3 vie for seat held by longtime mayor

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ABSECON – For the first time in more than two decades, someone other than Mayor Peter Elco will hold the top office in this city in January.

Elco, a former Holy Spirit High School English teacher, announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election to an office he has held since 1988.

City Council President Jerry Falivene, a Republican, is facing off against challenger John Armstrong of the Democratic Party for the honor of representing the city, and last month, Denise Lenz announced a write-in campaign for the mayor’s seat.

The Current asked each candidate to provide biographical information and tell voters why they are running for mayor.

Residents will go to polls Tuesday, Nov. 6 to elect a mayor, along with two council representatives.



Jerry Falivene

Falivene, 47, has lived in Absecon all his life. He and his wife, Stephanie, have a daughter, Lexie. He is a 1983 graduate of Holy Spirit High School and has had some some college education.

Falivene is self-employed, running J-Fal Contractors. He said his greatest accomplishments are being a father to Lexie, husband to Stephanie, and council president.

He is involved in the Absecon Historical Society, American Legion(concerts in the park) and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church.

He has served three terms on City Council and has served on council’s public safety, public works, finance and economic development committees

Falivene said that after devoting more than nine years of his life to Absecon City Council, the next natural step is the mayor’s seat.

“I feel that I am the most qualified to fill this seat, as it is most important that the mayor has experience, and a full understanding of the operations of city government today, and knowledge of the past, to guide us forward,” he said.

“The mayor’s foremost role is public safety, and I have the most experience of all, with seven years as public safety chairman and nine years of an active role in emergency management. I have real-time experience in storm response and dealing with damage assessment and with county and federal agencies. Through my committee we were able to help our struggling volunteer ambulance squad transform itself into a paid nonprofit squad that supplies a 24-hour, full-staffed response. All this at less cost, and service second to none.”

He said that with a family history of 100 years, he and his family have a vested interest to see that Absecon remains the great place they have grown to love.

“I fully stand by my record on City Council, and I am proud of the conservative fiscal record that has led this city to balanced budgets, one of the lowest percentages of tax increases in the county, and a steady path with no job losses, furloughs or borrowing against the future in these tough economic times. We have accomplished many projects through grants that have saved taxpayers millions of dollars. I will continue to seek these grants and fight for Absecon’s fair share.”

He asked voters to judge him by his record on council, and to separate from that the decisions he had had no control over, or no vote on.

“My actions on council are clear: fighting Sarlo-type laws that take the powers away from our boards. I have championed resolutions sent to the state that protested these laws. We must keep foremost the need to protect the character and charm of Absecon and guide future growth with an emphasis on commercial ratables that bring tax dollars and sensible residential growth,” he said.

“I feel that my experience is vast, and my record solid, and my heart has always been in Absecon’s best interest and I am best suited to lead this city’s future.”



John Armstrong

Armstrong, 64, has lived in Absecon for 27 years. He and his wife, Valerie, have a son, Rob.

A graduate of Temple University Law School, he has been a partner in the Atlantic City law firm Cooper Levenson, for the past 12 years, representing government clients, including schools and land use boards.

He listed among his accomplishments serving as Atlantic County counsel and county administrator with responsibility for the management of all county services, serving as vice president and general counsel at the Atlantic County Utilities Authority, where his responsibilities included implementation of the county recycling program and other waste management programs.

He is involved in numerous volunteer efforts including serving on the board of the National Conference of Christians and Jews and as chair of the Board of Catholic Charities. He served as the first unpaid volunteer executive director of the Atlantic City Improvement District, starting programs, including business façade improvements, courtesy patrols and new streetscaping. In Absecon, he helped form the Absecon Education Foundation and the Absecon Shores Homeowners Association.

Armstrong said he decided to run for mayor because he and his wife love living in Absecon, but see that the town faces a number of challenges that threaten residents’ lifestyles and investment in their homes.

“Absecon has suffered a loss of business ratables, some of its neighborhoods show evidence of blight, seniors are threatening to leave because of high taxes, and young families are deciding to locate elsewhere,” the candidate said. “These are not good signs for a town, and our local government does not seem to be responding to them.”

He said he believes that he has the experience, creativity, time and energy to address these problems.

“Being retired, the office of mayor would be my sole job. I would devote all of my energy to fixing what needs fixing while preserving all that is positive about our community.”

The real problem in Absecon is those things that have not been done, Armstrong said.

“For example, to my knowledge, we do not have a landlord registration ordinance requiring landlords to register and have their rental units inspected. Also, for at least 26 years we have ignored the law requiring development of a Fair Share Housing Plan. The city is now being sued, and we will have to hurry to develop a plan while spending hundreds of thousands on legal fees that could have been avoided.”

On the plus side, he said, the city has developed Heritage and Pitney parks and maintains an excellent youth athletic program, as well as other volunteer efforts like the fire and ambulance squads.

“Absecon is still a great place to live. As mayor, I will work to make it an even greater place for all of us.”



Denise Lenz

Lenz, 44, has lived in Absecon for 44 years. She is  a family nurse practitioner for Atlantic City Regional Medical Center emergency and surgical services, an occupational and primary care nurse practitioner for Viking Yacht Company, Shore Memorial Hospital urgent care nurse practitioner; owner of Taylor Medical And Surgical Services LLC.

Her civic organization involvement includes being a board member and volunteer with Coastal Volunteers in Medicine Clinic in Ocean County; a volunteer with Healing the Children; and a volunteer and donor of the Atlantic City Humane Society.

Lenz said she is running for mayor because she believes she can help bring a positive new vision – a changing of the guard, if you will – to Absecon residents.

 Being a resident of 44 years, “I believe I know some of the concerns of the citizens of Absecon; as a nurse practitioner I have been required to manage and encourage staff to work as a team. Absecon residents can identify with the responsibilities of running a household and business, which require organizational, budgeting and multitasking skills,” she said.

Lenz said that if elected, she would like to set terms limits for public office, merge services, create a user-friendly process to entice businesses to come to Absecon, and create a non-compete clause so that people who hold office in Absecon would not be allowed to conduct business during the length of their term. She said she would also strive to develop a transportation system for elderly needs and create a dog park.

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