Mayor, Ex-Mayor Run for Committee Seat in Little Egg Harbor
Incumbent Gene Kobryn is the present mayor of Little Egg Harbor and is running for his forth term on the five-member township committee, an office he has held since 2007. He was selected to be mayor on Jan. 1, 2016. Prior to his committee years, he served 13 years on the town planning board; the Little Egg Harbor Natural Lands Trust Committee, also known as the Open Space Committee (of which he is still a member); and the township’s environmental commission, where he was chairman for a number of years.
He spent approximately two years on the Ocean County Solid Waste Advisory Council. He has spent various terms on the Pinelands Municipal Council and the Pine Barrens Scenic Byways Commission. He was also director of the New Jersey Planning Officials Organization.
He has been vice president of the Little Egg Harbor Republican Organization, although he was ousted earlier this year for violating a yet-undisclosed bylaw. Since then, he switched political parties and is now “proud to be a Democrat.” That move formally gave Democrats a 3-2 majority on the township committee; in January, it was only the two Democrats who supported then-Republican Kobryn to be mayor in 2016.
Kobryn retired as an executive from Sara Lee Corp. in the information technology development department. He has lived in Little Egg Harbor for 18 years, with his wife, Barbara, of 27 years. They have four grown children and two grandchildren.
Kobryn has been part of a tumultuous nine months on the township committee. He spoke first about putting that behind him. “The investigation concerning the two employees, (Chief Financial Officer) Mr. Loesch and (Police) Chief Buzby, has concluded and a decision was made to take no further action. We need to put that behind us and continue to do the town’s business, which was what we should have been doing all along.
“The town’s operation was severely impacted due to this investigation that took nine months to resolve.”
Kobryn said that although the township attorney has said the report is part of the employees’ files but not a government document subject to Open Public Records Act requests, he would like to see that report disclosed.
“The public needs to see that report that cost in excess of $11,000” (for attorney Salvatore Perillo), said Kobryn. “They have a right to see the report that they paid for.
“It was not worth the money that was spent,” he added.
“The last two years, Garrett Loesch has received a perfect audit for the township from the state finance board, which has never happened before in Little Egg Harbor. His performance has been exemplary, and he needs to be recognized as such.
“Chief Richard Buzby is primed to be vice president this year of the New Jersey Police Chiefs Association. He is well recognized by his peers. He continues to do an excellent job in preserving the quality of life in Little Egg Harbor.”
The recent committee approval of a $3.2 million bond ordinance was needed, said Kobryn, to keep the township services running. “We are required to continue to support the town’s business regarding the public works and police. Public works needed new equipment, and the police needed new vehicles. The township offices, particularly the construction office, required technological upgrades. All these improvements were part of the town’s capital spending plan that needed to continue to improve the town’s services.
“It was a good financial move,” he continued. “The timing is appropriate based on the still low interest rates. There will be no impact on the (municipal) tax rates.”
The greatest challenge for the township moving forward, according to Kobryn, is development of the Route 9 corridor from the Acme supermarket down to Mathistown Road, now that Walmart has opened there.
“The committee is working to create a private/public partnership with the stakeholders, the property owners and the borough of Tuckerton to revise the town center designation boundaries with the state planning commission.
“We are also pursuing a designation of a ‘corridor node’ to develop that portion of Route 539 above Sea Oaks (inn and golf club) for commercial ratables. It currently has just a 3 percent impervious coverage limit in the Planning Area 4 zone that limits development. Shooters (indoor shooting range) has already received township planning board approval for an outdoors shooting arena. The site plan was approved Sept. 1.”
In trying to balance development with land preservation, Kobryn said the township’s Natural Lands Trust Advisory Committee continues to meet once every three months to rate private properties as natural land eligible for public acquisition. Anyone can nominate a natural area for preservation, but the land must have a willing seller.
The township’s open space tax has been reduced to a quarter cent per $100 of assessed property value. Ocean County presently has a 1.2-cent tax for open space. The county usually contributes funds to the host municipality for acquiring open space. “We never condemn land; it must be a willing seller,” said Kobryn, chairman of the town’s land trust committee. “There’s a large parcel off Center Street – the Blue Comet development – that we continue to revisit, but it is not yet feasible,” he said.
Other thoughts for the future of the township include shoreline restoration, a project that has been ongoing with Tuckerton borough, utilizing a $1.2 million National Fish and Wildlife Federation grant. A proposal to add an area to the proposed dredging that would have added a $23,240 expense for engineering was shot down by Tuckerton officials who feared adding to the scope of the project could cause delays in the state permits, said Kobryn.
For now he is most concerned with getting back to the routine business of governing.
“If re-elected, I will stop wasting money on frivolous investigations, and focus on the township’s business for the benefit of the taxpayers of Little Egg Harbor,” he said.
With Mayoral Experience
Republican candidate Barbara Jo “Bobbi” Crea was a member of the Little Egg Harbor Township Committee from 2002 to 2007, and selected as mayor in 2006 and 2007. As mayor emeritus of Little Egg Harbor, Crea is a member of the New Jersey Conference of Mayors, as well as a former recipient of the Southern Ocean County Girl Scout Women of Achievement Award.
Crea is a retired branch chief from the New Jersey Department of Treasury, Division of Taxation. As a certified public manager, she oversaw thousands of workers.
She has been a Little Egg Harbor homeowner since 1983 with her husband, Rich, of 38 years. She has two children and six grandchildren.
She is a member of: St. Theresa’s Parish; Friends of the Little Egg Harbor branch of the Ocean County Library; Italian-American Social Club of Little Egg Harbor; Tuckerton and Barnegat chapters of the Order of the Eastern Star; American Legion Auxiliary, Post 493; and the Ocean County Federation of Republican Women.
Crea decided, after conferring with her husband, to enter the local political arena again because she loves her adopted hometown and wants to be part of guiding it into the future. She has been canvassing the town door-to-door and talking to residents. “You have to do that because what’s important to me is what’s important to you.”
She has attended township committee meetings since deciding to run. If she is elected, her hope is for the committee members to work together.
“When I was on committee, we had differences of opinion on different subjects. But we always came to some kind of agreement for the benefit of the community. You have to work together as a team, no matter if you are Republican or Democrat. I always say there is no Republican or Democratic way to pick up the garbage!
“I’m not privy to the information that caused the investigation, or the uproar at the meetings. I have worked with the people (Loesch and Buzby), and as far as I know, they are fine people. But at some point there has to be accountability.
“When I was mayor, I served with Loesch when he was chairman of the planning board. And he was very competent. Mark Siino was the police chief when I was on committee, and Buzby was his captain. When I was on committee, Ray Urezzio was the business administrator.
“I served with Ray Gormley on committee. I’m not sure if I served with (John) Kehm. Gene Kobryn was elected to fill my seat when I left the committee.”
One of the challenges still facing Little Egg Harbor is the number of homes that are not restored fully on the tax rolls after being devastated by Superstorm Sandy four years ago.
“We must be vigilant in rebuilding the waterfront section of our community. I would advocate for a task force made up of community members and officials to move the waterfront forward and find ways to get people back in their homes.”
The Creas had their home raised before 2012. Although they lost personal property when 3 feet of water filled up the lower-level garage, it was not so difficult to recoup those losses and move forward.
“I look at my street in Mystic Island, and people are in different phases of returning home. Some have had unfortunate experiences with contractors, and that has held them up. Others are still involved with different state programs, like RREM. I’d like to be able to pull all that information together and then see where we can help.”
Crea said she remembers a similar task force she helped form when she was on committee and Little Egg Harbor had just three recycling bins at the public works department. With Donna Doherty (who is still on the environmental commission), Mary Sue Lacovara, Gail Thornton and then-public works superintendent Tony Savino, they formed a recycling committee that not only expanded the township’s efforts to recycle but also educated schoolchildren on the benefits of recycling.
“When you take what was going into the trash and recycle it, not only do you have to pay less for (trash disposal) tipping fees, you (also) get money back from the county.
“It took a task force to make things better, and the citizens brought it forward. When you look at what we have today at public works, it was a great beginning.”
The second topic of importance to the future of the area is attracting desirable commercial ratables, said Crea. “The Route 9 corridor is primed for commercial development. I want to ensure it is proper development. I would work with our Economic Development Committee to attract the type of commercial ratables that would provide additional revenue but also give our residents the types of stores and services they want.
“Quality of life issues are often overlooked during tight financial times. But the ability to feel safe in our homes and communities is paramount. We have one of the finest police departments here in Little Egg Harbor. And it is a goal of mine to work with residents and police and provide them with the tools they need. We should feel comfortable to let our kids play in our own neighborhoods without the fear of crime. I will work to ensure a sense of community is secured between our police officers and the citizens.
“People ask me why I am running again for committee. I tell them there is no greater feeling of satisfaction from helping a member of the community – because you can.
“I would consider it a privilege and an honor to devote my work and devotion to the needs of the residents of Little Egg Harbor.”