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.

Candidate Profile

Profile Date: 10/21/2021

Candidate Name: Rocky Rios

Age (as of Election Day): 32

Position Sought (term): Township Committee Member (3yr)


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Party Affiliation or Banner: Democrat

Family: Long-term committed relationship with my girlfriend Anne Marie. Have a dog named bandit (a mischievous Shiba Inu).

Education:

Undergrad- Bachelors of Engineering in Computer Engineering @ Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken

Graduate- Masters of Computer Science @ Georgia Institute of Technology

Occupation: Lead Software Engineer @ AT&T 

Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office: None

Campaign Website or Facebook page:
MiddletownStrong.org
facebook.com/rockyformiddletown

Why are you seeking office?

There is a disparity in how the township committee hears the voices of our residents. Sometimes it seems some neighborhoods don’t get heard at all. Entire communities in the township lack representation simply because they lack the resources to elect representatives that care about their local issues. So, what we get is one-party rule that only takes care of its own agenda and squelches anything the party insiders feel is a threat to that agenda. I will promote healthy discussion and debate amongst our elected representatives when it comes to issues facing our residents no matter where they live or what party they are in.

I entered as a candidate for Middletown Township Committee because I was tired of how entire neighborhoods are sidelined in our town. I saw the frustration amongst the people in this town at the effects of one political dynasty controlling everything from the greenlighting of luxury housing developments in their backyards, to acting against the will of the voters on cannabis businesses, and tacitly endorsing anti-mask & anti-vaccine misinformation with their silence at best. Middletown Residents: you deserve representation that works FOR YOU, not for the careers of a handpicked and single-minded political dynasty.

The two most important issue facing our (board, district, council, committee etc.) are _______, and ______, and this is what I intend to do about it.

  1. Transparency & Accountability of our elected officials
  2. Overdevelopment

As a humble newcomer, I must focus initially on building relationships with key players across our local government, boards, and professional staff, as well as the levels above at our county and state. I will be establishing communication with appointed officials, such as the planning board members, environmental commission, etc. Once those channels of communication are established, I can begin the work of understanding our Township’s progress against its Master Plan, understand the context in which prior decisions were made, and enhance the Township’s communication on those decisions as well as any new decisions going forward. Our residents need to not only know what decisions are being made on their behalf – but why they are made, what the alternatives were, and how the committee’s choices align with our long-term goals.

Following that theme, a careful re-examination of our Master Plan versus the surge of luxury housing developments the Township has greenlighted is overdue. The world has changed a lot over the last two years, have we been adjusting that plan appropriately as we move forward? Are we staying aligned with our long-term goals? Are the Township’s long-term goals even appropriate or in the best interest of our residents anymore? These are not questions that I alone have – these are the questions that keep our residents puzzled when they see new developments spring up, schools close, roads become more congested, and business along our major roadways fail. The answers start with rethinking the Master Plan and working with our appointed boards to sort out where we are going, where we want to go, and how we get there effectively.

Our town will continue to grow, but it needs to grow intelligently- in ways that enhance the lives of our residents.

Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform.

Property Taxes: Our township likes to tout yearly that they haven’t raised the property tax rate, so we should all be so happy! However, while this is TECHNICALLY TRUE – it is a misleading statement. Middletown, and other towns in Monmouth County that failed to opt out (as Marlboro did) from the ADP are all suffering skyrocketing yearly property tax assessments that are entirely algorithm driven. This legislation was championed by Declan O’Scanlon of the Monmouth County GOP. The township committee, no doubt at the behest of its party bosses, has fallen into lockstep and accepted this disastrous tax plan. It is in their best interest to continue to pretend that everything is fine RE: property taxes, but it’s not. The ADP is unfair: the assessments are too aggressive, and the yearly time frame makes appeals pointless and ineffective. The township is, of course, happy to reap the gains of these increased assessments and bloat their spending to match it – I believe we should be budgeting for what we need instead. 

What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?

I started at AT&T in 2011 straight out of college as an entry-level software developer. Over the past ten years, my communication and collaboration skills have propelled me into many more diverse roles. I lead innovation discussions around finding or building the best solutions to problems given cost, time, and labor constraints.  The teams that I work with rely on me to be able to engage key stakeholders in the business, understand their true needs, and design workable solutions that will satisfy not only them, but other downstream and upstream systems. My job still involves some software development, but my days always include discussion, negotiation, proposals, reviews… the types of activities I would expect those in local government be able to do well.

What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?

I’m not running for township for my own benefit. I don’t have political career aspirations- I love my job. But Middletown needs transparent leaders who communicate, discuss, and come to an agreement, and it needs somebody to run for that- so here I am. It doesn’t need leaders who subscribe to groupthink and vote however their party asks behind closed doors. I want the residents of this township to be able to engage with their elected officials and believe that their voices are considered, and I promise to do that. Your elected representatives are supposed to work FOR YOU, not for themselves, and not for their party. The will of the voters is supreme.

If you are reading this – you are likely plugged in to what is happening in your community. You realize that there is more to your civic duty to vote than picking a president once every four years. Your local representation MATTERS, and your vote in these elections HAS POWER – power to choose your representatives, and the power to guide their actions. Whether I am elected or not, your vote for me will influence the actions of the township committee during the next election cycle – they’ll remember the issues you cared deeply about that helped you decide your vote – and they’ll pay heed to them.


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Avatar of Allan Dean

Allan Dean

Allan Dean is editor, publisher, and founder of the Atlantic Highlands Herald. Published since 1999 and selected in 2000 by the Borough of Atlantic Highlands as one of their official newspapers, making...