Mayoral Primary Race In Little Silver

March 14, 2019
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By Chris Rotolo | crotolo@tworivertimes.com

Robert Neff

LITTLE SILVER – The race for Little Silver’s Republican mayoral candidate will be decided at the June 4 primary, when two borough men with strong connections to the community face off.

Little Silver Mayor Robert Neff has announced he’ll make a run for his third consecutive four-year term and has received a full endorsement from the Little Silver Republican Party, as well as backing from all sitting members of the borough council.

This includes his running mates Donald Galante and council president Corinne Thygeson, who are also up for re-election.

Neff is being challenged by Rick Brandt, a 30-year-old resident with a passion for philanthropy and volunteerism, who says he plans to help the borough “evolve and grow in the 21st century” with improved communication.

“My church has a smartphone app you can download and watch sermons if you happen to miss one. This is inexpensive technology we should be offering our residents because they aren’t always able to make every meeting. We should make it easy for them,” Brandt told The Two River Times.

Brandt said he is also taking aim at the massive Fort Monmouth redevelopment project.

The fort’s Oceanport Avenue entrance is located less than a mile away from the Little Silver train station and Brandt believes the time is now for the borough to get involved in the revitalization efforts of the 1,127-acre parcel and its approximately 1,000 standing structures that stretch across portions of Eatontown, Tinton Falls and Oceanport.

Rick Brandt

“It’s a unique scenario. The shore area is basically getting a new town put in and it’s happening right next to us. We should be more heavily involved in those discussions because there will be a significant impact to Little Silver, both good and bad. We need to be proactive not reactive,” Brandt said, noting concerns about potential overflow traffic coming through the borough.

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During a Feb. 25 interview with The Two River Times, Neff said he and the council are monitoring the Fort Monmouth situation, but his focus remains on challenges within the borough itself.

“I’m concentrating on the challenges that are of immediate importance to our residents. And it’s not always sexy. It’s bread-and-butter stuff. And it’s our job, mine and the council, to work together and make sure we don’t break the back of the taxpayer while addressing these concerns,” Neff said.

The mayor pointed to the upcoming hearing on Little Silver’s affordable housing settlement, as well as school funding reforms needed at the state level, as at the top of the list of priorities.

But no topic was more pressing for Neff than local infrastructure, including the installation of sidewalks and curbing in various parts of a community known for its foot traffic.

Neff said sidewalks and curbs can be the most expensive part of any roadwork project and several of the county roads cutting through borough neighborhoods are in need of both, which can be problematic.

“It really is a significant expense and the county will not put them in. They always leave it up to the town and that puts a burden on the community. But the council is prepared to dig in and take on some limited debt to get these types of projects done,” Neff added. “And that’s unique to Little Silver. While other towns bond for capital projects, we’ve worked to put ourselves in a position to get it done in the most cost-effective way possible.”

Brandt said he also has infrastructure on his mind, but hopes to approach funding for capital projects and beautification initiatives in a different way, and believes his work in the nonprofit sector, including a position on the board of trustees for Lunch Break in Red Bank, could be a big help.

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“I want to aggressively go after grant funding. There are literally millions of dollars in grants that are sitting out there for communities just like Little Silver. It takes a lot of effort, but it’s something we’ve had a lot of success with at Lunch Break and, if done correctly and assertively, there’s an opportunity to bring significant revenue into the community as well as stabilize taxes,” Brandt said.

In order to better understand community needs, Brandt said he has embarked on a journey to knock on the doors of all 2,498 Little Silver households. During those conversations with homeowners Brandt said he is collecting data and, after approximately 850 doors, he is beginning to see trends, though he is not ready to speak about his findings. Despite the effort and Brandt’s service time on the recreation committee and shade tree commission, Neff said it’s experience that sets these two candidates apart.

“It’s important to have someone in place with a real sense about how government works; with a desire to make people happy, but an understanding that you can’t be successful at that 100 percent of the time,” said Neff. “There are going to be tough decisions you need to make. I’ve helped make those decisions with over a decade of service in our municipal government. That experience is an enormous advantage.”

This article was first published in the March 7-March 13, 2019 print edition of The Two River Times.

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