The Atlantic Highlands Herald invited each of the candidates for office to school boards and governing bodies in Atlantic Highlands, Highlands, Middletown and Sea Bright to respond to a series of questions about themselves to better inform our readers about their campaigns. The deadline for submission is Friday, October 22. We will post their responses individually and make them available in our Politics Section.
November 2, 2021 – General Election
Profile Date: October 22, 2021
Candidate Name: Melanie Henley Heyn
Age (as of Election Day): 41
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Position Sought (term): Highlands Borough Council
Party Affiliation or Banner: Non-partisan
Family: Daniel Friberg, electrical engineer, Director of Engineering, Sungrow Solar
Education: BM University of Southern California, Los Angeles
MM Konservatorium Wien, Vienna, Austria
Occupation: Opera Singer
Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office:
Campaign Website or Facebook page: melandmel.org
Why are you seeking office?
Melissa and I met last year working at the voter registration booth at the Farmer’s Market and started walking together every day to get out of the house during quarantine. As we walked the streets and trails around Highlands, much of our time was spent discussing how much we love where we live and what needed to be done to make things work even better. So, by the time we heard no one was running for council, we had already spent some time looking into issues like flood mitigation and Bay Ave development. Anyway, it was the strangest thing, the moment I read that article, I immediately drove down to the municipal trailer and picked up two applications. We both felt so strongly about it, that there was just no question.
The two most important issue facing our (board, district, council, committee etc.) are _______, and ______, and this is what I intend to do about it.
Infrastructure improvement is our first goal, in two ways. First, a comprehensive flood mitigation system: ultimately, we got into this race because there was no plan to update and complete our current piecemeal system. We were relieved when the new Resiliency Plan was released and support its conclusions. Secondly, responsiveness to individual infrastructure needs: the best way to feel like the Borough is working for you is to have a drivable street and a working drainage system. We’re leading Infrastructure Walks from Water Witch Coffee every Saturday at 10am to talk about these issues!
Our second goal is to encourage an in-person community spirit that is separate from the polarized politics we all find online. It’s harder to be fearful of folks who think differently from you when you look them in the face. Every person we’ve talked to in town loves to live here and cares about the community as a whole. If we venture out and join with others to make our town more vibrant, the sky is the limit.
Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform.
There are many important projects in the works here in Highlands. Bay Ave redevelopment and K-12 regionalization are the most far reaching, and require careful stewardship to benefit all the residents of our town.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
When I was a kid, my dad was Township Supervisor, a cross between mayor and administrator. I saw first hand how he balanced the needs of different folks, and how land use was the most important issue, even out in the rural part of our county. Besides my day job as a musician, I have spent much of my life advocating for folks I have lived and worked with, often traveling to meet with local, state and federal representatives. Most of my efforts have been focused in two areas: the economic benefits of the performing arts to restaurant and retail businesses, and environmental causes focusing on local efforts. As it happens, I advocated in high school for the regionalization of a neighboring school district, speaking at board meetings about the benefits students had gained from my own district’s consolidation.
What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?
My driving principle is bringing people together. I grew up in a predominantly conservative area and have spent my adult life in more progressive spaces. My father is a veteran and meets regularly with other folks who served. Members of his circle have widely disparate political beliefs, and yet, they respect each other’s service and seemingly opposing beliefs. This has long been the model that has inspired me as I talk to people across the political spectrum. As Melissa and I were discussing our most deeply held beliefs, we homed in on one thought: Everyone’s a little bit right. We need to honor the history of our town, AND move it forward. We need to invest in our future, AND be mindful of costs. We need to join with neighboring communities, AND foster a communal spirit right here in Highlands.