Candidate Statements

Jeanne Kingsley & Jeff Varnerin: The Right Choice for Berkeley Heights

by Jeanne Kingsley & Jeff Varnerin

https://www.tapinto.net/towns/berkeley-heights/categories/candidate-statements/articles/jeanne-kingsley-jeff-varnerin-the-right-choice-for-berkeley-heights

The COVID-19 pandemic has made us all look at the world differently. We approach our health, our finances and our children’s education from an entirely new perspective.

Looking at who to support for local leadership on the Town Council should be no different. We need to see this election through the lens of a post COVID world, and ask ourselves which candidates will best help us take on these new challenges?

In our opinion, the choice is clear.  We are experienced and time-tested professionals, ready for these difficult and evolving times.  We pair together financial expertise as a CPA and a trusted foundation of fiscal reason on the Council with a scientist adept at managing large and complex projects.

We want to be clear about the work that both of us have been doing in the community and our positions regarding how best to proceed.

  • It was Jeanne Kingsley who drove the process to reevaluate and cut our town budget once COVID-19 became a reality and financial challenge for all of us and for our town. Jeanne’s financial and accounting experience were critical to bring our town budget down to a 0% increase this year. Jeff didn’t sit by quietly; instead he was actively involved in the public Zoom budget meetings – offering his expertise.
  • As a Councilwoman, Jeanne’s grant application for Safe Streets to Transit Grant received the largest non-roads award in Berkeley Heights history – $410,000. The Safe Streets to Transit grant was a major contributor to the township’s 2019 Municipal Innovation Award received.  Additionally, Jeanne is an innovative manager who over the years implemented many shared services agreements to keep Berkeley Heights costs down.
  • Jeanne has always been a leader supporting our small businesses. One of her proudest accomplishments is founding the Downtown Beautification Committee which continues to innovate new ways to enhance our downtown. Her passion and expertise will be a driving force in assisting in the recovery of our local economy.
  • Jeff is also a regular and active participant in Town Council meetings – offering his project management expertise to assist the troubled Municipal Complex project that experienced significant cost overruns and delays in 2019. 
  • Jeff is a highly distinguished scientist and project manager working at one of the largest healthcare companies in the world. His team was directly responsible for turning around its’ pharmaceutical division. You can read about their success in Fortune Magazine – 7/22/2016 “Can Big Still Be Beautiful” by Erika Fry.
  • Being solutions focused and having a keen eye for details is critical to Jeff’s success. He routinely manages multi-billion-dollar projects that leverage thousands of resources. Jeff is referred to as the “fix it guy” who can find solutions to problems regardless of the situation.
  • Jeff’s approach is “we must focus on simple, fit for purpose solutions that make sense to help make our limited tax dollars go a long way. My father always said volunteers make a town a home. It takes volunteers who will treat the town like their own property and invest the same effort and insist on the same pride to ensure things are done right. I want only the best for Berkeley Heights and to ensure that we make it a place that everyone can call home for generations to come. We can achieve this by being open to diverse perspectives and common-sense solutions which emerge from simple dialogue.”

The future of Berkeley Heights depends on your vote in this 2020 election cycle.  A vote for us, Jeanne Kingsley and Jeff Varnerin, will be the right direction for our town.  Don’t wait to return your ballot.  Mail it in today or bring it to the secure ballot box at Snyder Park. 

Respectfully submitted,

Jeanne Kingsley and Jeff Varnerin

Special Interests Has No Place

by Jeanne Kingsley & Jeff Varnerin

As candidates for Berkeley Heights Town Council, we were contacted by the local teacher’s union (the “BHEA”) seeking written responses to various questions focused on the Berkeley Heights Public Schools in order to potentially obtain their endorsement.  We would like to make public our response (see Letter to BHEA below) that we sent to the BHEA earlier today.  

We are unclear why the BHEA is seeking to be involved in the upcoming local election given that the Town Council has no authority or control over education policy. The Berkeley Heights Public Schools are the responsibility of the Board of Education, a non-partisan, elected body.  We are also confident that the residents of Berkeley Heights agree that there should continue to be a clear separation between partisan politics and our children’s educations.  Thank you.

Letter to the Berkeley Heights Education Association:

To the Berkeley Heights Education Association,

Thank you for your interest in the 2020 Berkeley Heights Town Council election.  We are proud to be running to serve all residents of Berkeley Heights.  

Public education is immensely important, not only to those members of our community who have children attending our public schools, but to all property owners.  A strong public-school system maintains property values throughout the township.  However, we are unclear why you are seeking to be involved in this election given that the Town Council has no authority or control over education policy. Accordingly, we are not seeking the endorsement of the BHEA as we believe this is simply a charade for your organization to put its weight–and its funding–behind our opponent, Susan Poage, who happens to be a teacher.  

In our opinion, the last thing that Berkeley Heights needs is special interest money involved in our local elections. 

Very truly yours, 

Jeanne Kingsley and Jeff Varnern

Thank you, Berkeley Heights

by Jeanne Kingsley & Jeff Varnerin

https://www.tapinto.net/towns/berkeley-heights/categories/candidate-statements/articles/thank-you-berkeley-heights-4df675d7-de9f-42de-8909-6f8cdf8167e8

Thank you, Berkeley Heights.  We are humbled and grateful for the overwhelming support of residents throughout our town.  Our win, in this unique vote by mail primary, is a testament to your commitment to elect candidates with the right skills and the right leadership.    

We thank our opponents for their efforts and participation in the election process.  We are all neighbors. It is by working together and finding common ground that we are successful.  We look forward to joining together, in the coming months, in our efforts to move our town forward.

As we focus now on the General election, we will be connecting, meeting and listening to all residents. Our goal is to seek diverse and inclusive ideas on how to improve our town.  We welcome any and all feedback, regardless of your party affiliation.  Berkeley Heights is a truly special community, and we are proud to live here, volunteer with you, and represent you on our Town Council.

We wish to thank the many people who helped with our primary campaign and to our families, who not only supported us, but encouraged us every step of the way.  We look forward to working with and meeting many more residents in the months ahead.  The future of Berkeley Heights is extremely bright, and we look forward to sharing it with you.

Thank you,

Authentic, Skilled Leader for Berkeley Heights

by Jeff Varnerin

https://www.tapinto.net/towns/berkeley-heights/categories/candidate-statements/articles/authentic-skilled-leader-for-berkeley-heights

My name is Jeff Varnerin.  I am a fiscally conservative Republican, running for Town Council. Berkeley Heights deserves highly skilled, time tested and dedicated leaders, to preserve our community for generations to come.  My wife, Debbie and I chose this community 14 years ago, to raise our family.  We love this town and it has given our family so much since our arrival. Now I want to give back as a Town Council member and help move our town forward.

It has become abundantly clear, in the last several months of quarantine and national unrest, that communities are in desperate need for highly skilled, flexible and appropriately experienced leaders.  It is time to ensure that both short term and long-term decision-making is taking place.  It is time for leaders to roll up their sleeves, pivot, own accountability and take real action.

As a Councilman, I will bring a variety of skills and capabilities to the table.  I have a community service mindset. Prior to moving to Berkeley Heights, I spent 15+ years as an EMT with the Watchung Rescue Squad and as a firefighter with several organizations. 

I have a focus on leveraging data and facts as key elements of decision-making.  As a scientist, project manager and former front-line worker, I have spent my career making decisions, often in very high stress situations.  This has fostered my ability to rapidly gain understanding of complex matters and deploy straightforward solutions

There are a number of major issues facing our community today. First, we must create a diverse and inclusive environment where the perspective of ALL residents is heard, acknowledged and incorporated into policies and actions taken by the township of Berkeley Heights.  The Town Council should be the voice of our entire community.  This starts with being open to ALL voices and then turning those voices into sustainable and meaningful long-term change.

Second, there is the economic recovery and long-term viability of our downtown post COVID-19.  Ensuring our businesses can thrive in the downtown area is not only critical to provide a robust and engaging experience for residents but also a key element to the financial stability of our budget.  Strong local businesses are good for both.

Third, transparency in government is critical to ensure outside interests do not have unfair influence such as in the case of ensuring wise use of our tax dollars through local control of spend.  Stop giving control of our spend to Union County where our ability to influence the effectiveness of our dollars is significantly limited. We need to look to partner with adjacent townships and private businesses, where it makes sense, for the long-term and not just short-term budget gimmicks.

Lastly, we must ensure we complete the Municipal Complex and limit the impact of 18 months of mismanagement by the Democratically controlled town council. A project that was under budget and on time as of January 1, 2019, is now in poor shape, while those in power to manage the project closely, publicly provided no insight into the delays or issues until almost a year after the problems began.  This is simply not acceptable.  

I am an authentic leader, focused on problem solving and am ready to offer skills to Berkeley Heights Town Council.  I respectfully ask for your support along with my running mate Jeanne Kingsley, this election year. 

Competent, compassionate leadership for Berkeley Heights

By Jeanne Kingsley

https://www.tapinto.net/towns/berkeley-heights/categories/candidate-statements/articles/competent-compassionate-leadership-for-berkeley-heights

When I first ran for Berkeley Heights Town Council, I committed to building the future of Berkeley Heights with you!  WE have worked hard over the years to make smart, strategic investments in our town that improve the quality of life and preserve affordability. Through collaborative efforts with residents, volunteers, and community stakeholders, we have seen significant improvements to parks, playgrounds, playing fields, infrastructure and services without burdening the taxpayer. I, Jeanne Kingsley, re-commit to these foundational principles as I run for re-election to town council.

I am a CPA and finance professional with over 25-years of experience in consensus building, strategic planning, budgeting, forecasting, and project management.  I do not approach any project or program without exercising due diligence in financial planning, sustainability, and how it will be paid for. My skill set and work ethic ensures that the creative process goes hand in hand with the financial process.  

Municipal government is not about one single issue or one financial hurdle. It is a constant balance, where no one answer or solution can exist without impacting other solutions. During my time on Council, our Town has faced many highly complex challenges. These include aging roads and facilities and the need to defend our community from increased demands in housing density, imposed under the guise of state-mandated affordable housing. I have faced these challenges by listening to and respecting the work, input, and thoughts of others, understanding the legalities of implementing ideas, effectively negotiating, and bringing people together to address our current challenges and through collaboration.  Collectively, we have made tough choices with an eye to the future, ensuring the resources and infrastructure of our Town are viable over the long term.

These efforts are not complete. With your help we can continue to work together to meet the challenges we face. As your representative, I will continue to seek and share your insights, ideas and collective vision for our community with the Mayor, fellow Council members, Township employees, as well as elected officials in neighboring towns, the county and state. I will continue to secure new and alternative revenue streams, to maintain affordability and move our town forward. Our volunteers continue to amaze me, and their unwavering commitment to our community inspires me. The people are what makes living in Berkeley Heights so special!

This election is important for Berkeley Heights as it’s critical that we have a Council with the skills, experience, and willingness to do the hard work needed to continue the forward momentum for our town. Our homes are one of the largest investments in our portfolios. It is important that we do everything that we can to protect our property values. Just as important is preserving the quality of life in Berkeley Heights—that affects each and every one of us.

I am proud to be running with Jeff Varnerin. Although new to local government, he is not new to community involvement. We are the right people, at the right time, to move Berkeley Heights forward.   

Councilwoman Jeanne Kingsley, proud to serve Berkeley Heights

by Jeanne Kingsley

https://www.tapinto.net/towns/berkeley-heights/categories/candidate-statements/articles/councilwoman-jeanne-kingsley-proud-to-serve-berkeley-heights

Thank you, Berkeley Heights, for the privilege of serving as your Councilperson and allowing me to work on your behalf to help improve our community. 

Berkeley Heights means so much to me and my family. We have lived here for over 25 years, and I am always looking for ways to give back. With a background in accounting (CPA) and strategic planning, I knew I had something to offer on Berkeley Heights Town Council. I have been determined to have an impact on our town, specifically pursuing sound fiscal management.  My focus has always been on providing the highest value to our residents for their tax dollars. 

As I am running for re-election, I humbly ask for your vote. I would like to share some of my proudest accomplishments as a public servant in Berkeley Heights:

Grants

I have actively worked with Township employees and volunteers to secure grant money for Berkeley Heights because to provide the services our community needs, we cannot rely on tax revenue alone.

·      My application for Safe Routes to Transit Grant resulted in Berkeley Heights receiving its largest, non-roads, grant in history – $410,000.  This grant was the primary component for Berkeley Heights receiving the 2019 Municipal Innovation Award. 

·      I lead the charge to recover over $110,000 in unused grant money from Union County.

Shared Services

Over the years I helped deliver efficient services while keeping your taxes down by implementing Shared Services.

·      Board of Education for field improvements and vehicle maintenance (and until 2019, garbage pick-up)

·       IT services with Madison

·       Court services with New Providence

·       Animal Control with Millburn

·       Public Health Services with Rahway (until 2020)

·       Equipment sharing Long Hill

·      Equipment sharing, Salt Dome, DPW Director and recently Dispatch Services with Union County

Downtown Development

One of my proudest accomplishments is the founding of the Downtown Beautification Committee which continues to innovate new ways to enhance our downtown.

·      The successful Restaurant Week and Health & Beauty Week 

·       Bright Lights during the holidays.  

·       Flower baskets lining Springfield Avenue

·       Seasonal banners displayed along Springfield, Plainfield and Snyder Avenues during the holidays  

·      Peppertown Park clock has become a landmark.

Communication  

Public input and listening to our residents is essential.  My involvement with the Communications Committee over the years helped bring impactful improvements to the Townships communication.  

·      Assisted in the design and requirements gathering for the new Town website

·       Established the Township of Berkeley Heights Facebook page

·       Created an “E-News” email newsletter that residents that provides residents with information on Township events

·       Initiated a “Swift 911” portal that notifies residents of emergencies and other critical information

·      Implemented live streaming of Town Council meetings 

The Municipal Complex is a long-term project, which started back in 2014. The new complex consolidated the Administration Offices, Police Station, Library, Recreation Department and Senior Center.  Once completed, it will be supporting residents long into the future. The process has been long, as we spent the time required to get input from residents and made adjustments along the way.  From the 20 public meetings held at the high school auditorium and Town Hall, to the hours of discussion and updates provided at ongoing Council meetings, the input of our citizens has been a priority. As a result of the public’s participation, the location of the new complex was moved to the current Town Hall location and several modifications were made to the building and the site. The Municipal Complex is important for all residents and local businesses because it will enable us to safely provide the services residents deserve.  I continue to fight on behalf of the taxpayers to rein this project in and get it completed.

I am proud to be running with Jeff Varnerin.  Although new to local government, he is not new to community involvement. Jeff is a project manager with a scientific background, and willing to offer his skills to our town. He has a track record of volunteerism from his days as an EMT to coaching local sports teams. Jeff will be a tremendous asset to the Town Council. 

I am humbly asking for your support for myself and Jeff Varnerin.  Jeff and I are the right people with the right skills to lead Berkeley Heights forward.  If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.

Who is Jeff Varnerin?

by Jeff Varnerin

https://www.tapinto.net/towns/berkeley-heights/categories/candidate-statements/articles/who-is-jeff-varnerin

My name is Jeff Varnerin and I am running for Town Council in Berkeley Heights where I have lived for ~14 years with my wife Debbie and son Ryan. Many people in this community may know me, but for those who don’t, I want to give you a brief introduction of who I am and why I’m running.

As the son of a WWII veteran, public service is in my blood. I was raised to believe that volunteers make a town a home. I have always been motivated to give back to my community and my wife Debbie and I have lived in this spirit as Berkeley Heights residents.

I have served on as a founding member of the Watchung Rescue Squad’s Extrication team which provided highly skilled emergency technical rescue services across New Jersey, including in Berkeley Heights. I have always been drawn to emergency services and our first responder community should know that they can always count on me as an ally who understands their needs.

As an involved father and sports fan, you may also know me as “Coach Jeff.”  I have been a coach of my son Ryan’s (12) soccer team for many years and may also have coached your child in lacrosse or a PAL basketball or baseball team.

As a scientist and project manager at one of the largest healthcare companies in the world, solving complex problems is my day job. I am solutions focused and have a keen eye for details.  I routinely manage multi-billion-dollar projects that leverage thousands of resources across six continents.  I am typically referred to as the “fix it guy” who can find solutions to problems regardless of the situation. My team is currently working on a variety of solutions to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

My approach has always been to focus on simple, fit for purpose solutions that make sense to help make our limited tax dollars go a long way.  I want only the best for Berkeley Heights and to ensure that we make it a place that everyone can call home for generations to come.  We can achieve this by being open to diverse perspectives and common-sense solutions which emerge from simple dialogue.

I am proud to be running with Councilwoman Jeanne Kingsley, who has dedicated herself to serving Berkeley Heights for many years.  Jeanne is responsible for receiving the largest, non-roads, grant ($410,000) in Berkeley Heights history.  She is the founder of the Downtown Beautification Committee which is responsible for bringing history and beauty to our downtown.  Jeanne’s countless accomplishments, knowledge and strategic thinking are crucial to the success of Berkeley Heights.

Berkeley Heights is my family’s home and I have never been more inspired to serve. We are going to need to think big and work together to manage the complex issues that are developing during these trying times. I am running to bring a fresh perspective and a new expertise to Township Council.  Feel free to reach out to me directly by visiting our website, Facebook or email.