[editor's note: There are four candidates for two full term (3 year) seats on the Atlantic Highlands Borough Council. We reached out to all the candidates and received responses from three out of four AH Council Candidates for this series.
We will publish them over the next 3 days. Today we will meet Lori Hohenleitner; on Tuesday we'll meet Ellen O'Dwyer Woods, and Wednesday we'll meet from Jon Crowley. David Kupinsky did not respond to our request. The photos were submitted by the candidates.]
ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, NJ - Local politics impacts the lives of residents daily. Yet, most newspapers prefer to report on state or national politics rather than the races in the towns that they cover. Voters should have the opportunity to know a little about their municipal candidates as well as state and national candidates.
I had the opportunity to interview incumbent Atlantic Highlands Council member, Lori Hohenleitner. What follows is the transcript of that interview.
JFG: How long have you held your present office?
Lori Hohenleitner: I was appointed to my position in 2018 when a member of council unexpectedly moved out of town. I was then elected to the seat in a special election that November.
JFG: What was the catalyst for you to seek public office?
Lori Hohenleitner: “To be honest, I was not planning to seek public office. I volunteer quite a bit and have always been civic-minded. I was regularly attending council and planning board meetings before I was appointed out of a genuine interest in how decisions are made and what issues are important in our municipality. I decided to run in 2018 because I felt that my experience both in the community and as a resident brought a different perspective. I also believe we need more women at the table in all levels of leadership.”
JFG: What do you believe to be your greatest achievement since taking office?
Lori Hohenleitner: “I am proud of a lot of things since taking office and I suppose in an election year it would be smart to take credit for all of them in a big list. I view achievement through the lens of how I serve the community and what difference have I made that have had a positive impact on residents. In this vein, I am very proud that we have new water refilling stations in the harbor and in borough hall and the shuttles that we have set up to connect our seniors living across the highway with residents during town-wide events such as parades and the annual tree lighting. Additionally, I am proud to have written the resolution creating the Open Space Trust Advisory Committee. There is not a day that goes by that I am not connecting with residents of all ages to hear their concerns and ideas. Knowing that residents think I am approachable is important to me.”
JFG: What do you see as your biggest mistake since taking office?
Lori Hohenleitner: “This is a tough question. I am proud of my record since taking office and regret very little. I am someone who assumes positive intentions and perhaps I have at times been surprised when local government gets overly political. After all, we are all neighbors before, during, and after every meeting, event, and election.”
JFG: Going forward, after the election, what is your main priority/goal and how do you plan on achieving that goal? (pet project)
Lori Hohenleitner: “After the election, my main priority will be to continue to improve communication between residents and the members of council, especially as it relates to potential development and major projects proposed in Atlantic Highlands. This was why I started attending community meetings, myself. There are many ways residents can be aware of what is on the agenda and increasing every interested resident’s awareness of the issues facing the town will help foster dialogue between the governing body and the folks who elected us.”
JFG: What are the 3 main issues facing your community/district, and how do you plan on addressing them?
Lori Hohenleitner: “Property taxes are and should always be top of mind when we talk about issues facing our community. With property values skyrocketing, we need to find ways to ensure residents do not also have skyrocketing costs to bear. As a member of the finance committee, I will continue to protect the services provided to residents while making sure we are efficient and mindful of our resources. As a small business owner, myself, I know how difficult this year has been on so many levels for all businesses. I will continue to work with businesses on First Avenue and throughout the borough to make sure they have support from the local government with flexibility to help them continue when the weather gets colder and beyond. Our infrastructure has been in need of updating and repair and I am proud to have been on the council when the first major road projects were approved. We need to continue these critical repairs throughout the borough and I will continue to encourage applications for grants to subsidize these projects, which we have done successfully with kudos to our borough engineer, Doug Rohmeyer and our Borough Administrator, Adam Hubeny.”
JFG: Politically, what are your beliefs, what is your “platform”?
Lori Hohenleitner: “I am a proud progressive Democrat, which frankly has very little relevance to local government, but is a statement of values. I am committed to inclusivity, fairness, access and as that relates to decision-making, I am committed to all of our borough employees and advocate for them when appropriate. Additionally, I believe strongly that government should provide a platform for residents to express their opinion and wishes, not limit public comment. Finally, I remember always that the people we serve are our neighbors and everyone is experiencing different challenges in life. Government, to me, should serve the needs of all residents and we are responsible to them first and foremost.”
JFG: Regarding COVID19, do you believe that the state/county/town has made the correct decisions in attempting to mitigate the virus? Do you believe that we should open restaurants, theaters, gyms, etc., completely?
Lori Hohenleitner: “I am incredibly proud of the steps taken by our government at all levels. We have prioritized protecting our employees and our residents and the essential business of the borough has been continuing throughout this state of emergency. I watch the numbers every day and I am grateful that our state has been cautious and that the majority of NJ residents have been following recommended protocols. Our family business has adjusted like many and we have completely changed the way we operate to meet the needs of our customers while protecting our staff. I personally have been patronizing local businesses that take the risks seriously and have shown respect for and a commitment to their employees. When the science, data, health experts say it is safe to fully reopen, I will support full reopening.”
JFG: Should wearing a mask be legislated?
Lori Hohenleitner: “I believe that there should be guidelines put in place by scientists and doctors who are experts on data and transmission. We have put restrictions in place at municipal-owned and operated locations, which do include mask wearing guidelines.”
JFG: Tell us about you, the person. Who are you?
Lori Hohenleitner: “I am a lifelong community servant. Service is truly the core of who I am and anyone who knows me would say that. In my professional life I am the Executive Director of a local affiliate of Horizons National, an award-winning, tuition-free, academic and enrichment program serving children from under-resourced communities. The causes that I am most dedicated to are all grounded in social justice, inclusivity, and access. I am very proud ally to the LGBTQ+ community. As president of the Junior League of Monmouth County, I am an advocate for women and women’s voices in all levels of government and private sector positions. I have served on the board of the Holmdel Theater Company, The Source at Red Bank Regional High School, The Henry Hudson Tri-District Education Foundation, and other non-profits in Monmouth County and New York City.
I’ve been with my husband Paul Anselmo (known locally as the Jersey Shore Coffee guy) for twelve years and we are proud parents to our rescue dogs. As avid sports fans, we are missing our tailgates at Giants games. We spend many of our evenings on First Avenue, even now.”.
As the election nears, we wish all of the local candidates success in all they do.