LINWOOD – For the first time in many years there is a challenge for a seat on City Council. In the 2nd Ward, Republican Councilman Brian Heun is facing a challenge from Republican Todd Timbrook, who is running as an independent candidate. In Ward 1, Republican Councilwoman Stacy DeDomenicis is running unopposed for her fourth term on council, and Republican Eric Ford is running unopposed for the balance of former City Council President Tim Tighe’s term.
A full term on council is three years.
The Current asked each candidate to provide some background information and to weigh in on the hot button issue in this year’s election, a city referendum asking residents if they want to keep the school district as a Type I designation with an appointed school board or switch to an elected school board. The candidates were also asked to name the most pressing issue facing the city, their accomplishments, and what they hope to accomplish if elected.
Stacy DeDomenicis, 57, a 15-year resident of the city and a licensed insurance producer (agent) for 28 years, is looking to return for her fourth three-year term on council, where she chairs the public works committee and sits on the shared services subcommittee and neighborhood services and public safety committees.
DeDomenicis favors keeping the Type I school district designation.
“The success of our students and the recognition of our schools speak loud and clear,” she said. “The current school board along with the administration and teachers are making strides every day with new programs and learning experiences.”
She said the Board of School Estimate, which is comprised of two members of the BOE, two City Council members and the mayor, allows representation for all the residents and keeps the school board conscious of its spending.
“Now is not the time to play politics with our children’s education or our residents’ taxes,” she said.
The most pressing issue in the city is the trickle-down effect of the economic crisis in Atlantic City, she said.
“In Linwood we are trying to maintain the quality of life for all residents and not burden them with increased taxes. It is important to continue looking for shared service opportunities along with commercial development possibilities,” DeDomenicis said.
One accomplishment she is proud of is contracting with the ACUA for trash removal and making sure residents could put their trash and recycling out on the same day. She called public works the “oil in the city’s wheel” and said each member has their own expertise and is dedicated to the job, and together they assist with recreation board projects, the Arboretum and the Linwood Library and help residents who need it.
At the top of her list if re-elected is spreading the word about Linwood and keeping positive.
“Linwood is a safe little town, mostly residential with award-winning schools, an arboretum and a vineyard. This is a community where families and friends work, play and live together. Our council, our employees, our volunteers, our school board and our police and firefighters are all working for a common goal: family, education and recreation.”
She said her favorite meetings are those when council is able to acknowledge the city’s volunteers, athletes and dedicated employees.
Eric Ford, 43, was appointed to City Council when Tighe stepped down in the spring and is running to complete the two years remaining on the term. A graduate of Lafayette College, he has been a partner in the development company Timber Ridge Management. Before that he ran the land department for a national homebuilder.
On council Ford serves as the chairman of the planning and development subcommittee and sits on the board of directors for the South Jersey Builders League. He is the Mainland Youth Lacrosse coordinator and a hockey coach, and has served on the Linwood Recreation and Zoning boards.
“I believe we are facing several current issues: property value and tax stabilization, preserving the high educational standards our town strives to achieve while integrating a balanced budget with declining enrollment,” he said. “I feel most families move to Linwood for all the great features it holds: fantastic schools, recreation, beautiful nature, small-town charm, safety provided by a close knit police force. It’s our job as City Council to help preserve those characteristics while listening to our constituents to achieve those goals.”
Ford said the next few years are critical to strengthening the foundation of Linwood.
He said that while his four months on council have not permitted him to complete a goal, he is pleased with the instant synergy he has found with fellow council members and by his nature. At the top of his list if re-elected is property tax stabilization.
Ford said he will be voting no on the school board referendum.
“I feel very strongly about our schools. I have three children who have experienced every level that Linwood has to offer and believe they are blessed to have the teachers, staff, administration and coaches throughout their time in Linwood school system. I believe the existing form for our school board has done a good job. They have made many tough decisions during these tough economic times, all of which I do not agree with, but I stand behind them.”
Brian Heun, 46, is a 39-year resident of Linwood. He is a graduate of Mainland, Gettysburg College and Villanova Law School and has a solo law practice in Northfield.
Heun was appointed to City Council in 2014 to replace Donna Taylor when she became a Superior Court judge. He is seeking his first full term. He is a member of the Linwood Board of School Estimate, the Planning Board, and the administration, engineering, planning and zoning, and redevelopment committees. He chairs the public safety committee and is on the board of directors of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center.
Heun said the most pressing issue is keeping services at the current level without increasing the tax burden.
“We have to find ways to share services with other municipalities to find new revenue opportunities and reduce costs where we can. Overall, we owe it to the citizens of Linwood to not increase the economic burdens they must shoulder by having a tax increase every year.”
He supports keeping an appointed school board.
“We have an outstanding school district. This is no small part due to school board that has been an appointed board for over 100 years. By having an appointed board, it avoids politics influencing the process. Instead, the decision making process is guided by people appointed to the position who volunteer countless hours of their time not for a political agenda but because they have a passion to do what is best for the children and the community at large,” he said.
“The appointed board we have now has people from all walks of life. There are people with education, accounting and legal backgrounds,” Heun said. “If the board is elected there is no way to guarantee people with this experience will even run for the board.”
He said what he is most proud of as a member of council and the Board of School Estimate is achieving a zero tax increase for the municipal and school budgets without negatively impacting municipal services or education. At the top of his list if re-elected is to explore new opportunities for shared services, look for grants to improve public spaces like the Poplar Avenue School and develop some of the remaining commercial spaces.
Todd Timbrook, 47, has lived in Linwood with his wife and three daughters for 14 years. He has degree in pharmacy from Northeastern University and is the founder and was the CEO of Home Solutions Inc. for 20 years. He is also the founder and managing principal of Elk Peak Capital. This is his first run for elected office in Linwood. He is a member of the Linwood Planning Board, the Northeastern University Health Sciences Entrepreneurs Board, Continuum Rx and Dermatology Medical Partners.
Timbrook said the continued revenue shortfalls by way of tax appeals have led to increased pressure on the school system.
“We must support our schools and work to control spending. When you have a revenue shortfall you must work down expenses; taking a loan won’t fix anything,” he said.
Timbrook said his proudest accomplishment was being able to step down as the CEO of Home Solutions several years ago, which gave him the opportunity to spend more time with his family, coach some of the girls’ sports, and meet more residents.
Timbrook said he has grown several successful businesses.
“I spent my career as an entrepreneur and today I work side by side with business owners and executives to help take them to the next level. I would like to lend my experiences to our city’s government to continue to build upon our firm foundation of family, education and recreation,” he said.
Timbrook said he favors keeping an appointed school board.
“If the voters don't like the mayor’s appointments and if they believe he doesn't make proper appointments and holds them accountable then he can be replaced, as can any other elected official,” Timbrook said.
“The heart of the issue is accountability. The mayor must hold the members to a high standard, and more importantly make proper appointments that have no conflicts of interest. The disruption felt throughout the school system is not acceptable.”
The drawback of an elected school board is that “We may lose excellent candidates if forced to run for office,” he said.
At the top of his list if elected is to “dial in on the budget line by line to lower expenses while working alongside the Economic Development Committee to execute a long-term plan which will bring intelligent commercial development to help offset the continued revenue shortfall,” he said.