Election Opinion South Orange

15 LETTERS: Sheena Collum for South Orange Village President — ‘A Force to Behold’

These 15 letters in support of Sheena Collum for South Orange Village President were sent to Village Green for publication in April:

From Ethan Berlin:

I am writing to tell you why I am voting for Sheena Collum as our Village President on May 14th.

My family moved into our house on Lindsley Ave four years ago. We were overwhelmed with the kindness of our neighbors and were very happy with our block, except for one thing. The block had a number of distressed properties, the worst of which was starting to crumble and was a danger to our kids who had to play near it. Neighbors told us that the previous owners of the house had died long ago and it had been unoccupied for at least a decade. The neighbors had tried over the years to get the town to do something about the house, but to no avail.

A few of us newer neighbors wrote to Sheena. She wrote back quickly and said she would look into what could be done. The next day a crew from the town showed up and chopped down the years of overgrowth. After consulting with town employees, Sheena informed us that it would be a difficult legal process, but the town was going to try to take ownership of the house. Lead by Sheena, town employees worked through the laboriously difficult task. Whenever the process seemed to stall in bureaucracy, we would write to Sheena and she would immediately push the town employees to get the project to the next phase.

It took two years, but finally we received an excited email that the town had finished the legal process and now owned the property. Shortly afterwards, construction trucks arrived and the house was torn down. Now, a year later, the property has
sold to a developer and they are a few months away from finishing a new duplex. I am grateful to Sheena for helping to transform our block and make it safer for all of us.

I’m including a before and after photo on the next page.


Ethan T Berlin
South Orange

From Brendan Gioello:

To the Editor:

Given the outstanding achievement Sheena Collum has provided for South Orange, I would be remiss to not offer this letter of support for her campaign. I encourage all fellow South Orange residents to go out and vote on Tuesday, May 14 th for Sheena, Village President. Sheena’s leadership style reflects the innovative and forward-thinking mindset South Orange is reflective of.

I have seen Sheena’s capacity to drive change over the past five years, first as a Board of Trustee member, and later as our Village President. Sheena’s determination, passion and ingenuity have helped our village prosper throughout her tenure. Sheena is the type of leader you feel comfortable reaching out to, because you know she will respond. Sheena has shown up annually to our block party, is a regular at our holiday party and came out numerous times in support of SOMAs LGBT+ residents. Of course, I could not write this letter without noting some of Sheena’s significant accomplishments. These accomplishments include: maintaining tax increases under 2% annually, protecting the Orange Lawn Tennis Club from overdevelopment, and advocating on behalf of residents for better NJ Transit service.

In my opinion, Sheena’s greatest accomplishment has been the ongoing transformation of our downtown. Sheena’s insight into appropriate development, coupled with her ability to network has set a turning point for our downtown. New, and more importantly, desirable establishments are flourishing. This revitalization is beginning to extend down Valley Street too. No longer do I find downtown a place to avoid, but rather a place to enjoy dinner and a show or do some local shopping.

I encourage all residents to visit Sheena’s website, sheenacollum.com, to fully appreciate all of Sheena’s work and future goals. I hope you will join me in voting for Sheena Collum for Village President on Tuesday, May 14th.


Brendan Gioello
South Orange

From Matt Peyton:

To The Editor,

I am writing to encourage friends and neighbors to elect Sheena Collum as our Village President for a second term on May 14th .

As a photographer, journalist, and chronicler of our town day to day, I’ve seen the tremendous effort expended by Sheena these past four year. The tireless dedication, attention to detail, mature leadership and interpersonal skills have been nothing short of
breathtaking to watch, from the sidelines, with my camera… as I do.

Won’t you please join me, and my family, in voting for Sheena Collum on May 14 th. Every voter counts, every vote counts. Or as Sheena has often said in my presence, “everyone is welcome here…., love is love….” — Matt Peyton, South Orange

Olivia Lewis-Chang:

To the Editor:

It’s with great excitement that I endorse Sheena Collum. I encourage my fellow neighbors to visit her website at SheenaCollum.com to learn more about her accomplishments and what she plans to do if re-elected to serve our community for a second term as our Village President.

I’ve known Sheena for quite some time and so have my neighbors in Seton Village. When she first ran for office, she spent considerable time in my area of town talking about the need for investment, beautification and community-building. Once Sheena was elected, things changed for the better. She coordinated with Seton Hall University’s Business School and their Market Research Department on collecting data from residents and our business community. It was clear from the results our neighborhood felt forgotten. Sheena created what was then the “Irvington Avenue Corridor Advisory Committee” which initiated the rebranding into “Seton Village”. We got new signage, branded trash cans, hosted community clean-ups, brought in new events such as the “Food Truck and Craft Beer Festival”. We got decorative lighting wrapped around our gaslights similar to the downtown. Even having hanging flower baskets made a difference for us. Sheena also dressed up as Mrs. Claus for our holiday celebration. I don’t think many mayors around the state go that far.

I’ve enjoyed working with Sheena and for all the great things I listed above, Sheena is very hands-on in getting things done. She helps us create flyers for our events, she’ll stay and pick up trash after the food truck festival, she’ll plant new flowers with others in our neighborhood.

The list goes on.

I urge you to cast your vote on May 14th for Sheena Collum.

Olivia Lewis-Chang
South Orange

From Paula B. Green:

As a South Orange resident for over 33 years, I am writing to encourage my South Orange residents to vote on May 14th for Sheena Collum for Village President. Sheena has worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life in South Orange through
collaboration, communication, transparency and integrity.

Sheena openly communicates with villagers through social media, keeping us abreast of all community activities/transactions: allowing for honest give and take communications in real time.

She encourages our community to share their vision/opinion on village projects such as the Master Plan and NJ Transit issues.

She consistently advocates on every level to create policies that keep South Orange an inclusive village and works closely with the leadership of Maplewood to do the same.

Sheena has been lobbying NJ Transit to improve their infrastructure, our station and to improve service to our residents now.

I encourage EVERY resident to spend a few minutes on SHEENACOLLUM.COM to truly appreciate what she has accomplished on behalf our village residents.

Please vote for our future on May 14, 2019.

Paula Green
South Orange

From Rebecca Krecke:

To the Editor:

I am writing to urge South Orange residents to vote for Sheena Collum for Village President in the municipal election on May 14th . I have been a resident of South Orange for 16 years, and I have never experienced a Village President as present, focused and effective as Collum, nor one with as many truly impressive accomplishments.

Sheena was voted into office in 2015 with a great deal of fanfare – the first female to hold this position in town and one of the youngest municipal leaders in the state. She came to office with a bold vision of holistic town planning, economic development, streamlining municipal operations, volunteerism and the engagement of each and every South Orange citizen. Expectations were
high, and in her first 4-year tenure as Village President, Sheena has met or exceeded every single one.

Sheena has kept our annual tax increases below 2%. She has negotiated more than $150M in new investments, while smartly rejecting redevelopment projects that were disadvantageous to our community. She has focused on affordable housing, small businesses, senior citizens, pets and has advocated for commuters with New Jersey Transit and for the Gateway Tunnel Project.

She has upgraded village facilities, partnered with Seton Hall and the public schools and has placed an emphasis on public safety and emergency preparedness. What I value most, however, is her unwavering overt, vocal, action-oriented and complete commitment to ensuring South Orange is an inclusive and welcoming community to ALL people.

Sheena is a force – for growth, for advocacy, for fiscal responsibility, for inclusion – and overall, for good. South Orange will only benefit from having her at the helm for another 4 years, enabling her to continue her work to better our community. Please get to the polls and elect Sheena Collum for a second term on May 14th .

Rebecca Krecke
South Orange

From Susan Hyon:

On Tuesday, May 14, I encourage my friends and neighbors to re-elect Sheena Collum as Village President. I’ve lived in South Orange for roughly three years and while I know many will focus on her smarts, public policy experience and bold initiatives, I’d like to share more of a personal perspective.

I’ve gotten to know Sheena through both of us being Korean-American. We’re even both in a Korean potluck group that meets regularly to enjoy spicy food, share stories about our culture and laugh. Sheena loves people, all types of people, and represents South Orange very well as a welcoming community. You can find her at various events always asking people about their lives and experiences. For me, she took in an interest in my foster son and his wrestling success. She wrote a personal letter to him on his birthday, rooted for him when he was in competition, and even did a Facebook live message to him letting him know that she was so proud of his achievements. It meant a lot to him to have that encouragement and sense of belonging from our Village President. Her letter is framed next to his bed.

For me, Sheena displays the type of leader I want for our town – someone who cares deeply about the people who live here and as a leader, creating a space where everyone feels valued and celebrated. To be blunt, she makes “outsiders” always feel like “insiders”, especially for marginalized groups.

Also, I did have the opportunity to attend a candidate’s forum in Tuxedo Park and needless to say, her wealth of information, passion, and clearly articulated accomplishments and future goals can’t be overlooked. If you have not yet met Sheena, I urge you to take some time to look at her website and attend one of her various upcoming events being hosted by residents around town. I’m confident she’ll earn your respect and support.

I’m proud to cast my vote on May 14 for Sheena Collum.

Susan Hyon
South Orange

From Teagan Sebba:

To the Editor:

I am writing to show my full support to re-elect Sheena Collum as Village President of our beloved Village and to encourage my South Orange friends and family to do get out and vote for her on Tuesday, May 14th. I was first introduced to Sheena through my role as Seton Hall University’s Student Body President, and I was instantly inspired and encouraged by Sheena’s strong leadership. Sheena took me under her wing in an act of mentorship and empowerment that I have never experienced before, and I will forever be thankful for her “pay it forward” mentality.

Sheena consistently advocates for communication, transparency, and community between South Orange and Seton Hall University. Under Sheena’s leadership, I truly believe that the University and the Village have a much-improved relationship, especially as it relates to more students wanting to volunteer in the community. With events like South Orange Play Day, River Day, the Train Station Centennial, and so many more, Sheena has motivated students at Seton Hall to immerse themselves in all that South Orange has to offer, volunteer time to give back to the Village that houses our University, and treat our Village
with love and respect.

In her first term, and with her work before even being elected as Village President, Sheena has created a consistent record and reputation of hard work, real results, and a whole lot of heart. In my mind and heart, Sheena Collum is South Orange. Let’s all work together and get out to the polls on Tuesday, May 14th to make sure Sheena continues to fearlessly and wholeheartedly, lead our Village.

Teagan Sebba

From Josephine Rose Roberts:

To the Editor:

In 2017, I had the opportunity to watch Sheena behind the scenes as she participated in a video interview for SOPAC that my fiancé and I were producing. I’ll never forget that morning. She walked into the room, a buzz of energy, in a hot pink dress, with no make up on. She proceeded to answer questions for an hour without a moments rest. Her breadth of knowledge and passion about our community was spellbinding, and I don’t use that word lightly. Here was a woman, my age (which is still sort of
young,) who knew every mundane detail of overseeing this town. In fact, the more mundane, the more excited Sheena got. On top of this, I learn after the fact that Village President is a volunteer position and Sheena has a full time job. Who is this woman?
I’ve purposefully put myself in Sheena’s way a lot since that morning.

Every opportunity I have to watch her and interact with her is a lesson in true leadership. This includes her personal FB page where she is constantly setting an example for transparency in governing, asking for guidance and thoughts of the citizens and EVERY time I have privately messaged her, her “engagement level” is 100% within 3 seconds. When NJT was failing members of our community it was Sheena who heard the cry, made a plan and made it happen. Time and time again I watch her
listen, brainstorm and act. I grew up understanding this is the job of our political leaders, but I now know it’s extraordinarily rare in practice.

I love living here in South Orange and I can’t imagine South Orange without Sheena (although I know I will have to someday…… when she’s governor.)

She inspires me everyday to be a woman leader of will and action.

Through her own commitment to this community she teaches me I also have a role to play, everyday, in helping SO be the best it can be. So, on May 14th, I will proudly cast my vote for Sheena Collum for a second term as Village President.

Proud Sheena Supporter,

Josephine Rose Roberts

From Rebecca Gelman:

Letter to the Editor:

I attended a neighborhood meet and greet with Sheena in Montrose Park. I have known Sheena for years but this is the first time I had the opportunity to hear her speak specifically about the challenges facing our town, what she has and what she hopes to accomplish. I have seen Sheena hard at work in the village for the past four years since she took the reins of our village.
A results-driven, fast talking, millennial, she thinks so fast she'll make your head spin. She’s on top of her subject matter and brings to bear the full force of her command of urban planning to help shape South Orange. She;s goal-oriented and stated, “I had big goals on paper when I entered office as Village President and I accomplished them and I will tell you about each one of
them tonight” and she can fact check in real time – parsing rumor from reality – citing facts, figures, and data.

I remember four years ago when Sheena showed up at our doorstep to canvass and ask for our vote. She had enthusiasm and confidence that bowled us over. She has really delivered in her dedication and hard work. South Orange was a sleepy town, now we’re on the map. Now we’re worried about too much investment and growth and so that's the next phase – it’s all about
trade-offs as she. She has a well thought out and informed answers and said very directly, “give me the tough questions, I want to hear your concerns and don’t hold back,” and she meant it.

Policing, crime, development, discrimination, pedestrian safety, the Gateway Project, stores, schools, Seton Hall, walkability, taxes, green space, NJ transit and parking. We covered a lot of ground. Sheena has navigated development, lawsuits and advocated for our little town. Sheena is a big advocate for all voices and when I have reached out to her with an issue on one
occasion, she jumped into action and worked to resolve it. She leverages her own power to advocate for all the citizens of our village.

I’m sold. Vote for Sheena Collum. And if you get a chance, go hear her speak. She’s a force to behold.

Rebecca Gelman
16-Year Resident
South Orange

From Brian Nesin:

Letter to the Editor:
As a member of the South Orange Development Committee, I have had the opportunity to work with Sheena Collum and am consistently awed by her intelligence, energy, enthusiasm, and deep understanding of the issues affecting South Orange.  Her professional background as a planner is an added benefit for our town.  I wholeheartedly support her re-election as Village President.

Brian Nesin

From Daria Knarvik:

It is with great pride and a huge smile on my face that I endorse Sheena Collum for re-election as our South Orange Village President. I have known this amazing young lady for over 10 years since she, as a bright-eyed young Seton Hall student, arrived at a grassroots meeting in town to encourage the village government to move proactively regarding the then vacant old Shop Rite building now currently Ashley Market. She filled the room with energy, enthusiasm and a sincere passion to improve the town that was now her adopted home. I’ve watched her blossom into the savvy, brilliant leader who works tirelessly for the
Village. Sheena has demonstrated a smart and methodical process when tackling any issue.

She researches the particulars, listens to input from all parties and subject matter experts, discusses feverishly and arrives at reasonable conclusions. I recall when she first proposed the repurposing of Village Hall. None of the trustees were on board. Over the course of about a year she provided a vast amount of data that convinced all the trustees that this was the right decision for the Village. It saved us millions of tax dollars and when completed next year, the restaurant/beer garden will serve as an anchor for a now sleepy yet prominent downtown intersection. With Sheena at the helm, I can rest assured that our village will progress into the future as a most desirable community steeped in a rich history, culture and activity. I urge all voters to cast their ballot for Sheena Collum for Village President on Tuesday, May 14.

Daria Knarvik
South Orange

Steven D Ellmore

To the Editor:

I am writing to encourage friends, neighbors and South Orange residents to re-elect Sheena Collum as our Village President on Tuesday, May 14 th . I believe that Sheena is the best choice to continue leading South Orange for the next 4 years.

I grew up in this town, and have lived in South Orange for 18 years. Sheena has a tireless work ethic and has done many things in her 4 years in South Orange, from negotiating with NJ Transit, to keeping tax increases under 2% each year, to
negotiating with developers to bring new investments to South Orange. She is always dedicated to South Orange with everything she does as Village President.

I have no doubt that she will continue to do the same for South Orange in the next 4 years. Sheena is very accessible, and can be reached quickly if an issue arises. She has an incredible work ethic and has a great understanding of South Orange and what it needs. She is a proven leader and is very passionate about South Orange.

Every vote counts in this election, and I am encouraging you to vote Line B and cast your vote for Sheena Collum for Village President on May 14.

Steven D Ellmore

From Amy Cox-Martins:

To the Editor,

I am writing today in support of Sheena Collum to be voted in again as our Village President of South Orange, on May 14, 2019. My family and I moved to South Orange, from Maplewood ten years ago. I slowly began to feel like a South “Oranger” and started to pay attention to the local political scene. One impressive moment for me, was having volunteered casually in a conversation to get the town permission for our annual block party, then, just shy of the date I realized I had l to get the permission quickly. Sheena took the call on her day off as she played golf and our party was on. She is available to
the residents in a moment’s notice if need be.

The above example is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what I value in Sheena’s very visible leadership. I am a local psychotherapist, and my office is downtown overlooking the town’s flagpole. A year or so ago while treating one of my growing number of transgender clients, we looked out my window to see a rally and a raising of the transgender pink, white and baby blue flag. This was a rally against President Trump’s reversal of Obama-era protections for transgender people in the military, in
educational settings and legal protections. You could hear Sheena’s distinct voice on the microphone calling for transgender equality. I was so proud of my town and Sheena’s attention to LGBTQ concerns.

Sheena advocates for many issues of equality, Women’s rights, Black Lives Matter, Anti-Semitism, Anti- Moslem and installation of signs that say “All Are Welcome Here”, to name a few. Sheena Collum is intelligent and a quick thinker on her feet. She extends herself beyond the call of duty, answering questions on facebook or Nextdoor.com and welcoming her constituents to meet with her personally if there are concerns. She gets the job done. I encourage South “Orangers” to capitalize on Sheena’s experience and vote her in again for another four years. We are fortunate she has chosen to run for re-election.

Amy Cox-Martins
South Orange

Sorcha Gordon-Claassens:

To the Editor:

It is with pleasure that I write to urge my friends, family and residents of South Orange to vote for Sheena Collum for Village President on the 14th of May. As an active member of the community, with four children in the public-school system, I am very privy to all Sheena’s efforts and input.

I have known Sheena for over 7 years and am overly confident that Sheena will continue to lead South Orange from strength to strength focusing on long terms plans whilst taking care of the immediate challenges. I am delighted that Sheena remains focused on the long-term vision for our community, ensuring that taxes do not increase dramatically and consistently addressing
cost savings. Her handling of the Master Plan has been exceptional, a fine example of what she is capable of. Sheena is a pillar of the community. She holds this town and community close to her heart getting involved with the children and setting a great example to our future generations.

I have consistently been impressed with her ability to handle delicate topics with care and compassion. Sheena gets involved at every level, no matter how trivial something may seem. I feel that the experience Sheena brings with her from her professional career only strengthens why I advocate for her. I have yet to meet a more professional and experienced individual that is capable of representing us a community.

I encourage all to take a look at Sheena’s website to see her achievements in detail. It would be remiss of any voter not to consider all that she has done for this community. Cast your vote and cast it right! Sheena for Village President.

Sorcha Gordon-Claassens

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