LETTER: Bedminster incumbents ‘serve their neighbors’

TO THE EDITOR: Come Nov. 8, I will be voting for Doug Stevinson and Gina Fernandez for the Bedminster Township Committee to help them continue making positive contributions to the great quality of life enjoyed by Bedminster residents.

I moved to Bedminster 30 years ago, attracted by the green spaces, the low taxes and its location. Over the years I have met many people who make the time to serve their community, whether on boards in The Hills, committees in the town or on the Township Committee.

Doug and Gina are such people. They, too, treasure what Bedminster has to offer and have worked hard to keep its strengths and meet the community’s needs. They do this by leveraging their skills and experience.

For Doug, that is ensuring he reads the fine print, considers all options and asks key questions to ensure the best outcome is reached.

For Gina the first question she always asks is, “What is best for all of the residents in Bedminster?” and then advocates for the solution that will best serve the residents rather than what is expedient or popular.

Doug is seeking a third term on the committee. During this time he helped us navigate through the uncertainty of the Covid pandemic ensuring no interruption in services.

He is the committee liaison to the police, fire and the public works departments, and his commitment to both the needs of those who serve, as well as those who are served, is always apparent.

Doug judiciously protects Bedminster’s future through optimal management of our affordable housing program and establishing reasonable zoning regulations to improve our community.

He also looks to grow recreation options through his championing of the dog park, hike and bike path extension, refurbishment of the Pluckemin Schoolhouse Park and obtaining grant funding for community garden construction.

Gina is seeking a second term on the Township Committee. During her time on the committee, her commitment to the people of Bedminster has never wavered.

In her role as the human resources liaison, she has ensured the best candidates for 12 township positions were identified and hired.

Gina is also the liaison to the Recreation Department and Recreation Advisory Committee, partnering to sponsor events such as the Halloween trunk-or-treat, free outdoor movie night and a relaunch of Fall Fest.

She joined forces with others in Somerset County to launch the Stamp out the Stigma initiative, taking the role of county liaison and Township Committee resource to make certain that our community is made aware of the numerous mental health services available to residents.

Bedminster is such a special place because of the people who look to serve the needs of their neighbors, both now and in the future, which is why Doug and Gina will be getting my vote.

Please consider doing the same on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

BARBARA BAUMANN
Wendover Court
The Hills
Bedminster Township

Editor’s note: This Letter to the Editor originally appeared in The Bernardsville News.

LETTER: Stevinson, Fernandez are ‘Champions for Bedminster’

TO THE EDITOR: This year’s contest for Bedminster Township Committee features two highly accomplished incumbents running for re-election, Committeeman Doug Stevinson and Committeewoman Gina Fernandez.

The hallmarks of serving the community are time and dedication, which these two candidates have demonstrated in abundance.

Now in his sixth year on the Township Committee, Doug previously served on the Bedminster Land Use Board, Recreation Committee, Bedminster-Far Hills Little League as former president, and Friends of the Jacobus Vanderveer House.

Gina, who is completing her first term on the Township Committee, has been a constant presence, volunteering for the Bedminster Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), vice president, the PTO Spring Fling, co-chair, Bernards High School Project Graduation, chair, and 12 years as a Girl Scout troop leader.

But the work doesn’t stop come Election Day – quite the opposite. I sit on many boards in Bedminster, including serving as the chair of the Land Use Board, president of my local condo association and treasurer of the Hills Village North Master Association. I can tell you from personal experience that the best board members are the busiest ones, and Doug and Gina are no exceptions.

When Doug saw blighted buildings in Pluckemin Village, he sprang into action, using his legal expertise to craft what is commonly referred to as a “zombie ordinance.” It essentially forces landowners to address derelict properties or face fines and potential condemnation.

That’s the reason those abandoned buildings on Route 206 were demolished, and the vacant house next to the Exxon station removed. Like many Hills residents, I can’t thank Doug enough for leading the efforts to eradicate those eyesores.

Doug has continued to advocate for all residents on a variety of complex issues, be it open space grants for our new community garden, affordable housing obligations or the capital investments necessary to maintain our extensive inventory of roadways and trails.

Never content to be on the sidelines, he is the quarterback that energizes the organization and consistently delivers results for team Bedminster.

Similarly, Gina, a teacher by trade, is all business.

She has overseen numerous staffing decisions following the retirement of several Bedminster institutions, including our clerk/administrator, DPW director and now our chief of police. In every instance, Gina’s steady hand and forthright approach have ensured continuity of services and no disruption to Bedminster residents.

Those who know Gina recognize the passion she brings to any project she takes on.

She’s the force behind Fall Fest, new Rec Department programs like trunk-or-treat and the township’s efforts to address mental health issues in concert with Communities in Crisis.

Her experience across a wide variety of disciplines and her infectious enthusiasm makes Gina the go-to person who simply gets things done.

On Nov. 8, I plan on voting for the team that are champions for Bedminster.

Please join me in re-electing Committeeman Doug Stevinson and Committeewoman Gina Fernandez to the Bedminster Township Committee.

CAROL GUTTSCHALL
Heatherwood Lane
Bedminster Township

Editor’s note: This Letter to the Editor originally appeared in The Bernardsville News.

LETTER: Stevinson, Fernandez put Bedminster residents first

TO THE EDITOR: Doug Stevinson and Gina Fernandez are eager to continue their roles on the Bedminster Township Committee.

Stepping up to the plate and taking action, they are not done building on initiatives yielding concrete outcomes. By pivoting to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, while keeping Bedminster’s agenda on track, they have proven they can lead under any circumstance.

Seeking a third term on the Township Committee, Doug will continue to emphasize the importance of the township managing the affordable housing requirements that impact the municipality. Local control through zoning and collaborating with potential developers will ensure Bedminster’s growth is not dictated through a court order or builder remedy.

He is cognizant of the impact on schools, roads, municipal services, retail, medical care, and law enforcement when Bedminster faces decisions on residential growth.

Working with the other Township Committee members and staff, Doug will continue to oversee parks and public facilities improvements, update employee personnel policies and make certain that at-risk seniors have safe living conditions.

As the committee liaison to the police, fire and public works departments, Doug will continue to negotiate fair contracts and ensure our residents are well protected.

Seeking a second term on the Township Committee, Gina’s positive contributions to the well-being of Bedminster residents are many.

Proud to serve as the human resource liaison, she executed new recruitment policies to hire the best candidates for 12 Bedminster Township senior positions, including township administrator, recreation director, finance lead and technical assistant to the construction official.

Gina works closely with these new hires, ensuring a strong partnership with the committee to implement operational efficiencies, fiscal responsibility and new community programs.

Gina, understanding the pandemic left many families with post-traumatic stress, volunteered to work directly with the Somerset County wide Stamp out the Stigma initiative.

She presented a plan to the Bedminster Board of Health that outlined ways to help minimize mental health stigma so families can access linkages and support.

The board agreed to champion the program with Gina serving as the county liaison and Township Committee resource. In this role, she will make certain that Bedminster residents are made aware of and have access to mental health services.

As the liaison with the Recreation Department and Recreation Advisory Committee, Gina is teaming with the new recreation director to sponsor community events, such as the Halloween trunk-or-treat, free outdoor movie nights and a refresh of the Fall Fest.

Together, Doug and Gina will adopt annual budgets below the rate of inflation, support commercial enterprises and equestrian activities to lessen residential tax burdens and negotiate new shared services arrangements to continue fiscal responsibility. They will put taxpayers first.

Doug and Gina are the real deal. They are inclusive, respect diversity and will represent everyone. Their eagerness to hear all residents’ needs, concerns and desires is sincere.

When Doug and Gina knock on doors, residents are delighted to learn that Gina is fluent in Spanish, and she is more than happy to translate for Doug.

I trust Doug Stevinson and Gina Fernandez to continue implementing initiatives that put the people of Bedminster first.

That’s why I’m voting for them; please do the same on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

ALICIA BERKOWITZ
Ashley Court
The Hills
Bedminster Township

Editor’s note: This Letter to the Editor originally appeared in The Bernardsville News.

LETTER: Re-elect Stevinson, Fernandez in Bedminster

TO THE EDITOR: Bedminster is fortunate to have two very qualified individuals running for re-election to our Township Committee this November, Doug Stevinson and Gina Fernandez.

Committeeman Stevinson is completing his second term in office and has served our community exceedingly well.

A strong advocate for recreation and open space, he championed the creation of the dog park at River Road Park, oversaw the expansion of the hike and bike path to Burnt Mills Park and spearheaded the refurbishment of Pluckemin Schoolhouse Park.

He has been instrumental in delivering budgets that keep Bedminster a leader in low municipal taxes.

His 15-plus years of voluntary service to the township have given him the leadership and experience to deal with the most complex aspects of municipal government, and he is viewed by colleagues and constituents alike as the “go-to guy.”

Doug’s community activism, however, extends well beyond the confines of Town Hall. “Coach Doug” has been a fixture both in the dugout and courtside, previously assisting our Little League baseball teams and now an integral part of our recreation basketball program.

Not to be outdone: If volunteerism had a face, her name would be Gina Fernandez.

A leader in our community, a teacher in Union Township and the mother of two, she does it all. Gina served as Bedminster PTO vice president and has co-chaired Spring Fling over multiple years, helping to raise over $100,000 for Bedminster School.

In 2018, she also ran Project Graduation, which coordinates multiple fundraisers and social events for the graduating class at Bernards High. In her spare time over the past 12 years, she has also served as a Girl Scout leader for the local troop here in Bedminster.

As a Township Committee member, Gina has been instrumental in handling many of the complex personnel issues involved in running a Township. As committee liaison to the Recreation Committee, Gina has overseen the revitalization of our parks and the relaunch of Fall Fest.

Working with the Board of Health, she has also championed the new “Stigma Free” mental health initiative here in town. This program was developed to encourage those whose mental health has suffered, particularly as a result of the stresses placed on many during the past two years, to seek assistance and no longer suffer in silence.

Doug and Gina’s enthusiasm for Bedminster is contagious – they truly love everything about our small town.

In November, I strongly encourage my fellow residents to re-elect Doug Stevinson and Gina Fernandez.

JAMES H. CHRISTIE
Fairview Drive
Bedminster

Editor’s note: This Letter to the Editor originally appeared in The Bernardsville News.

Memorial sought for Bedminster soldier killed in Vietnam

BEDMINSTER TWP. – It’s been 55 years since he was killed in action in the Vietnam War, but township resident Walter P. Miller Jr. could soon be getting a memorial in a very special place.

The topic arose at the Township Committee meeting on Tuesday, July 5, when Committeeman Doug Stevinson said Mr. Miller’s contemporaries had approached the township with the idea of a memorial in the soldier’s name outside of the municipal building on Miller Lane.

The Miller family, in fact, once owned “the land we’re sitting on,” Stevinson noted. He said the township’s Historic Preservation Commission suggested a bench that would be consistent with other memorials.

“It’s very appropriate,” he said. “I categorically support the notion.”

Because the proposed bench would be the first to be installed at the municipal campus and not in conjunction with the township’s hike-and-bike program, it would be appropriate to require a resolution from the committee, he added.

Mayor Larry Jacobs then asked Township Administrator Robin Ray to prepare a resolution for the committee’s next meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, July 18.

Mr. Miller was born in Bedminster on Dec. 18, 1940, and died in Vietnam on March 2, 1967.

According to a front page story about his death in The Bernardsville News on March 9, 1967, Mr. Miller was a 1960 graduate of Bernards High School and was a member of the baseball team who continued to play in local baseball leagues after graduation.

He then worked for publishing magnate Malcolm Forbes of Bedminster as an estate caretaker and chauffeur. He was drafted into the Army in January 1966 and assigned to Vietnam the following September.

Mr. Miller became an Army specialist fourth class and was stationed with the 100th Engineer Company, doing floating bridge work in the Mekong Delta at the time he was killed.

“He is the first resident of a Somerset Hills municipality to be killed in the present war,” this newspaper reported.

A resident of Holland Road, he was survived by his wife Marilyn, his parents and two sisters. He was buried at the Bedminster Reformed Church Cemetery on Route 202.

His mother, Laura J. Beers Miller, died in November 1973 at age 57. His father, Walter P. Miller, died at his home on Somerville Road in March 1990 at 73.

The request for a memorial was spearheaded by one of Mr. Miller’s Bernards High classmates, Augustus Dante.

Dante, a Peapack native who now lives in Branchburg Township, was a year ahead of his friend, in the Class of 1959.

“He was a great guy, quiet,” Dante recalled in a phone interview on Saturday, July 9. “When he got killed, I thought, that was a guy who wouldn’t hurt a fly. You just couldn’t believe it.”

Dante himself served in the Army from 1962 to 1968 but was never sent to Vietnam. Still, he has been active with Rolling Thunder, a non-profit advocacy group devoted to helping and recognizing veterans while seeking full accountability for prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action.

Back in 2015, he was part of the effort that led to the dedication of a Vietnam War Era memorial at Liberty Park in Peapack-Gladstone.

More recently, he turned his attention toward securing a local memorial for Mr. Miller. He said Mr. Miller’s sister Janet, who now lives in Warren County, has been very supportive.

A bench was ultimately proposed and would feature a marker noting Mr. Miller’s name, the fact that he was killed in action, and the dates of his birth and death. Dante said Rolling Thunder plans to fund the $1,100 or so needed.

If the committee proceeds to approve a resolution for the memorial, Dante said he would hope to have the bench installed around Veterans Day in November.

“I want people to recognize Walt as a hero,” he said. “A local hero from Bedminster, New Jersey., and schooled at Bernards High School and played baseball in Peapack. I don’t want people to forget it.”

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in The Bernardsville News.

Meet & Greet with Doug & Gina

PRESS RELEASE: Bedminster RMC Announces Stevinson and Fernandez as Candidates for Bedminster Township Committee in 2022

The Bedminster Republican Municipal Committee is proud to announce their candidates for the Bedminster Township Committee for 2022.  Township Committeeman, Doug Stevinson, is running for a third, three-year term.  Mr. Stevinson has made leadership and local control a guiding theme of his service on the Bedminster Township Committee.  He emphasized the importance of the township controlling the affordable housing requirements that still affect the municipality.  Local control through zoning and collaborating with potential developers will ensure Bedminster’s growth is not dictated though a court order.  Any new affordable housing must be integrated with and complement the surrounding community.  He pledged to represent the electorate by providing mature, practical leadership that ensures a high quality of life while keeping property taxes low.  Mr. Stevinson, his wife and Board of Education President, Suzie, and their three children live in the Ski Hill neighborhood.

Committeewoman Gina Fernandez is seeking her second term.  She is a proven leader on the Committee, where she has used her experience as a union member and manager in a family business to modernize the Township’s Human Relations program.  Gina is a teacher in Union Township, and the mother of three.  She and her husband, Gus, have been residents of the township since 2006, first residing in the Parkside neighborhood in the Hills before moving to Deer Haven Road.  Ms. Fernandez has also improved Bedminster’s Recreation program, working with the new Recreation Director to revive Fall Fest for 2022.  Founder of the Hispanic Heritage Club of Union NJ, Ms. Fernandez will continue her work to keep property taxes low, preserve open space, and uphold our tight-knit community.

Bedminster RMC Chair Steve Parker said, “We are proud to nominate two, mature leaders that bring Bedminster values and a record of accomplishment that will ensure the township returns to normalcy with a high quality of life and continued low taxes.  We have a good team to lead Bedminster into the future.”

The Republican Primary Election is June 7th.

Republicans in Bernards Township, Bedminster seeking re-election

With the filing deadline for the June 7 primary less than three weeks away, the municipal candidate fields are starting to take shape in the five Somerset Hills towns.

Several incumbents contacted by this newspaper confirmed that they will be seeking re-election. Others have not yet announced their decisions – or failed to return messages inquiring about their plans.

The filing deadline for the primaries is Monday, April 4.

In Bernards Township, where one seat on the Township Committee will be filled this fall, incumbent Janice Fields, a Republican, said she would seek a second, three-year term.

The township Republican Municipal Committee plans to endorse for the seat at its screening meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 21. The deadline to apply for the endorsement was 5 p.m. Friday, March 11.

On Monday, GOP Committee Chairman Scott Mitzner said Fields was the only one to apply.

“No other candidates have submitted to run against her, which is a true testament to her outstanding work on the Township Committee and her incredible service to our community as mayor last year,” he said.

In Bedminster, two Republican incumbents, Doug Stevenson and Gina Fernandez, plan to seek the endorsement of the township’s Republican Municipal Committee (RMC) for new, three-year terms on the Township Committee.

“Yes, I will be seeking re-election this year,’’ Stevenson said. “It has been a privilege and an honor to represent the residents of Bedminster over the past six years. I’m proud of the work we’ve accomplished on the Township Committee, navigating the community though the COVID-19 pandemic while maintaining fiscal responsibility.

“There are several initiatives in town that are in the planning phase, including our community gardens project and the extension of our sewer service areas, that I am excited to be a part of and that I would like to roll out to the public,’’ he added. “In addition, we have several major tasks to tackle coming up, including another round of contract negotiations with the PBA and monitoring the township’s compliance with the state’s affordable housing obligations, that I feel is critical for the township and its future and would also like to see through to completion.’’

Fernandez acknowledged that she is interested in serving a second term, but said she needs to “interview with the RMC before I can officially answer’’ the question of whether she’ll be running. “I will let you know some time after March 23rd.’’

In Peapack-Gladstone, the four-year mayoral term will be filled this year along with two, three-year seats on the Borough Council.

Mayor Greg Skinner has already announced that he will not be seeking re-election when his first term expires at the end of the year.

The two council seats are held by Republican Mark Corigliano, the council president, and Gian Paolo “G.P.” Caminiti, an independent. Neither have announced their plans.

The Peapack-Gladstone Republican Committee will be screening candidates for the spots at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 21.

In Far Hills, the terms of Mayor Paul Vallone and Borough Councilmen David Karner and Dr. Edward McLean, all Republicans, will be on the election ballot.

Vallone, who is serving his 12th year as mayor, announced this week that he will not be seeking a fourth, four-year term.

Karner, the longtime council president, said on Saturday, March 12, that he would be happy to step aside if another person wants to volunteer but if that doesn’t happen, he would likely continue to serve.

McLean, who was appointed to the council in November 2019 and then defeated Democrat Karen Reilly for a two-year unexpired term in November 2020, did not respond to an email inquiry from this newspaper.

In Bernardsville, Republican Mayor Mary Jane Canose and Republican Borough Council members Chad McQueen and Jena McCredie are all seeking re-election, and have been endorsed by the local GOP municipal committee.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in The Bernardsville News.

EDITORIAL: Change on the horizon in the Somerset Hills

Hundreds of new homes and apartments are expected to become available in the Somerset Hills towns in the months and years ahead, primarily as the result of state mandates requiring housing that’s affordable to lower-income families.

Some of these new developments are also expected to include restaurants, shops, park areas and other public gathering places. The details of the projects have been thoroughly reviewed by local planning board members, volunteers from the communities who’ve spent countless hours at long meetings over many months to help refine the proposals.

Working with town engineers and other experts, in addition to professionals hired by the applicants, they’ve often called for revisions to improve the plans and make them a better fit for their communities.

In some cases, the local planners have been criticized by residents who oppose the pending changes to their towns. But their hands have largely been tied by legal requirements that prevent them from outright rejecting the development applications, even though they may prefer to do just that.

While few are happy with the affordable housing mandates facing New Jersey towns, it seems the best course of action is to work cooperatively with the developers to meet the requirements while minimizing the impact on the towns.

Bedminster officials in particular have demonstrated that ability and helped design plans for a 160-unit apartment project that appears poised to become an attractive and beneficial addition to the Pluckemin Village area.

The application for land off Route 202-206 was approved by the township Land Use Board last Thursday. Despite already having hundreds of affordable homes, mostly at The Hills development, Bedminster was still required to provide additional affordable rentals. This project will help satisfy that mandate, and also provide retail space and other community gathering areas that may help revitalize that section of town. Traffic improvements are also included.

It seems an example of making the best of what could be a bad situation.

In Bernards Township, a new apartment complex is nearing completion at the site of a former supermarket at the Dewy Meadow mall off King George Road. That project, called The Enclave at Dewy Meadows, will be home to 198 apartments, including 30 income-restricted rentals. The number of market rentals seems high in comparison to the affordable ones, but is unfortunately a standard practice that gives developers a financial incentive to build the less expensive units.

The project includes a swimming pool, clubhouse and playground for the residents. While no public gathering areas or retail space is included, having new residents here should help keep existing businesses at Dewy Meadow viable.

We also like the fact that the affordable units are scattered among the other apartments in the project instead of being isolated in a separate building, which is often the case. It’s a more inclusionary concept that hopefully brings residents of various income levels together.

Plans for a 134-unit “inclusionary” development on Route 202 in Far Hills are also nearing approval but have faced considerable public opposition.

Bernardsville officials have received state approval for several smaller affordable housing projects in the borough, and are looking to include affordable units in the proposed Quimby Village redevelopment project, which is envisioned to include new retail buildings and public spaces.

The changes that will be coming to the quiet Somerset Hills towns may not be to everyone’s liking, but if done properly, will hopefully fit well into the established communities and even provide some long-term benefits.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in The Bernardsville News.

Jacobs to continue as Bedminster Mayor in 2022

BEDMINSTER TWP. – Mayor Larry Jacobs was informally chosen by his Township Committee colleagues on Monday, Nov. 15, to serve a fourth year as mayor for 2022.

Jacobs was the unanimous choice to lead the all-Republican governing body, which annually holds a straw poll after the November general election to determine the mayor for the following year.

Committeewoman Gina Fernandez “proudly” nominated Jacobs, with Committeeman R. Colin Hickey seconding the nomination.

Participating in the straw poll were Jacobs, Fernandez, Hickey, Committeeman Doug Stevinson and Committeewoman Renee Mareksi. All are Republicans.

Jacobs thanked his committee colleagues “for your vote of confidence.”

Later in the meeting, committee members congratulated the mayor on the vote as well as the general election victory that he and Mareski had in seeking new three-year committee terms.

“You’ve done an exemplary job,” said Hickey.

Jacobs again expressed gratitude. “There’s a lot to accomplish in the next year so let’s get to it,” he said.

He is expected to be formally chosen and sworn in at the committee’s annual reorganization meeting, which is held in the first week in January.

A resident of Hillside Avenue, Jacobs is in his ninth year on the committee and is its senior member in length of service. He is an environmental attorney.

One topic that didn’t come up was where the committee will hold the reorganization meeting.

Except for this past January, when the township was in the depths of the pandemic, the committee has started the new year with a public gathering usually at a local club or restaurant offering optional food and drink.

The January 2020 reorganization meeting was held at Fiddler’s Elbow Country Club on Rattlesnake Bridge Road after being held at Trump National Golf Club on Lamington Road each year from 2017 to 2019.

This past January, pandemic-related restrictions on indoor gathering led the committee to reorganize at town hall in a largely virtual format with no public present. Only Jacobs, Hickey and Mareski were physically present, while Stevinson and Fernandez participated from home via Zoom.

Committee members said just after Monday’s meeting that they planned to hold the 2022 reorganization meeting in-person but had yet to choose a locale.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in The Bernardsville News.