Deborah Engel Files to Run for Maplewood Township Committee

by The Village Green
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On April 4, Deborah Engel filed to run in the June 7 Democratic primary for a seat on the Maplewood Township Committee. Engel will square off against fellow Democrat Kurt H. Kiley. Both have been endorsed by the Maplewood Democratic Committee. Kiley previously submitted his application to the MDC and was interviewed in a public forum. No Republicans have filed to run. General election day is November 8, 2022. 

Engel’s campaign submitted the following release upon her filing:

Deborah Engel (left) and Maplewood Township Clerk Liz Fritzen

MAPLEWOOD, N.J.  Small business owner, family-orientated entrepreneur, community volunteer and lifetime Democrat Deborah Engel filed Monday to run for a seat on the Maplewood Township Committee.

Deborah, who has lived in Maplewood for 13 years, is a listener, an independent thinker and someone who gets things done. She has made a career out of making her community a better place:

When Deborah saw the need for a coworking space that also provided flexible, part-time childcare for working parents, she opened in 2015 one of the first of its kind, a facility called Work and Play in South Orange that offered office space on one level with a fully licensed daycare center in the same building.

When Deborah saw the community’s desire to shop locally and the breadth of artists and makers that lived here, she co-founded SOMA General Store Website, a one-stop-e-commerce site that brought makers, artists and local storefronts together in one online shopping destination. The site led to several “pop up” shops in 2018 and 2019, with the last one, on Springfield Avenue, being so successful that they opened the flagship store, General Store Cooperative, a co-retail storefront and one of the anchors of the burgeoning Springfield Avenue corridor.

When Deborah saw how the COVID-19 shutdowns would disproportionately hurt freelancers and small businesses, she created an online forum to advocate and lobby for small business relief and to provide a space for business owners to share resources during the shutdown. The group, which grew to more than 1,700 members from New Jersey and across the nation, assisted business owners and independent contractors in understanding and navigating federal and state programs.

When Maplewood received a five-year, $125,000 per year grant from the state for parts of Springfield Avenue and Hilton Neighborhood, Deborah saw the opportunity to improve our township and volunteered to join the Steering Committee, where she leads the beautification and activation of Yale Corner, a blacktop parklet that has hosted the Farmers Market and numerous open-air holiday markets, featuring none other than Deborah herself dressed up to take photos with families as Mrs. Claus.

Deborah is seeking a seat on the Maplewood Township Committee because she wants to put this expertise, passion, innovation, and dedication to work for all residents of Maplewood, from families with young children to seniors who are young at heart – and everyone in between.

“I love our community, I believe in our community, and I want all people to feel included in our community,” Deborah said. “As we emerge from two difficult years during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s imperative that we work together to bolster and protect our small businesses, which are the beating heart of our downtowns. At the same time, we need to make sure everyone who calls Maplewood their home is supported and has a voice in township decisions.”

Deborah looks forward to sharing her passion for Maplewood with voters as she talks about her priorities, which include:

Health and Wellness. “Being outside and being active is one of the best ways we can help families, children and senior citizens in our township improve their mental health. I hear our community talking about the need for improved and additional athletic fields, walking/running paths, preserving green space for community use, accessible swim lessons, expanded mental and behavioral health services, education on substance use disorders, affordable childcare and more camp options. We are fortunate that our township owns several properties. We need to utilize these facilities to create the programming that our community needs.”

Public Safety. “Public safety should always be a priority for local governments. We have environmental public safety concerns, including increased flooding and the need for better stormwater management. Also, we also need community stakeholders to come together to address ongoing public safety issues such as further examining traffic and lighting patterns to protect pedestrians, and to develop a robust public education program on gun safety.”

Updating the township’s Master Plan. “Updating the Master Plan is one of the most important priorities for the Township right now as this process gives us a chance to examine our zoning and assess how to provide and plan for more affordable housing, smart economic development and environmental concerns.”

Communication. “Let’s be honest, one of the most challenging things for township residents is the difficulty and variety in which essential information is distributed. We need to improve overall township communication, which is something I have professional experience doing. Beyond that, we also need elected officials who listen to all stakeholders, bring our community together and work with everyone to improve our township. I am a firm believer that the best ideas, programs, and results come from finding ways to collaborate and compromise so that all parties feel seen and understood.”

Deborah lives with her husband, Matt, and their three young daughters, who are in 3rd, 4th and 6th grades. She is running to make sure small business owners and families like hers, who have young children at home, are represented on the Township Committee.

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