3 running for 2 seats on Andover Township Committee

ANDOVER TWP. Mayor Thomas Walsh Jr., Committeeman John Carafello and Michael Lesnak are competing for two positions in the Republican primary June 6.

| 04 May 2023 | 08:02

Three candidates are running for two seats on the Andover Township Committee in the June 6 Republican primary.

Mayor Thomas Walsh Jr. and Committeeman John Carafello are seeking re-election. Michael Lesnak is a former mayor and committeeman.

John Carafello

Why are you running for this office?

I have been involved with the township for 25 years (Planning Board, Township Committee, mayor, economic development).

Andover Township enjoys one of the “highest quality of life“ in New Jersey. To preserve this quality, a stable tax base is necessary as well as the opportunity for businesses and the township residents and their families.

In the past three years, I believe the present committee in unity has worked along with its boards and professionals toward this goal. We now have in place a plan to redevelop Route 206, Limecrest Road and areas of Newton Sparta Road to attract “desirable” ratables and businesses. Amtrak is also committed to completing the train station off Roseville Road.

Resulting from everyone’s efforts, we now have applications being prepared for our boards’ review, including the historical restoration of the Abby building on Route 206.

I am running to help guide these projects to completion while maintaining our quality of life.

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

1. Continue to guide the completion of desirable ratables toward zero tax increases and decreasing the municipal portion and we have a plan to do this.

2. In the past three years, we have decreased costs while increasing the efficiencies and productivity on the municipal level while securing recurring sources of revenues for the municipality. I want to continue this trend.

3. To create ways to enhance our present businesses while also helping new businesses establish themselves in our township. Including the redevelopment of the nursing home vacant property. Integrate our trails and agriculture into the fabric of our community.

What makes you the best candidate for this position?

My 50 years of business throughout the United States, my recreational travel (including my blue water sailing) throughout the world along with my municipal experience will help me guide Andover Township through this exciting period of its history.

Background and qualifications

My family started in Paterson and I grew up in Kinnelon. My wife of 50 years and I moved to Andover Township in 1988 and have loved it ever since.

I am a graduate of Upsala College with several professional degrees thereafter.

I have held professional real estate positions with Volkswagen of America, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and Quickchek.

My wife and I also have personal investments. We have a belief “you invest where you live” not in communist countries and small businesses are the backbone of our community and country.

Michael Lensak

Why are you running for this office?

New Jersey is the worst state in the U.S. for people leaving and the No. 1 reason is taxes! Andover Township has raised taxes the past two years at the highest rates in the past decade.

In 2020, my last year in office, I fought for and got a zero percent tax increase for the town! It can be done, and it will be done again once I am back on the committee. Change starts at the local level.

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

Responsible use of the taxpayers’ money. I will fight for each and every taxpayer who is tired of the same old tax-and-spend mentality that gives us tax increases every year!

Ensure we get the very best for our hard-earned money. Either with services, contracts or oversight, we need better from our professionals/committee and how they spend every dollar.

Make Andover Township an affordable place that people want to come live, work and play in. Pushing us into the higher levels of taxes in Sussex County only makes our neighboring towns look like a better deal or place to live. We can reverse that trend, and it starts with this election.

What makes you the best candidate for this position?

No family relationships to anyone/employee in town, thus no conflict of interest. Full-time financial planner. Proven track record of getting things done, even when it wasn’t “politically correct” or if I ruffled a few feathers while doing it.

I am in this race to represent and give taxpayers a voice once again. The committee did away with open budget meetings that we had for well over 15 years. Our mayor supported doing the budget behind closed doors and without full public input. Why hide what you don’t fear the public knowing and commenting on?!?

Background and qualifications

This committee has changed over the past two years. Our budget process went from being multiple meetings with full public input and comments over several weeks to a “new” process of not providing the budget until it was ready to be introduced. Numerous things changed from the “public presentation” to the actual budget passing. Claims were made that they “lowered” the budget but never showed us where or how? It’s still one of the highest increases in recent history.

I have served this town for numerous years on the committee and several times representing Andover as mayor. As mayor during Superstorm Sandy, we coordinated the town’s recovery starting at 4:30 a.m. once the storm passed and for the next two weeks. We had constant calls and meetings with the state, JCP&L, FEMA and every other agency that was available to assist. We coordinated and got this town back up and running faster than anyone imagined thanks to putting aside petty politics and working together.

Was also mayor during COVID and the very sad, solemn and painful situation at the Subacute. As I tried to get the word out that our “town” was OK but we desperately needed help with the people at the facility that were in harm’s way and suffering. While it took the state two weeks to even consider stopping new patients from entering the failing facility, I was told (threatened) to stop “grandstanding”! We had people dying, not enough PPE to protect them nor the employees, and a bureaucracy that just couldn’t react to a life-and-death situation and I was told to stand down. Never!!! Politics is ugly at times but none so much as being told to stop fighting for those most in need. .

Between those experiences and passing the only zero percent tax budget in Andover’s recent history, I would say that I am definitely the best candidate for the job! Did it before and will do it again! Thank you for your vote on June 6!! Come to the meetings too. Nothing scares a “politician” more than an engaged public!!

Thomas Walsh Jr.

Why are you running for this office?

I am running for office because I have already served for close to 20 years. I would like to continue to serve, especially with the current committee, who has worked extremely hard as a team to develop the remaining parcels of commercial property.

The next three years will be an exciting time to see our efforts come to fruition and to play a part in that will be a great honor.

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

The top three things I would like to accomplish if elected would, first, to be able to continue overseeing the Lackawanna cutoff to finish - it has been a long haul and we are coming to the finish line.

Second, to stabilize our tax base by revitalizing our Route 206 corridor. We have created a redevelopment zone with our Land Use Board and the interest has been outstanding.

Lastly, to maintain our infrastructure - our roads, parks and buildings - to the standards our residents deserve.

What makes you the best candidate for this position?

The reason why I would make the best candidate is because I see this as more than politics, this town is my home and it has been my home for 62 years!

Going to Andover schools, creating a family here, being involved in coaching recreational sports for 25 years and all around have created deep roots. I am aware, respectful and proud of the history of this town and the people who had built it along with those who continue to.

I believe in the future of our town and I am fully confident in myself and our committee to get us there. Lastly ... experience!

Background and qualifications

I’ve been on the Township Committee for almost 20 years, mayor seven times, 2017 Sussex County Economic Development Mayor of the Year, served on the Finance Committee for 16 years, and member of the Land Use Board, Recreational Committee, Open Space Committee, ATPD Liaison and DPW Liaison.

I have been appointed to the Lackawanna cutoff project and responsible for adding three cell tower antennas to the monopole, resulting in $2.8 million of revenue over the contract lifespan.

Previously, I have worked with past committee member Gail Phoebus in condensing old spending ordinances to refurbish Hillside Park fields, tennis courts, playground, pavilion, field equipment and basketball courts. Along with the soccer field at Goodale and a softball field at Long Pond School. Garnered $25,000 grant and oversaw the construction of the Lake Iliff Trail. As a committee member, settled with PSE&G and received $175,000 toward a FWD ambulance, $250,000 toward a new firetruck and $125,000 for construction on trail to Kittatinny State Park. Petitioned the state for a new retail liquor license, which we received, and auctioned it off for $225,000, resulting in a new liquor store in town.

There are many other accomplishments that show my qualifications. However, what our committee has accomplished as a team in the past 20 years far exceeds any of my qualifications alone.