. "I'd better make sure I stress the half," he said jokingly. After high school, Kunze went on to earn a bachelor of arts degree in political science, with a minor in public administration, from Montclair State University. "My over-arching goal is to make sure that this organization is efficient and effective in meeting the service demands of the public." His responsibilities include overseeing the town's various departments totalling some 160 employees. "Another thing that I stress to staff, a big part of my philosophy as to what local government is doing, is being responsible to the public and having a high level of customer service," said the new administrator. As to taxes, he says "there's no silver bullet, it's just a lot of hard work to examining your methods and procedures and find ways to be more efficient. That's a responsibility of my office to provide services at the least cost possible. When I met (interviewed) with the governing body they made it very clear that putting a high value on customer service was one of their goals as well." Will the frequently touted assessment on Newark Watershed Authority's water consumption be the solution to the town's tax woes? "The water levy may not be a silver bullet, but it may be a copper bullet. At this point that's probably it," he said. "The (town) council will be looking into tourism as an economic development tool, but I can't tell you at this time if I know enough about it to render an opinion. There isn't going to be one silver bullet out there. If you look at ‘what's our industry,' it's the natural resources, the lakes and the beauty," said Kunze.