NORTHFIELD – Two seats on City Council are up for election here Nov. 8. Both are three-year terms currently held by Republicans. In Ward 1, incumbent Jeff Lischin is being challenged by first-time candidate Joanne Miele, a Democrat. In Ward 2, incumbent Greg Dewees is being challenged by Democrat Sheila Mussa.
Lischin, 47, has lived in Northfield for 11 years. He and his wife, Margot, have two children. He has degree from Drexel University, where he studied commerce and engineering. He is a real estate broker and the community sales manager for Fernmoor Homes.
Lischin was first appointed to council in 2014 and ran to complete a one-year term in 2015. He is seeking his first three-year term. He sits on the fire/EMS, inspection and code enforcement, and housing and zoning committees and is the liaison to the Northfield Cultural Committee, the green team the technology and shared services committees.
“My family and I love this town and want to keep the family charm, great and innovative school at the Northfield Community School and Mainland Regional High School while still keeping it an affordable place to live for the residents,” he said.
He said he brings the skills of a business person to council.
“I am often frustrated with the way the government works. Since I joined council in 2014 I have spent time trying to find ways to save the taxpayers money by instituting efficiencies and looking for other saving opportunities,” he said.
Lischin said the most pressing issue in Northfield, like most Atlantic County municipalities, is the loss of revenue due to reduction in property values that is driving municipal tax increases.
“Most thought that the loss in property value would have leveled off by now, but we are losing the values this year at the same rate as the last few years, and with another casino closing, the city doesn’t see this trend stopping anytime soon,” he said.
He named the police and fire departments, Birch Grove Park and the bike path as assets to the city but said its best asset is its people, the volunteers and the families of Northfield that make it the best place to live in Atlantic County.
Lischin called Northfield a small town with big-town schools and services, a paid fire department, EMS services, a 270-acre city-owned park, and access to shopping and beaches in minutes.
“If you could think of a town where you can feel at home, Northfield is it,” he said.
Miele, 56, has lived in Northfield for more than 33 years. She studied at Atlantic Cape Community College and is a licensed medical assistant; prior to that she was in real estate.
This is her first run for public office.
Miele is a double lung transplant recipient and was a volunteer with Northfield All Sports, where she ran the snack bar for two years.
She said the most important issue facing the city is the high tax rate and plummeting home values. She also voiced concern about the threat of outsourcing the sewer system to Aqua America.
“Northfield has many homes for sale; we need to attract more young families to our community. We are a small town with a big heart. The schools are exceptional; the city is safe and family friendly,” she said.
She pointed to Northfield’s sense of community as its biggest asset.
“I know this from experience. When I had my double lung transplant the citizens of Northfield rallied around me and my family. Now is my chance to give back to the community.”
Dewees, 59, is a Mainland graduate who attended Gloucester County College. He and his wife, Jacque, have lived in Northfield for 25 years and have two children. He has worked for Atlantic County for 22 years in the engineering division, where he is a survey unit supervisor.
Dewees is seeking his third term on council, where he chairs the public works, Birch Grove Park and buildings and grounds committees. He is a member of the green team, the grant committee and the sign subcommittee and is council’s liaison to Northfield Little League and Babe Ruth baseball.
He said he is running because the work of an elected official is never finished, as there are always new challenges to replace the old ones.
“I care about Northfield and the people who live here,” he said. “I have the ability to put partisan differences aside and consider each issue on its own merit. I don’t vote according to party; I vote my conscience.”
He said the city’s best asset is residents, and that Northfield is a community of people who care.
The biggest challenge facing the city is the local economic climate resulting in people losing their homes, he said, noting that the conditions extend far beyond the city and all over Atlantic County.
“The schools are the biggest draw,” he said, “but it’s more than that. It’s a family community filled with people who have made this town their home for generations, living alongside friends and neighbors who may have been here for five months or fifteen years. But at the end of the day we are a community. Quality, nationally recognized teachers and educational facilities at the school, top-notch recreation programs, beautiful tree-lined streets, a library, museum and parks all within walking distance, close to beaches, an hour form Philly and two and half hours from NYC; what’s not to love about Northfield?”
Mussa, 57, is a 22-year resident of Northfield. She and her husband, Pete, have two children. She is a graduate of Rowan University with a degree in accounting and a master’s degree in reading and literacy. She has been a special education teacher at the Northfield Community School for the past 15 years, a Girl Scout leader and a cheerleading coach for the Northfield Cardinals.
This is her first run for public office.
“I believe this council is setting Northfield up for massive tax increases in the future. This is the most important issue we face. The current council has already raided the surplus left by then Mayor Mazzeo by almost 70 percent, equivalent to $1.3 million, and they’re discussing selling the sewer system, which has the potential for another big tax/fee increase. We can and must to do better for our families,” she said.
Mussa said she would bring to council expertise in accounting and budgets, as well as an inside view of the school system, which she said is one of the most important assets the city has. Others assets are Birch Grove Park, the bike path, and “many exceptional businesses that provide the best of goods and services.”
Challenges facing the city include the growing job losses from Atlantic City casino closings and the foreclosures that stem from that.
“We need to be looking long term to help these residents stay in Northfield while trying to attract new young families to our area. However, if property taxes continue to rise, and there are new housing requirements imposed on us, it will make it hard to continue to attract families and businesses,” she said.
Mussa said she truly cares about Northfield and that her children loved growing up here. She enjoys living and working in Northfield and would like to give back to the community that has given her so much.