2013 Meet the Candidates Series Interview, Week of June 16, 2013
As part of my ongoing effort to introduce candidates to the voting public, I started a weekly column called Meet the Candidates. In essence, it is a past day stump speech updated for the virtual world.
For this week’s column I am honored to introduce to Brian A. Fitzhenry. Mr. Fitzhenry is running for New Jersey Senate in the 36th Legislative District.
He has been a lifelong resident of North Arlington, New Jersey where he is currently employed as the Vice President of Marketing for Newrent, Inc., is the President of the North Arlington Education Foundation, is a member of the North Arlington Fire Department and was a former six year member of the Board of Education.
My interview with State Senate Candidate Brian A. Fitzhenry is below the fold:
Sanders: What makes you a more viable candidate in comparison to your opponent?
Fitzhenry: First let me begin by saying that my decision to run did not come lightly. After to speaking to my family and my business partners, we all felt that I have the time and the energy to do this job better than anyone including my opponent. I have a history of giving back to my community whether it be my involvement with the North Arlington Fire Department to which I attained the rank of Chief of the Department in 2010, my service on the North Arlington Board of Education where I served 7 years as an elected member and President or my years of coaching recreational sports in my town. I dedicated myself wholeheartedly to each and the results of such were evident. But it’s not only my endless civic service but the experience I have gained running a business. I have felt the ups and downs of the economy and yet even in the down side of this bland economy we have found ways to grow our business, cut costs and yet still maintain the level of service to our customer base without layoffs. My opponent on the other hand has done nothing to improve job creation. We have to the largest FAILED projects resident in our district and its failure solely rests on his shoulders. Paul Sarlo personally sponsored 300 million dollars in taxpayer monies for the now DEFUNCT Encap project not to mention the largest, emptiest, ugliest building in East Rutherford known formerly as the Xanadu. Thanks to the Governor as well as our county officials this project now known as American Dream is being resurrected.
Sanders: How do you feel your current line of work will help you if you are elected Senator?
Fitzhenry: During my 7 year tenure on the North Arlington Board of Education, we were met with many of the same issues resident in the business world today. The rising cost of medical benefits, supplies, fuel, salaries, cost of living increases, and possible workforce reductions all as a result of a sluggish economy. However, while on the Board of Education we managed to finalize teachers contracts, reduce costs of health benefits and simultaneously engage in such capital improvements such as window replacements and concrete and brick pointing in our district. All achieved through matching grants from the state of NJ. Aside, from my tenure on the Board of Education, I am the President of the North Arlington Education Foundation. Not only do we have the responsibility of rewarding grants for many projects within our school district such as monies to purchase computer equipment, renovate labs or simply purchase choir robes for the schools newly formed choir (all at no cost to the taxpayer) we also administer and manage the before and after care program for working parents in our district. This program serves up to 150 kids year round not including our summer programs where working moms and dads have cost effective inexpensive before and aftercare for the children of our towns working parents.
I am currently a very active member of the North Arlington Volunteer Fire Department. One of my greatest achievements was being awarded federal grants monies to purchase equipment such as a new ladder truck, heavy rescue vehicle and self-contained breathing apparatus. Again these were matching grants where the taxpayers saved 100’s of thousands of dollars. To my knowledge, the North Arlington Fire Department is the only volunteer department to be awarded such grant monies.
My business experience speaks for itself. Working in small business, nobody feels the economy like we do. We have learned to do more with less. Most of which I mentioned in the first paragraph. Running your own company encompasses the responsibility not only to operate in the black but one must realize that the decisions you make affect your staff. Tough decisions are always going to be there obviously more so in a sluggish economy. They are ever present in the business environment. We must all make decisions that are not only in the interest of the company but must also be in the best interest of your employees. Companies like mine will always take into consideration not only the bottom line but their families as well and we have been successful at that. They are a part of the solution. This mantra can hold true for government too.
Sanders: When it comes to public schools, do you believe offering vouchers for children to go to charter schools is a better option and a way to offset high taxes? Why or why not?
Fitzhenry: Spending 7 years on the Board of Education I feel I have a very good grip on school funding as it pertains to local tax dollars as well as state aid. Schools in our district are mostly made up of middle to lower income families whose boards much like business have been asked to do more with less. The school aid formula is flawed and the governor knows that. School vouchers are a step in the right direction for those students in failing districts. Why not allow the less fortunate to choose a safer better performing school. These very students deserve that opportunity and we have an obligation to offer them the best education available.
Sanders: It is known that you are a strong supporter of the 2% property tax cap which was passed by Governor Chris Christie. Please articulate as to why you support it and if you could change one thing about it, what would that be?
Fitzhenry: Operating at of under cap is nothing new to NJ. Our Boards of Education have been operating with a cap for many years. I am a strong supporter of the 2% Property Tax Cap. We have seen the slowest growth of property taxes in two decades. This cap forces the local municipalities to operate within the range of funding and it demands to finally take the taxpayers into consideration as it pertains to crafting a budget. I truly don’t understand why anyone would support higher taxes. Initially, there was a trickledown effect but over time, municipalities have found it easier to have their budgets come in at or under cap. I would suggest further increased benefits to those communities that actually take advantage of shared services. Many have researched but have not enacted any type of shared savings. We need to do more to urge it and reward those communities that do it.
Sanders: If your constituents wanted to reach out to you and ask you questions about your positions or how to volunteer who can they reach out to?
Fitzhenry: We need help. Therefore we have tried to make it easy for our constituents to reach out to us. We not only can be found on Facebook be have created a website District36gop.org. We can easily be reached by phone at 201-881-9579.
Sanders: In a short statement, please advise why your prospective constituents why they should vote for you and what you want to accomplish if you are elected?
Fitzhenry: I have a proven track record in civic service. My opponent is a great democrat insofar as he serves the best interests of his party bosses. I will serve the people, the taxpayers, and the next generation of District 36 regardless of party affiliation. I think Gov. Christie proved that good leadership goes beyond party lines and party bosses and I will follow in his direction with that very mantra. I will work for the people not have the people work for me.
If you are a candidate and interested in being a part of my weekly 2013 Meet the Candidates article, Save Jerseyans, email me at email@example.com.