NJ Pen 2020 Election Coverage: Meet the Haddon Heights Borough Council Candidates


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

By Matt Skoufalos | October 20, 2020

On November 3, voters in Haddon Heights will choose from among four balloted candidates for two seats on the borough council.

Democrats Trisha Egbert and Regina Philipps appear on the ballot alongside Republicans Kevin Ehret and Joseph Pangaro.

We invited everyone to reply to the same set of prompts, telling voters about themselves, their priorities, and their views of the current state of the community. Answers were edited for clarity and length.

Trisha Egbert. Credit: Trisha Egbert.

Trisha Egbert, 38 (Challenger, Democrat)

Trisha Egbert coordinates the writing center at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, where she is an assistant professor of writing.

A married mother of three, Egbert is an active volunteer both within Haddon Heights, and with organizations like The Gift of Life and the American Red Cross.

She is a lifelong Haddon Heights resident who loves “all Philadelphia sports, country concerts, a good book on the beach, and online shopping.”

What is your philosophy of government?

Government is here to serve all people regardless of individual political ideology.

It is here to make our country, state, and towns safer, and to provide services to help make communities better with the interests of the people in mind. This is what I am here to do.

I want to be an advocate for and serve everyone in Haddon Heights. This will require me to engage with people in the community, and listen to the concerns, needs, and ideas of our constituents to help our community flourish.

Why would you like to serve on borough council?

I have three young children, and the decisions we make today will impact them, and all families like mine, in this town for years to come. What better reason is there to get involved in local government than to improve our town for the next generation of Garnets?

This is exactly what my mom and dad did for me and for my siblings growing up. This is what most parents do. We want better for our babies; we want to raise them in the best town, and I firmly believe, as a parent and taxpayer, we want to see return on our investment in this community.

I plan to help make Haddon Heights an even better place to live, easing the tax burden on our residents by attracting new businesses into town, and developing new community events and activities. I want my taxes and yours to go back to the borough in ways that will positively impact our lives and the values of our homes: beautification projects, infrastructure enhancements, and energy-efficient solutions to reduce our carbon footprint and save our town money.

Further, I would like to see neighbors coming together to celebrate, to have fun, and to enjoy our town through annual events like the annual Fourth of July parade. But I also want to begin new traditions that will foster a sense of belonging and boost community morale.

What are the biggest challenges our town faces?

Although I firmly believe Haddon Heights is a truly remarkable place to live, there is room for improvement. Some of the biggest challenges we face as a community are aging infrastructure and vacant businesses. Regina and I have a plan to tackle these issues, as outlined in our platform.

What are its biggest strengths?

As a lifelong resident of Haddon Heights, I can say unequivocally that our residents are our biggest strength. This is why so many people come back to town to raise their families (Jon and I did!).
Town sports, community events, the downtown hometown feel of Station Avenue, Haddon Glen, the Fourth of July parade in the summer and the holiday parade in the winter are just a few examples of what makes Haddon Heights so remarkable.

We, the community members joining together to keep Heights flourishing, are what makes our town the best place to call home.

What are the three key issues on which you would like to focus if elected?

My running mate Regina Philipps and I absolutely love this town, and we want to make Haddon Heights even better.

Firstly, we plan to focus on maintaining and growing our businesses in both our downtown and along our borders on the Black and White Horse Pikes.

Secondly, we want to identify ways to help fund and improve our aging infrastructure, and to support local beautification projects and ensure the preservation of the town’s historic trees and parks.

Thirdly, we want to foster a sense of belonging, inclusivity, and town pride through the enhancement of current traditions, such as the Fourth of July parade, as well as the development of new events and community gatherings.

Kevin Ehret. Credit: Kevin Ehret.

Kevin Ehret, 52 (Challenger, Republican)

When he’s not working around the house, commercial automotive consultant Kevin Ehret volunteers with a military support group and a group that delivers holiday meals to seniors and the disabled.

He is also president of the local historical society in Magnolia, where he previously resided.

What is your philosophy of government?

As a moderate conservative, I believe in limited government.

As a member of council, we will be there to nurture and help the town grow, and not burden residents and business with more restrictions.

Why would you like to serve on the borough council?

As the third generation in my family to serve in local government, I want to bring ideas that will not only shape the town for future generations, but will protect what our past leaders have created for us.

What are the biggest challenges the town faces?

As a long established town, there are limits to creating growth. We need to utilize what assets we currently have, and come up with innovative solutions to safeguard and grow for the future.

What are its biggest strengths?

First and foremost, one of our biggest strengths is our residents. Although we may not always agree, we do come together to help and support each other and the good of the community.

Next are our choice of quality schools, our beautiful parks and playgrounds, and our unique business districts, where the proprietors are a part of the community.

Name three key issues on which you would focus if elected.

My first priority is to improve the business corridors. I’ve helped three businesses relocate to Haddon Heights, and there are several more that I’d like to bring to town to inhabit our underused properties.

Next, I would focus on improving our streets. A lot of our streets haven’t been improved in years, and it’s only going to get worse.

I’d also like to increase our sustainability efforts by finding ways to save and decrease our carbon footprint, and increase our recycling efforts.

Joseph Pangaro. Credit: Joseph Pangaro.

Joseph Pangaro, 35 (Challenger, Republican)

Joseph Pangaro is a commercial lawyer with Duane Morris of Philadelphia, a married father, and a three-year Haddon Heights resident.

Pangaro is happiest when spending time with family, but also loves reading about American history and watching college football, where you’ll find him cheering on Auburn University.

What is your philosophy of government?

I am running for local office, so my focus is on local government.

In my view, the local government’s presence in people’s lives should be as small as possible.

We should have a great police force, reliable public works, and otherwise work hard to keep people’s taxes low.

For most things, I firmly believe the residents in the community should determine how the community grows and develops. Haddon Heights has great examples of citizens stepping up to create value for the community, including the business organization HIP and the community improvement project Heights Grows.

In my opinion, local government should support organizations like these and the people who are part of them, offer assistance when needed, but otherwise get out of their way.

Why would you like to serve on the borough council?

I love Haddon Heights, and I want it to continue to be one of the best places in New Jersey to raise a family. My wife and I moved here a little over three years ago, and we cannot imagine living anywhere else.

Because I care so much about the town, I am committed to doing whatever I can to help the community thrive. Frankly, I am concerned with some of the trends I have seen in town since I moved in, including, for instance, steadily increasing taxes and empty storefronts in our business districts.

What are the biggest challenges the town faces?

In my opinion, the biggest challenge is that some of the things that make Haddon Heights so wonderful seem to be disappearing, and we are at risk of turning into “just another Pike town.” Taxes are up, which makes it hard for some residents to afford to stay, and hard for people to decide to move here.

What are its biggest strengths?

The people. Haddon Heights is special because the people in town care about each other, and care about the community. Our relationships with our neighbors and local businesses are what sets this town apart. The people here are invested in each other and this town’s success, and it shows.

Name three key issues on which you would focus if elected.

If sharing services cut our costs, that would be great. But if the shared services agreement increased our costs, then what sense does it make?

Another area of concern for me is the abandoned storefronts scattered across our business districts. This was a problem before the pandemic, and I am seeing it grow every month now.

One way I propose to deal with this is to pass an ordinance that offers owners of commercial property benefits (such as a tax break) if they re-let their premises within a year.

Another way I have been trying to deal with it is by patronizing local businesses whenever possible, and doing so publicly by sharing my experience on social media.

Regina Philipps. Credit: Regina Philipps.

Regina Philipps, 34 (Challenger, Democrat)

Regina Philipps is a civil attorney and partner at the Haddonfield law firm of Madden & Madden who holds a juris doctorate from the Rutgers School of Law in Camden.

A three-year Haddon Heights resident, and a married mother who enjoys fitness and live music, Philipps also advocates for the rare disease community, both locally and throughout the state.

What is your philosophy of government?

I believe that local government should be accessible, transparent, and inclusive.

Local government should serve as a sounding board for its residents while advancing the interests of the community as a whole.

Why would you like to serve on the borough council?

I was raised on the importance of hard work and good will. I am fortunate to have been highly educated, I have extensive experience with nonprofit fundraising and legislative advocacy, and I am dedicated to causes that are close to my heart.

I believe that I can put my background to good use, and that there is no better place to make a difference than in the town I love. This is why the platform Trisha Egbert and I share is, “Here For Heights.” We hope to serve the residents and families of Haddon Heights in any and every way to ensure the town remains the best place to call home.

What are the biggest challenges the town faces?

Managing the budget is a significant challenge that is paramount to the long-term objectives of the town. In Haddon Heights, taxes are funded primarily by residents due to its small commercial footprint. We must look to increase local economic development and ratables while also ensuring that we obtain a return investment on our tax funds.

Business development will require thinking outside of the box and beyond the traditional Station Avenue business district. The town also should continue pursuing shared services options—which already have proven successful with the sharing of Public Works between Haddon Heights and Audubon—as long as those alternatives preserve the quality of services.

The continued financial investment of Camden County in our town, with our parks and recreation, should also remain a primary focus.

What are its biggest strengths?

Our town has strong roots and traditions that keep families living here for generations, and also attract new families looking to move to the area, such as my family.

We moved here on St. Patrick’s Day 2017 and we never felt so lucky. Haddon Heights has great schools, public safety services, public works, council, businesses, organizations, volunteers, and residents. In addition, the town is safe, clean, beautiful, and welcoming to all.

Name three key issues on which you would focus if elected.

Our platform is: business, infrastructure, and community.

We want to implement novel ideas to advocate for existing businesses and attract new businesses; support local beautification projects and identify long-term solutions to improve aging roads and sewers while encouraging sustainability; and boost community spirit and unity by fostering existing traditions as well as creating new events and activities.

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