Two candidates are vying for one seat on the Maplewood Township Committee on election day, November 8, 2016: Democrat Frank McGehee and Republican Mike Summersgill. We asked both candidates to answer a series of questions. Below is Mike Summersgill’s Q&A:
Name: Mike Summersgill
Where did you grow up and go to school?
I grew up in Medford and Moorestown, NJ. A product of private and public schools, I graduated from Moorestown High School. After receiving my BS in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering degree from Cornell, I moved to Hoboken for a few years. I moved to Maplewood in 2008.
What brought you to Maplewood?
My wife, a teacher, and I worked in New York City. After researching commuting times, home prices, and schools, Maplewood clearly rose to the top. A magnet for families of all flavors, we were convinced the town really celebrated its diversity. Embarrassed, but I’ll admit, reading Maplewood Online exposed me to the town’s issues with the Gum Wall, feral cat problem and bee intolerance.
How did you first get civically engaged in the town? What civic roles have you worked in?
I was involved in boy scouting as a child in Medford which set the foundation for service. Over the years I participated in Lazarus at the Gates, a food distribution project in Camden, NJ, was the finance director of the Cornell Concert Commission, coached Babe Ruth baseball in Hoboken, worked with Maplewood Senior Share, and volunteered on 4th of July, as well as serving on the Pool Advisory Committee. I’m also proud to be engaged with my company’s corporate social responsibilities initiatives and regularly volunteer with my co-workers.
Being on the Pool Advisory Committee, what do you see as top improvements needed for the pool?
I would love to see the pool add a family bathroom. It can be a challenge for parents to find an appropriate space to change their children and it would also provide a comfortable space for people of all genders. Like many of the spaces in Maplewood, the pool locker rooms were designed for a different time and need reimagined. I feel the issue of guest passes needs to be reconsidered. With the right technology, a system could limit the number of times a non-member is admitted to the pool. This would allow us to reduce the cost of guest passes and increase pool memberships.
Running as a Republican, you’re well aware that you’ve got a major uphill climb in this town that votes overwhelmingly Democratic — especially in a year with a national election. How are you planning to beat the odds?
I actually don’t think I have to beat the odds. Maplewood voters are savvy and want the right people on the TC. The town would benefit from an independent voice on Township Committee that speaks for them instead of the Democratic establishment. I’m very pragmatic. If I do lose, I don’t feel being in this campaign was a total loss. I’ve focused on advertising through organizations I value: YMCA Duck Race, CHS Boosters Golf Tournament, and other community activities. I engaged Maplewood residents and businesses to provide services to my campaign. At the end of this campaign, more than $10,000 will have been provided in support of the local community.
What do you see as the top priorities for you as a TC member should you be elected?
With better processes in place, the township committee could be more effective. There are good ideas with unilateral support that aren’t implemented. For example, the Township Committee was overwhelming supportive of putting free feminine hygiene products in our public restrooms. A mandate was issued in March which still hasn’t been enacted. This is due to the lack of a good governance system. Insisting on accountability and transparency, I will ensure we follow up on initiatives. I hope to bring a practical perspective to ordinances — before they are enacted.
You have two young daughters who will soon be school age. Do you see a need for the town to work more closely with the school district? How can our town help our school district?
There shouldn’t be a disconnect between the school board and township committee. I will attend every school board meeting and be available to offer input and support. If you aren’t at the meeting, you can’t collaborate. Some of best moments of innovation happen in the casual settings between meetings. The two groups need to take the opportunity to share solutions and communicate.
Name your top three favorite things about Maplewood.
I love the Hilton Neighborhood. Regardless of the time of day, my daughters know who is out and about and are inviting them over for pizza, a water balloon fight, or “spa day”. I enjoy Maplewood’s small town traditions: the YMCA Duck Race, MayFest, Maplewoodstock, Halloween Parade or Night of 100 Dinners. Without a ton of planning and coordination, I can see my friends and neighbors. I also love the Jitney dynamic. I looked forward to seeing my 7:01 train compatriots. Together, we caught up while sharing the heat, cold, or the rain. You also meet newcomers and become an enthusiastic ambassador of the town. I can’t wait to let them in on the details that make this town so special.
Finally, do you support your party’s nominee for President of the United States?
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