Jim Maley and Rob Lewandowski will return to their roles as Collingswood commissioners, accompanied by Morgan Robinson, while Haddonfield Commissioner Colleen Bianco Bezich returns to office with newcomers Kevin Roche and Frank Troy.
By Matt Skoufalos | May 11, 2021
After tightly contested, occasionally acrimonious campaigns, the dust finally settled on municipal government elections in Collingswood and Haddonfield Tuesday evening.
According to unofficial results, Collingswood voters returned incumbents Jim Maley (2,233 votes) and Rob Lewandowski (2,267 votes) to office along with their Team Collingswood running mate, Morgan Robinson (2,181 votes).
The trio outpaced opponents Bill Johnson (1,195 votes), Kate Delany (1,132 votes), and Jen Rossi (1,123 votes) in what Lewandowski, the top vote-getter in the race, called “by far, the toughest campaign I’ve ever run.
“[The race] started the day after my mother died,” Lewandowski said. “At times, I didn’t know if I wanted to do this, and Jim and Morgan carried me.
“Politics isn’t that important,” he continued; “the work of government is the key. This is a town that people have a lot of pride in. They want to know that public servants are going to work to find solutions and opportunities, and not to find faults. I hope that our race is about not just an election, but how we behave every day.”
Lewandowski said he’s looking forward to helping the community rebound from the effects of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, noting that “recovery is very much uneven, and we have to be mindful of that.
“Government’s job is to care for all residents,” he said; “we’ve got a job to do.”
Tuesday’s election was the first for newcomer Morgan Robinson, who joined the Team Collingswood slate after their former running mate, Joan Leonard, retired from public office.
When it was all over, Robinson said, “It’s the happiest I’ve felt in a while.
“It’s been a hard couple of years,” she said.
“To see the community work so hard on our behalf was impressive.”
Robinson wants to follow in Leonard’s legacy as “the sustainability steward” for Collingswood, and will rely upon the experience of the borough professional staff as she learns the ropes of local government.
“I have a lot to learn, but I have the ability to learn it; being surrounded by talented people makes it easy,” she said.
For current Collingswood Mayor Jim Maley, the results were a vindication of his prior years of service.
“There’s been a lot of social media noise and people yelling outrageous, vile, personal attacks,” Maley said. “My therapy in this campaign has been [connecting with] the people of Collingswood. I’m so thankful to them for seeing through it all.”
Their agenda for the next four years includes addressing a number of critical civic projects, Maley said, such as community athletics fields, redevelopment of some key properties in the borough, and finding a home for cannabis-based businesses, “all in a way that’s consistent with the character of Collingswood.”
‘Clean, fair; an issues election’
As the top vote-getter in Haddonfield, incumbent Commissioner Colleen Bianco Bezich (2,009 votes) is in line to become the next mayor of the borough, and only the second woman to hold that position in its history.
“I’m just relieved,” Bianco Bezich said Tuesday night.
“We fought the good fight, and it amounted to something: clean, fair, and an issues election,” she said.
“That’s what I tried to run, and I’m just happy to see that the majority of voters got it.”
Bianco Bezich said she’s looking forward to serving with the other top vote-getters, Frank Troy (1,810 votes) and Kevin Roche (1,795 votes), both of whom are political newcomers.
Rounding out the field in the Haddonfield race were Adam Puff (1,436 votes), Jeff Kasko (990 votes), Mark Rusc (920 votes), Daniel Zhang (557 votes), and Kathryn Raiczyk (296 votes).
“I believe that when you put the goals of the borough first, you can work with any collective group of people,” Bianco Bezich said. “All the other candidates were willing to serve, and I’m very grateful to them.”
Foremost on her agenda? “Grants, grants, and more grants,” Bianco Bezich said. “There’s a lot of opportunities that we can and should pursue. I want to focus on public safety, our construction offices; I want to rewrite our ordinances, and bring them into the 21st century.
“I have a list that’s pretty long of what I want to do, and I think sustainability and social justice, equity, accessibility, and anti-racism [work] is key,” she said.
Kevin Roche, the third-ranked candidate in the Haddonfield commissioner race, said he was “very proud of my team and the campaign that we’ve run.
“It’s just so nice to see the way that we ran it yielded the results that we were hoping,” Roche said. “It was such a competitive race; a lot of qualified people out there. I’m really glad that our message resonated with the community.”
Roche said he’ll treat his role in borough government the way he would a client in his financial consultancy that was “almost in a turnaround capacity for a business,” seeking alternative revenue sources to bolster its budget.
As he takes office, Roche said he’ll rely on his predecessors, the borough administrator, and his fellow commissioners-elect to find his way.
“I think Frank and Colleen are extremely intelligent, motivated people who are willing to work as a collective group, and that’s more than you can hope for when you take an elective position,” he said.
Among key projects for Haddonfield to resolve, Roche cited redevelopment plans for the Bancroft parcel and for Snowden Commons, in addition to “continu[ing] the recovery for the town from the setback of COVID.
“That’s really the big objective,” he said. “I think it’s about trying to put things in place to stabilize or have less exposure to risk in the future.”
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