Editor’s note: Jeff Hansen and Denice DiCarlo to learn more about their platforms and plans should they win election on Nov. 6.
Name: Jeff Hansen
Years lived in West Deptford: 20
Education: Gloucester County College, associate’s degree in marketing; Glassboro State College, bachelor’s degree in marketing/business
Occupation: Sales manager at Diener Brick Co.
Family: Married to Judy with four children—Jeff, Andrew, Justin and Bryce (deceased)
Previous elected positions: None. Appointed to the RiverWinds Advisory Board in February
What’s the top issue facing West Deptford right now?
I have three of them. Obviously, it’s our $130 million debt, but that’s already done. It is what it is right now. We have some issues in-house with our management. We have to do a top-down efficiency study of our government and straighten that out. We have to put some policies and procedures in place.
Then our next biggest thing is creating revenue—bringing in financially stable businesses. I emphasize that because our past administration dealt with businesses that weren’t financially stable, like the golf course.
What are your plans for economic development in town?
We have to highlight our assets in town, like the I-295 corridor, the RiverWinds waterfront, the two industrial parks and the nearby ports. That’s going to make our town valuable to some developers. We need to create a competitive market and we’ll be able to get someone who will invest in our town. When they invest in our town, it’s going to stabilize our taxes and increase the value of our homes.
I deal with developers all the time and consult with them for my business. There are developers who will come down and look and have a vision of how the waterfront or 295 corridor should be.
Is there a model from another town you have in mind for what the riverfront might look like?
It would be unique. There are some up in North Jersey, like in Hoboken, but there are high rises there. We’d concentrate on being responsible and not putting high rises in. We need a hub or hometown center. RiverWinds is a great location for that. We have the amphitheater, we have the community center.
The original concept of RiverWinds is great—it just got lost. Nobody paid attention to it after it went up. We have to enhance it. We can do a top-down marketing study of not just RiverWinds, but the whole town, to look for ways to generate revenue.
RiverWinds has a lot to offer, not just to residents but businesses. We have to make those things work. We have to highlight our assets, create demand and try to avoid PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) programs. We have to be responsible and not guarantee a loan for anybody. It was so irresponsible that that happened.
Back to your point on the town management: What’s the issue you see there?
Obviously, there are problems. We have a water department that’s being investigated by the attorney general—there are issues. There are some kinks in the works that have to be ironed out.
We have to bring someone in to see how things can be done more efficiently. We have to cross-train some employees that can go from one department to another, which would help save. If we have to combine some departments, then what’s what we do. But we have to make sure we don’t affect our central services. If anything, we enhance them.
West Deptford’s debt attracted Gov. Chris Christie’s attention. Is there a plan to reduce it and to avoid getting into this kind of hole again?
The debt is what is it. It’s going to be more next year with the Sunoco settlement. We’re going to have $160 million in debt. Our old debt is going to be reducing as the new debt is coming in. The way (Committeeman) Sam Cianfarini put together the financing, one’s going to be going down, the other will be going up, so it’s not really going to affect our taxes.
The way we combat debt is looking for revenue in the future and attracting big businesses to town, but doing it responsibly. Like I said earlier, we can’t just put up big buildings.
I think a lot of people are responsible for the hole we’re in, more so our previous administration. There was neglect and mismanagement on their part that got us in the whole, but everyone has to take a little responsibility—we elected those officials. Everyone has to be involved. Five, 10 years ago, everything was going great and people weren’t paying attention. All of the sudden, the economy changes a little bit and we’re hit. We have to be more responsible citizens and stay involved in our government.
How do you feel about the Eagle Point settlement?
I think it’s way overdue. It should have been settled years and years ago. The money we spent to keep it in litigation is ridiculous and then not preparing for if we did lose or did have to settle. We need to be prepared for the future—there should have been money set aside in case we did lose.
What would you like to see at Eagle Point?
Since I’m not on the committee, I don’t know the inner workings of everything that’s happening. I’ve never met with the owners of Sunoco, but I understand they’re investing a lot of money in Marcus Hook (an ex-refinery in Delaware County, PA). It’d be nice for them to do that here, but do it responsibly. We have to be good business partners. We can’t expect to put all of the burden on our businesses in town, but we should expect to be fairly treated as well.
So much of this campaign seems marked by why voters shouldn’t elect the opponent. Leaving Denice DiCarlo out of it, why should voters elect you?
We’re at a pivotal point right now in West Deptford. We have to look to development. My background is in construction and management—I’m going to be a good team member for the committee, being able to spearhead some of this development. I consult for developers and architects all the time, and it’s a big asset I can bring to the township.
I’ve also been involved with the town and our sports programs for past 20 years. We have great programs and I think we can enhance them even more. Being involved in the programs and with RiverWinds, there are ways to improve—it’s a no-brainer for me, these are things I know I can do.
We’ll end on an easy one—what’s the thing you like best about West Deptford?
It’s a great town. We first moved to Forest Creek Apartments and that’s how we got exposed to West Deptford. We thought it was a great place to raise a family. A couple years later we bought the house in town. The best thing town is the people who live here. It’s really a close-knit community and so friendly, especially for what my wife and I went through when our son (Bryce) had the brain tumor. There was an outpouring of support from everyone in town. It just made us appreciate West Deptford even more.