Collum Reelection Campaign Kicks off in South Orange
The campaign slate of Sheena Collum, Summer Jones, Jen Greenberg, and Olivia Lewis-Chang formally kicked off the 2023 campaign season on Sunday, promising a continued focus on property taxes, economic development, community engagement, and sustainability.
With March being “Women’s History Month,” the acknowledgment of four women running together for the first time wasn’t lost on attendees.
“For the first 100 years since being incorporated in 1869, there wasn’t a single woman on the governing body,” said Collum, the first woman elected Village President in 2015 and seeking her third term. “We’re still playing catch up.”
Collum went on to highlight the work achieved over the past four years, including over $250M in commercial and mixed-use investments, a new Master Plan, compliance with affordable housing obligations two years ahead of schedule, back-to-back bond rating upgrades, the upcoming completion of the Baird Community Center and her hope to break ground on the new 21st-century public library by the end of the year. She noted a 15% reduction in part 1 crimes compared to 2019, an overall 50% reduction in crime over the past decade, and a laser focus on motor vehicle and pedestrian safety, calling it a “banner year” for enforcement of moving violations. Collum is also credited with launching the newly merged South Essex Fire Department, the most prominent public safety consolidation of two towns in the State. She received the “Outstanding Women in Municipal Government Award” in 2022 from the New Jersey State League of Municipalities for her leadership in policy and advancing women in government.
Jones, first elected in 2019 and seeking a second term as Trustee, is lauded for initiating a series of cultural celebrations, including Black History Month offerings, and improving communications and engagement throughout town. She also helped secure a Neighborhood Preservation Grant, which will provide $125,000 a year for up to five years along the Irvington Avenue Corridor. As Chair of Strategic Partnerships and Community Engagement, she led visioning sessions for the Peaks on Irvington Avenue, the Vincent Monella Community Center, the revitalization of Carter Park, and the Cameron Recreation Area. As liaison to the Community Relations Committee, new volunteer management processes were created, and the group worked to celebrate community volunteers by reestablishing the Villager of the Month program and the Village Spotlight.
“Moving forward, I will continue to focus on communication and technology, arts and cultural affairs, and pedestrian safety,” said Jones. “As a Trustee, we focus on specific areas but take part in all decisions that affect the town. We need to be willing to collaborate, research, and step outside of our comfort zones.”
New to politics but seasoned in community activism and volunteerism, Greenberg and Lewis-Chang round out the ticket.
Greenberg, born and raised in the Montrose section of South Orange, recalled returning to her hometown and wanting her children to experience the diversity, inclusion, and public schools she had growing up. A resident of Newstead with her blended family of five, Jen has served in various roles, including past president of her neighborhood association, an active member of multiple PTAs, and her synagogue, Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel. Most recently, she served as a Master Plan Ambassador, facilitating dialogue with community stakeholders on land use spanning the next 10-20 years. As a realtor, she hopes to support small businesses and provide more housing options.
“I see a great need in our market for housing choice for people looking to downsize and stay local,” said Greenberg. “As a Trustee, I want to work on the recently adopted Accessory Dwelling Units rollout and create policies that will provide for more condos and townhomes in addition to the hot rental market.”
Lewis-Chang, a 26-year resident of South Orange, has been passionate about community building and the environment for many years. Being the daughter of immigrant parents of mixed ancestry, she recalled her family’s desire to stay connected to the land, seek out the highest levels of education, and belonging.
“My story is hitched to a painting in my office that says, ‘all roads are good,’ which comes from indigenous voices on life and culture,” said Lewis-Chang. “It is on that road that I want to serve as a Trustee – to listen with intention and embrace others on this journey.”
Having attained the highest degree in her profession, Lewis-Chang has worked for 25 years as a clinical psychologist and wants to focus on mental health and wellness, referencing that New Jersey statistics show a high rate of adults and children struggling, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic. Within the community, Lewis-Chang is well known for her role in establishing the community garden, where she serves as Chair and is also a Commissioner on the Environmental Commission. She acknowledged the community’s vital role in passing a “greener and more sustainable baton to the next generation.” With a 6-month-old granddaughter and a 90-year-old mother, Lewis-Chang closed by emphasizing the importance of creating an intergenerational village where all needs can be met through harnessing unique experiences and wisdom.
The candidates closed by thanking everyone in attendance and announcing that upcoming events would be posted on their website shortly. Residents are encouraged to engage deeper in discussion as a part of the campaign’s listening tours which will be hosted in every neighborhood over the next seven weeks.
The South Orange municipal election will occur on Tuesday, May 9, and polls will be open from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm.
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We need at least one more senior housing unit. The HUD building here has at least a 3 year waiting list! Just seniors please! The current housing units with their 10%?? allocation to seniors and vets is laughable.