NJ Pen Collingswood Municipal Election Guide: Meet the Candidates 2021


On Tuesday, May 11, Collingswood voters will choose from among six candidates for three spots on its municipal government. We invited each of them to tell the electorate a little about themselves ahead of the polling.

By Matt Skoufalos | May 10, 2021

On May 11, Collingswood voters will head to the polls to elect three members of its borough municipal government for the next four years.

The field includes two slates, challengers Collingswood Together, and incumbents Team Collingswood (which also includes a first-time candidate). Regardless of any slate affiliation, candidates are elected individually.

We’ve invited each of the candidates to tell voters a little about themselves by responding to a handful of prompts below. Answers have been edited for clarity and length.

Collingswood Commission Candidate Kate Delany. Credit: Denise Guerin.

Kate Delany (Challenger)

Kate Delany is a master’s degreed English professor at Rowan University, wife of a public-school teacher, and mother to two children in the Collingswood public school district.

Delany is a cofounder and president of the Collingswood Educational Advocacy Group and Collingswood Neighbors for Change, a member and former membership chair of the Garfield Elementary School PTA, and volunteer with Tri-County Sustainability.

She is also the municipal chair of the Collingswood Democratic Committee, president of the South Jersey Progressive Democrats, and board member of the Good Government Coalition of New Jersey.

A 13-year borough resident, Delany and her siblings grew up in Maple Shade, and they share a large extended family.

A writer as well as a teacher, she enjoys civic engagement and connecting with her neighbors.

What is your philosophy of government?

I am committed to a just and transparent government that works for all people. My running mates and I came to this point of seeking elected office after years of community service in various roles. I believe that leadership involves service, respectful listening, and a focus on bringing in new voices.

At present, Collingswood’s government is very tightly consolidated; my running mates and I are interested in exploring an expansion of our local government with individuals running on staggered terms. I very much believe in the motto that “real leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders.”

Why would you like to serve on the borough commission?

I’m running because I believe a strong Collingswood is one that is resident-centered, and that prioritizes and fully funds the institutions and natural resources that we value most. I believe good government encourages public participation in municipal decision-making to map out a future that works for everyone who calls Collingswood home.

Collingswood needs responsive, transparent leaders who will serve the people without any conflict of interest. The Collingswood community is rich in creativity, generosity, and insight. I want to see the diversity and talent in Collingswood activated so all voices are heard.

What are the biggest challenges Collingswood faces?

The problems at Parkview Apartments need to be addressed, and residents need to be included in the process of drafting solutions.

Affordability also is a concern for many residents who fear being priced out of the town they love. We need to prioritize affordability or run the risk of losing the eclectic nature of our town. We need to make sure that we are investing in all of our neighborhoods. This means making sure we attend to quality-of-life resident concerns, such as road and sidewalk repairs and making sure pedestrian crossings are safe throughout town.

What are its biggest strengths?

It’s a joy to be part of the Collingswood community; to live among neighbors who are always ready to share their time and talents with others. I believe Collingswood is different from other suburbs because Collingswood residents are invested in the idea of community; in not just living in a house, but being part of something we create together.

What are three key issues on which you’d like to focus if elected?

Fiscal Accountability: We need more clarity in how public tax dollars are being spent. Bidding on contracts, rejecting “pay to play,” and providing more public participation in the budgeting process are all important to me.
When exploring public projects, we should be utilizing a social impact calculator that maps out a clear and holistic return on investment for projects funded by tax dollars. We need to work on paying down our municipal debt because revolving debt service is expensive.

Re-evaluating Our Use of Tax Breaks & Our Master Plan: It’s time to end the routine use of tax breaks for developers, which passes more expense on to taxpayers, and siphons dollars away from our public schools. We are operating under a decades-old Master Plan that has not been meaningfully re-assessed with community input.

Designating large portions of town as blighted and in need of redevelopment, prompting the use for tax breaks for big developers, might have made sense in the 90s, but Collingswood is no longer blighted. We are working off an old playbook that doesn’t necessarily make sense for Collingswood in 2021. It’s time to get up to date and with community input.

Open Up Government: We are the only Camden County municipality that doesn’t hold public working sessions where residents can see deliberative processes by the local elected officials. Closed-door decision making is both damaging to democracy and in violation of the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA).

If elected, the Collingswood Together candidates would fix this problem. We would post available board and committee seats publicly to bring in new voices. We would establish a welcoming and respectful tone at Board of Commissioner meetings so residents felt encouraged to bring new ideas to the table.

Collingswood Commission Candidate Bill Johnson. Credit: Denise Guerin.

Bill Johnson (Challenger)

Bill Johnson is a nearly 20-year Collingswood resident, a married father of five, and a scientist with tech services company Cognizant of Teaneck.

Johnson cites his childhood in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia, as having taught him the value of diversity and inclusion.

He is passionate about social justice causes, and enjoys mentoring, coaching, and helping kids.

Johnson led the Collingswood recreational soccer program for three years, helped create a local boys soccer travel program, and currently coaches a girls travel soccer team.

An endurance athlete who enjoys running, biking, and swimming, Johnson also is a member of the Collingswood Democratic Committee, co-organizing director for the South Jersey Progressive Democrats, and a core member of Embracing Race—The Conversation, a group dedicated to the dismantling of institutional racism.

What is your philosophy of government?

Good government is an institution that presents policy to the community in an open manner, and the community is allowed to give comments without feeling intimidated. Public comment must represent all segments of the population. Good government serves all the people.

Why would you like to serve on the borough commission?

I believe I understand the diverse and different interests of this town. Diversity just doesn’t mean cultural diversity, but also economic diversity. Many of the residents, new and old, feel this town is becoming unaffordable. We need leaders who genuinely value cultural and economic diversity.

What are the biggest challenges your town faces?

Collingswood is economically and culturally diverse, which drives different expectations about living standards. We see this in the differing character of our neighborhoods; ongoing issues with Parkview highlight this issue.

Diversity is a strength, but it also creates specific alignment and coordination challenges that we need to acknowledge and allow for in our planning and communication. Different groups have different levels of engagement, and we need to be agile in our leadership.

Another challenge is how this town is becoming unaffordable to our residents. The model of renting, then buying, seems to have broken. This is not unique to our town, but we are a victim of our own success. Residents who have been in our town for years now find themselves unable to stay in their homes. We need to enable new families and older residents options so that our town can continue to thrive.

What are its biggest strengths?

We have great volunteers and leaders in this town. However, many of these volunteers and leaders take on multiple roles to support our town. We need to do a better job engaging our residents to create a pipeline of leadership to share the load. This pipeline will help spur innovation and new approaches to old practices.

What are three key issues on which you’d like to focus if elected?

Parkview at Collingswood: The Parkview apartments continue to be an issue that needs to be addressed. There are working families, elderly, and working people who don’t have heat or don’t feel safe. Our neighbors there should not have to live in such deplorable conditions.

This situation is simply unacceptable. Although the current administration is taking steps now, they should have acted sooner. To that end, I would like to see an advisory board created of Parkview residents, non-Parkview residents, Parkview management, and local officials. Let us figure out and solve what’s going on with Parkview together.

Form of government: The current borough form of government of a three-person commission was enacted in 1911, and currently only 4.7 percent of New Jersey’s population is governed by this municipal form.

According to the statutes, municipalities with greater than 12,000 should have a five-person commission. I want to engage our community to consider which is the appropriate form of government.

Borough & Board of Education (BOE): Have the borough and the school board worked together to develop a long-term plan for the school system and borough? Where do we want to be in five, 10, 15, and 20 years?

I want to strengthen our relationship with the BOE to ensure we have a comprehensive plan that meets the needs of our whole community.

Collingswood Commission Candidate Rob Lewandowski. Credit: Team Collingswood.

Rob Lewandowski (Incumbent)

Rob Lewandowski is the Communications Director for the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) and a married father of three Collingswood public schoolchildren.

Lewandowski has more than 20 years of public-sector experience, and holds a master’s degree in government administration from the University of Pennsylvania.

He is also an adjunct professor at Rowan University, a U.S. Navy veteran, and an avid cyclist.

Lewandowski has served as a Collingswood commissioner since 2016, and previously served on the borough Planning and School Boards.

In the municipal government, he’s helped spearhead local projects that addressed abandoned properties, infrastructure investment, climate change policy, diversity, equity, and inclusion; and established the first Collingswood municipal creative arts committee.

What is your philosophy of government?

People sometimes confuse politics and governing. I believe governing is a unique skillset that is different from private sector management, different from partisan politics and advocacy. The Collingswood success story isn’t because we have mastered politics. If anything, it is because we refuse to roll in the mud and play D.C.-style politics.

Governing a place like Collingswood requires focus, attention to detail, collaboration, and creativity. I have said before, we do not have the resources to do whatever we want, so we’d better be resourceful. Governing isn’t about commissioners; it is about residents and local businesses, and a good public servant isn’t driven by ego or ambition, but rather by the willingness and ability to get things done despite the challenges.

Why would you like to serve on the borough commission?

Simply put, there is more to do to ensure a high quality of life for residents. Serving my community is something that is second nature to me, and serving as a Commissioner has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my work as a public servant.

Working with Jim [Maley]  and seeing his deep knowledge of municipal government has been a great experience, and I’m excited to welcome Morgan [Robinson]’s perspective to the team.

We have accomplished a great deal while minding the bottom line. I’m proud of what we’ve done, and I’m optimistic about our future to build an even better Collingswood.

What are the biggest challenges your town faces?

The question we must always grapple with is this: how do we deliver superior services, invest in our infrastructure, enhance the quality of life for our residents, and pay for it all without breaking the backs of our taxpayers?

It requires what I call the three Cs: creativity, competence, and a can-do attitude. And our team has demonstrated the ability to deliver on these principles.

What are its biggest strengths?

There really is an ethos of creativity and openness in Collingswood that is not readily found anywhere else. If I forget this, new folks move into town and gush to me about how much they love being here and how refreshingly different Collingswood is.

I feel a sense of responsibility to make sure we never lose this by focusing on community and what brings us together. Serving a diverse community requires knowledge, humility, and the ability to listen to different points of view, and I’m confident that we have the ability to continue that work.

What are three key issues on which you’d like to focus if elected?

First, I would like to focus on the redevelopment of the area along the PATCO where the present police station is. I see this area as an extension of our vibrant downtown, and it is ripe for mixed-use development and public spaces.

I envision more housing, more retail and offices, more leisure and gathering spaces, and a stronger tax base. Transit-oriented development like this is good for our residents, good for our businesses, and good for the environment.

Second, I would like to focus on continuing my work on the Collingswood Conversations initiative. Although Collingswood is a welcoming community, we strive to always improve and ensure every community member feels valued, welcome, and safe.

The next step is to create a Human Relations Committee to deeply explore the data we’ve already collected, and implement policies and programs that support all residents.

Lastly, working with the newly established Collingswood Creative Team, I want to expand and fully tap into our strengths as a community that values arts and culture.

Studies show a strong link between the arts, creativity and positive outcomes for communities. We are exploring implementing more projects in the areas of public art and creating accessible and inviting public meeting spaces in town.

Collingswood Commission Candidate Jim Maley. Credit: Team Collingswood.

Jim Maley (Incumbent)

Jim Maley is a longtime Collingswood resident who has served as mayor of the borough since 1997, and has been a member of its municipal government since 1989.

A land use attorney, married father of three, and grandfather of seven, he has overseen some of the most widespread redevelopment of Collingswood in that time, adding new businesses and residents, and helping to improve its public assets, from arts and recreation to infrastructure.

Maley is a member of the Executive Committee of the Camden County Municipal Joint Insurance Fund, chairs the New Jersey League of Municipalities Economic Development Committee, and is a member of both the Maritime Law and Camden County Bar Associations. He enjoys community theater, golfing with his wife, and spending time with their new puppy, Mulligan.

What is your philosophy of government?

Every community’s local government should always strive to achieve two seemingly opposite purposes: to continually change the quality of life for the better while constantly working to honor and maintain the fabric of the community we love.

At its best, government facilitates and empowers the great ideas and work of its citizens. In Collingswood, that means projects like May Fair, Farmers Market, rec programs, handrails at businesses, clean-ups in the park, and on and on.

This is the work I’m most proud of: that we have constantly evolved and changed while keeping it the same and building on our strengths.

Why would you like to serve on the borough commission?

They say “If you find a job you love, you never have to work again,” and serving Collingswood has been like that for me. I love the work I do as a Commissioner. Helping people, solving problems, and making my hometown the best it can be for all residents—it’s a dream job, and one I cherish.

I’ve lived this philosophy since day one: do what I can, while I can, to improve the quality of life for Collingswood. My running mates Morgan and Rob have that same commitment. When you weigh your vote, please consider our record of accomplishments and our sincere dedication to our town.

Collingswood is a special place, and it’s no accident. Every step along the way—from the shared sense of community to the revitalization of our town, to the investments we have made in our infrastructure—were all carefully considered, and I look forward to the opportunity to continue that work.

What are the biggest challenges your town faces?

As we enter 2021, Collingswood will be facing some of its toughest challenges coming out of the pandemic. While our businesses will have a tough road, our families and our schools will go through a transition unlike anything we have ever experienced, and we will all be tested to support each other as a community.

Recovery for our community is underway, but there will be new challenges. I genuinely believe the collective strength we built upon in 2020, along with a little luck, love and fun, will carry us through.

More than ever, I am looking forward to continuing to serve Collingswood, working to ensure our families and neighborhoods flourish again, and rebuilding our business community.

What are its biggest strengths?

The people. Hands down. It has not mattered when or where or for what cause, this community has always stepped up.

Whether it was the end of the 90s, when, in our version of an urban barn-raising, people volunteered to remake storefronts in the downtown; or in the 2000s, when people approached us with the idea to hold a farmers’ market.

Or a theatre troupe of plumbers and teachers who wanted to put on shows; or during the pandemic, when residents donated more than $60,000 to help their neighbors, and gave their time to assist our most vulnerable—Collingswood has always brought out the best in people.

We have done things a little differently here, and in so many ways, this kind of connection—among elected officials, staff, residents, and businesses—makes Collingswood utterly unique and wonderful. Not many places feel as special, and that’s why our tagline rings true: “Collingswood is where you want to be.”

What are three key issues on which you’d like to focus if elected?

First on my list is pandemic recovery. That covers a wide variety of initiatives that touch just about everything we work on: social services, business recovery, fiscal strength, health and well-being, and overall quality of life.

We cannot do it alone. We have to work with residents, businesses, and government at every level. Just this week, we convened a meeting with our COVID Recovery Committee and Governor Phil Murphy to discuss tangible ways we can collaborate. I am optimistic about our future, but there is a lot of work ahead of us.

Second, I’d like to see our work in sustainability continue. Continuing to add to our 40-plus programs and policies to follow best practices to reduce waste, save energy, and protect our natural resources is key. Specifically, I’d like to work on a municipal composting program, complete our electric vehicle charging stations, and improve stormwater management.

Lastly, implementing improvements and plans that are part of our Connect 2020 Bicycle and Pedestrian plan is important to me. Slowing traffic down, encouraging more walking and biking, and connecting to employment, public transportation, and community spaces is a priority and something we hear from residents about frequently. Completing the plan last year makes us eligible for all sorts of funding to finally make these changes a reality.

Collingswood Commission Candidate Morgan Robinson. Credit: Team Collingswood.

Morgan Robinson (Challenger)

Morgan Robinson is an 18-year Collingswood resident and mother of three who works as an editorial production manager with Elsevier of Philadelphia.

Robinson’s deep roots in the community include years spent in its business district, where her shop, Frugal Thrift & Vintage, raised funds for several local charities over its 10-year run.

Locally, Robinson has volunteered with Collingswood elementary school libraries and arts nights as well as with the Collingswood Green Festival.

She also is a member of LGBTQ+ Elsevier Pride and Night Out Collingswood. Robinson resides with her partner and three cats, and loves sketching, gardening, and enjoying friends in her spare time.

What is your philosophy of government?

Government has responsibilities to administer basic services, but also to improve and shape our communities into the place our residents want it to be by actively listening, finding common ground, and adapting to meet community needs.

If elected, I see my role as being a public servant with a duty to listen to residents and always work on their behalf.

Why would you like to serve on the borough commission?

I want to serve on commission to give back to the community that I love. I believe I can bring a fresh perspective to the team that I am running with in Column 2.

Our town can most benefit from a combination of new voices and experienced ones that are willing to collaborate for the betterment of our town. It takes both the welcoming of new perspectives and a deep understanding of how government and policy work to be effective.

I am so happy to bring my ideas for a better Collingswood, and to work with Jim and Rob. They both have shown exemplary leadership and innovation in making Collingswood what it is today, and managing an unprecedented crisis.

I’m also excited about projects on the horizon, like the revitalization of the spaces around the PATCO station and the soon-to-be-former police station, areas we can reimagine for best use as a community that all residents can be proud of and enjoy.

What are the biggest challenges your town faces?

Finding our way back from the pandemic will not happen overnight. We need to continue the innovative thinking and leadership that has made our town’s success possible.

If we keep asking how we can help and listen to what people need, I believe we can help our businesses and neighbors not only recover but thrive. I look forward to working with our residents, businesses and other members of the Borough’s COVID Recovery Committee to implement new programs and build upon our past successes.

What are its biggest strengths?

The deep sense of community that we enjoy in Collingswood is my favorite part of living here. We are all part of something incredibly special. We rally for families in need, unite for justice, and come together in celebration in beautiful ways.

I love that my biracial children are safe and welcome here, and I love our strong LGBTQ+ community. I am so happy to call Collingswood home for the past 18 years.

I also feel strongly that my running mates listen to ideas from the community. I experienced that firsthand as a business owner in town. So many of the wonderful things about Collingswood are a result of residents and government working together.

What are three key issues on which you’d like to focus if elected?

Healing and rebuilding from the pandemic is the most pressing in my mind. There are so many things we’ve had to cope with in the last year: residents who’ve lost their jobs, business owners suffering losses, parents dealing with virtual learning while they work from home.

I want to focus on supporting the efforts the Commission’s COVID Recovery Committee to ensure that we are working alongside residents in a collaborative way.

Environmental sustainability is also something I would like to work on to help continue the work of [former Collingswood Commissioner]Joan Leonard. I wholeheartedly support the work the of the Borough and Green Team in this area, establishing Collingswood as a leader with programs and policy.

I also am excited about completing the work of the Connect 2020 Bike and Pedestrian Plan because it will allow greater mobility for pedestrians and bicyclists to travel safely in town.

Lastly, living in a supportive community is especially important to me as a mother of biracial children. I hope to contribute to the Commission’s Collingwood Conversations program for supportive programming. I want to work on implementing even more inclusive policies for our community.

Collingswood Commission Candidate Jen Rossi. Credit: Denise Guerin.

Jen Rossi (Challenger)

Jen Rossi is a nine-year Collingswood resident and mother who works as a digital marketing manager for insurance brokerage ECBM of West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.

Locally, Rossi is a cofounder of the Collingswood Educational Advocacy Group and also serves on the Collingswood Public School District Equity Committee and Collingswood borough Police Chief Advisory Committee.

A native of Brooklyn, New York, she volunteers as a Troop co-leader and member of the service unit with the Girl Scouts of Central and Southern New Jersey.

Rossi also is a chapter leader and member of the national leader council for the youth development scouting group, Navigators USA.

What is your philosophy of government?

Good government enables people to live their best lives.

Why would you like to serve on the borough commission?

Our neighbors deserve a chance to feel like they are a part of the process, and that their ideas and vision are both valued and respected. I feel that my life experiences and enthusiasm can help encourage our neighbors to be a part of what is next for Collingswood.

What are the biggest challenges your town faces?

High real estate pricing is making it difficult for renters to be able to buy homes in a town where they have already established roots. I would like to have conversations with real estate professionals to see if we could work together to allow for exclusive listings so families looking to up- or down-size can look in town first.

Another challenge will be building and maintaining a “pipeline to leadership,” so that Collingswood may benefit from the life and experiences of our neighbors as we move forward. These residents can become involved with those things that we love in Collingswood so that there are hands to make it happen.

What are its biggest strengths?

Collingswood is a magnet for awesome people. The people here are willing to lend a hand, welcome new neighbors, and make the world a better place. It is the responsibility of leadership to channel that energy.

What are three key issues on which you’d like to focus if elected?

CERT (Community Emergency Response Team): When Collingswood faces a crisis, it is good to know that we have our First Responders as well as nearby services to call on. But for ongoing issues, it would be helpful to the pros if there would be an organized group of volunteers to help with things like wellness checks after power outages and contacting residents who may need resources.

With our new emergency services building, this would be a great way to encourage more community members to be engaged and consider this service to our community as a career option.

Youth Commissioners/ Youth Leadership Council: Our young people deserve a voice in the direction of our community. I feel that amplifying their voices and hearing their concerns helps feed that pipeline to leadership.

By engaging with an ad-hoc committee of Collingswood’s young people, it allows for better transparency of the process, and connects their families and their peers with what is happening and how they can also get involved in issues and ideas that they care about.

Our public-school students have a voice on our Board of Education; why not at the town level?

Contract Audits: To make sure that expectations are being met and are adjusted on both sides; to make sure that Collingswood taxpayers are not paying for services that are not being utilized, and that we are receiving services that we need.

I want to take a conscious spending approach to make sure that what is in our budget aligns with Collingswood’s values and future plans.

Voter Information

Scroll down for links to your local sample ballot and a list of polling places, which are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 11. After you vote, come back and check with NJ Pen for the results as they come in.

Local Polling Place Finder

Here’s a list of local polling places within Collingswood.

Don’t know where to vote? Here’s how to find your polling place by address.

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