NJ Pen 2019 Election Coverage: Meet the Candidates for Haddon Heights Council


We invited the Democratic and Republican candidates for borough council to tell voters a little about themselves ahead of Election Day. Here’s how they responded.

By Matt Skoufalos | October 22, 2019

On November 5, Haddon Heights voters will choose from among four balloted candidates to fill two seats on the borough council.

Democrat Asiyah Kurtz and Republican Jennifer Moore, who were appointed to the council to fill two unexpired terms, are running to retain their seats.

Republican Matt McDermott and Democrat Tom Ottoson are vying for an open seat last held by Council President Kathy Lange. Despite appearing on the June primary ballot, Lange declined to seek re-election after completing her term of service in 2017. 

We invited each candidate to respond to the same set of prompts, telling voters about themselves, their priorities, and their views of the current state of the community. Here’s how they responded. Answers were edited for clarity and length.


Haddon Heights Council Candidate Asiyah Kurtz. Credit: Asiyah Kurtz.

Asiyah Kurtz (D)

Anthropologist Asiyah Kurtz is seeking re-election to the Haddon Heights council on the Democratic ticket.

Kurtz was appointed to the governing body to fill the unexpired term of Bryan Schroeder, who stepped down in September 2018 .

She is defending that appointment in this election.








What is your philosophy of local government?

From a research perspective, I am interested in small towns and rural communities.

Personally, I support the arts and cultural activities, but I am concerned about environmental issues such as climate change.

I believe that local government should be transparent, inclusive and encourage (rather than discourage) critical conversations that need to happen for the long-term sustainability of the community.

Why would you like to serve on the borough council?

I am seeking election to Haddon Heights borough council because I care about the future of this town and have a professional background that lends itself well to this office.

In addition to working in community and business development, I have experience in grants management, nonprofit management, and human resources leadership. I understand that a vibrant town is not just decent roads and quality housing; it is the people, civic groups and small businesses that are the heart of a community. My commitment is to support those assets as well as our physical infrastructure.

What are the biggest challenges you foresee the town facing in the next three years? How do you propose to address them?

I believe the biggest challenge facing Haddon Heights is our aging infrastructure. Unfortunately, in the decade prior to my relocation to the town in 2016, minimal investments were made to ensure that our tree canopy, sewers, etc. were maintained commensurate with their age. Having a multi-year capital improvement plan will provide us a comprehensive picture of the projects that need to be prioritized, and will identify funding opportunities that can alleviate our financial constraints.

I am a proponent of making decisions using data, but it is impossible to know what needs to be prioritized unless we have a plan. I am fortunate to work with a council that works together for the benefit of Haddon Heights’ future, and I would be honored to continue serving with this team.

What are the biggest strengths of Haddon Heights?

The strength of Haddon Heights is its people. It sounds quaint to refer to ourselves as “the friendly community,” but (as a resident who has lived here only three years) I can attest that we are indeed a friendly town. Moving here from Memphis, Tennessee, I worried if I or my family would be welcomed into the community.

So many questions loomed: Would my children find new friends? Do neighbors look out for one another? Did we make the right decision in choosing Haddon Heights? Thankfully, my concerns were unfounded. We cannot believe how lucky we are to live here.

If elected, what can voters expect from your term of service?

If elected, voters can expect more of what I have attempted to do since I joined the Council last September.

I will ensure that we offer programming that is inclusive and accessible. I will continue to be open to hearing constituent ideas, and will welcome their feedback on the things we do well and those we could improve. Lastly, I will work creatively on solutions to our town’s challenges, and will advocate tirelessly on their behalf.


Haddon Heights Council Candidate Matt McDermott. Credit: Matt McDermott.

Matthew McDermott, 45 (R)

Matt McDermott is seeking a Haddon Heights council seat on the Republican ticket.

A certified public accountant, McDermott owns the Barrington-based South Jersey Tax Services & Associates.

He is the head wrestling coach at Haddon Heights High School, president of the Garnets Alumni Association, and coaches soccer and tee ball in the Haddon Heights youth athletic league.



What is your philosophy of local government?

For the size of Haddon Heights, I have always believed that we have too many council members (six members plus a mayor). However, there is plenty to improve on in this town, so having a broad leadership base is necessary today to divide and conquer the challenges we face.

Why would you like to serve on the borough council?

I was born and raised in Haddon Heights. After graduating from Haddon Heights High School, I attended Rutgers University and earned an accounting degree from The School of Business in New Brunswick, and later was licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

I directed audit and finance teams while working for BlackRock, Merrill Lynch, and Deloitte in New York City, Tokyo, London, and Sydney before moving back to south Jersey. Adding a licensed CPA with decades of risk-management experience to our town council will better the balance of leadership, particularly in a time when budgets are thin and investment into our infrastructure and services are the hottest topics.

I entered the race as the only candidate on the ballot that was raised in Haddon Heights, and I stand alongside parents like myself that chose to stay or return to town to raise their kids here. Whether it’s the education they received, or the great experiences they had while walking through town, participating in a sport, or attending a community event, it’s attracted them back to town.

What are the biggest challenges you foresee the town facing in the next three years? How do you propose to address them?

Our leadership shares the responsibility to constantly improve how we do things here. Our issues in Haddon Heights are larger than aging infrastructure and road maintenance. Our town will benefit by implementing a better governance framework to effectively manage financial risk.

As a licensed professional and auditor, I assess risk daily, sniffing out fraud, poor oversight, internal control weaknesses, and financial statement manipulation to the level of $1 billion on a single finding.

While our higher-risk areas in Haddon Heights include the infrastructure, let’s not forget how we look at financial sustainability, health and safety, asset protection (including how we engage Public Works), and reputation. I will bring a top-down approach to risk management to address our high-risk areas first, and will apply practical experience to effectively tackle our short- and long-term needs.

What are the biggest strengths of Haddon Heights?

Our town supports, attends, and volunteers vastly for the community parades and town-wide social events. I’ve been mostly impressed with how our youth organizations are managed. The PTG, HHYA, HHSC, HHBL, HHLC, and HG have figured it out, and continue to push so hard to provide kids with educational resources, athletic clinics, and competition.

If elected, what can voters expect from your term of service?

Unparalleled dedication.

Haddon Heights Council Candidate Jennifer Moore. Credit: Jennifer Moore.

Jennifer Moore, 45 (R)

Jennifer Moore was appointed to the Haddon Heights Council earlier this year to fill the vacancy left by the departure of Republican Councilwoman Susan Griffith, who retired in 2018.

She is defending Griffith’s unexpired term in this election.

Moore is a senior administrative assistant at a Fortune 500 firm whose interests include volunteering and travel.

Locally, she is council liaison to the Haddon Heights Shade Tree Commission.

What is your philosophy of local government?

Local government serves the borough by providing a voice for its residents in order to provide services and ensure the quality of life for all residents. It is important to maintain the two-party system at the local level as a form of checks and balances and to ensure that all residents are represented.

Why would you like to serve on the borough council?

I am running for council because I have always enjoyed volunteering and serving the community. In this role, I can utilize my business background and volunteering experience in order to preserve the high quality of life in Haddon Heights.

While in Florida, I volunteered and held leadership roles in the Jaycees, TREE Inc., and the Abilities Foundation of Florida. Since relocating to Haddon Heights, I have been very active in community events and organizations.

I am the council liaison to the Shade Tree Commission, and am currently working on the new Community Forestry Management Plan for the borough to gain accreditation for Haddon Heights. I also address residents’ concerns for tree maintenance.

What are the biggest challenges you foresee the town facing in the next three years? How do you propose to address them?

Haddon Heights is operating on a lean budget, so it is important to ensure that your tax dollars are spent wisely. With that being said, the residents of Haddon Heights enjoy and expect a high quality of life and continuation of the services provided to them. Our aging infrastructure needs to be addressed, and we need to ensure that repairs are budgeted and ordered to prevent costly expenditures of replacement in the future.

Residents would not be in favor of raising the debt or incurring any tax increase. We must strive to allocate the available funds in order to get obtain the best results. In my previous experience in negotiating vendor contracts for large corporations, I was able to lower the costs significantly. I subsequently saved several hundred thousand dollars in expenditures. It is important to review all vendor contracts to ensure sufficient bids are procured for most efficient use of funds.

What are the biggest strengths of Haddon Heights?

  • We have one of the lowest crime rates in South Jersey.
  • We have a great sense of community with lots of events for our residents to enjoy and get to know their neighbors.
  • We still maintain a two-party system of government, unlike many other towns in Camden County, where residents often do not have many options.

If elected, what can voters expect from your term of service?

I will work with fellow council members to get results that are in the best interests of the residents of the borough, regardless of party affiliation.


Haddon Heights Borough Council Candidate Tom Ottoson. Credit: Tom Ottoson.

Thomas H. Ottoson, 62

Tom Ottoson is seeking a Haddon Heights council seat on the Democratic ticket.

Owner of the Barrington-based Ottoson Adjusting & Consulting Group, he was last elected to the borough council in 2006, filling the unexpired term created by the resignation of Ken Hamburger.

Ottoson is president of St. Rose Parish, a president and trustee of the Haddon Glen Swim Club, and a member of Sustainable Haddon Heights.

His interests include cycling, hiking, swimming, and gardening.



What is your philosophy of local government?

Haddon Heights borough council provides residents a forum for community participation. The council oversees public safety and municipal assets, including greenspace. The council and local government must respond to residents’ needs and ensure the sustainability and safety of the community.

Why would you like to serve on the borough council?

I would like to serve on the borough council to make Haddon Heights a more sustainable community. If elected, I will aim to reduce the carbon footprint of our community through altering the borough’s energy use.

In addition, I intend to support the implementation of waste reduction through education and the monitoring of disposal. Through shared services, grants and oversight, I also plan to reduce residents’ tax liability.

What are the biggest challenges you foresee the town facing in the next three years? How do you propose to address them?

Our community is challenged to improve municipal services on a limited budget. Public works equipment is aged and inadequate. To address this issue in the most cost-effective and comprehensive manner, we intend to explore targeted public works shared services with Audubon.

Haddon Heights must also reduce its carbon footprint with solar power and the purchase of green energy. It is imperative that solar evaluation and financing becomes a priority for our town.

What are the biggest strengths of Haddon Heights?

Haddon Heights is a diverse community with hard-working and intelligent residents. Our community includes people with skills and knowledge of all professions and trades. We must engage all residents as one community.

Our parks, greenspace, trees, and athletic facilities are a treasure. We have a safe, clean, green community that has been, and continues to be, an outstanding place for all families to call home.

If elected, what can voters expect from your term of service?

If elected I will listen to all residents’ concerns, with transparency and accessibility, while working hard to make our town sustainable and best-equipped for the future. Together, with my fellow council members, we will move forward on our platform promises.

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