Mayoral Candidate Joe Mangino Eager to Get to Work for People of Stafford

Oct 30, 2018

Stafford Township’s Democratic mayoral candidate, Joe Mangino, has described the campaign as “an incredible experience.” He and his Focus on Stafford team have been “working hard out there, talking to residents; the conversations with the people I’ve met and the relationships I’ve built along the way make the long days worthwhile.” Volunteers of every political affiliation have stepped up to help knock on doors and deliver yard signs, he added.

The public seems to appreciate that the campaign’s focus is on community, he said. The team’s Shop Stafford program, their plan to deal with abandoned properties and their platform to improve communication between residents and the township have been welcome new approaches.

“At a house party on Sunday, we met with residents of Cedar Bonnet Island, who were happy to hear that we have a plan to deal with dilapidated abandoned properties that surround their own well-kept homes. We heard the same thing at a home on Monday in Ocean Acres. It’s wonderful to see how our concerns and plan for action are bringing together different neighborhoods in Stafford.”

In his home neighborhood of Beach Haven West, he has heard concerns about dredging the lagoons, extreme weather, and flooding. Mangino said he was glad to be able to share his experiences in working with elected officials in the six years since Superstorm Sandy, to address those concerns through mitigation efforts while also paying close attention to reforms to the flood insurance program and changes to the FEMA flood maps.

“And last week, I spoke with a small-business owner who is concerned about how the empty storefronts on Bay Avenue and around town are hurting our remaining businesses. People agree that our Shop Stafford program is a way to support local businesses with the added bonus of providing some property tax relief to Stafford residents.”

Mangino said he is proud of the campaign his team has been running. “It’s been built on local issues and bringing Stafford together, with a positive message and a solid plan of action to move forward. We’re not about dividing people into the ‘red’ team vs. the ‘blue’ team, and we’re definitely not trying to win by spreading a message of fear and distortions. We’ve focused on the idea that we’re all neighbors here in Stafford, and it has been inspiring to see that catch on.”

His outlook on the election is positive.

“Our approach has been to reach out to all of Stafford for support. People who are Democrats here in town know there is a viable option on the ballot in November. People who are Republicans, who know us or agree with our platform and concerns, are supporting us. And most of Stafford is actually made up of people who are ‘unaffiliated’ or Independent (that’s around 9,000 voters), and so it has been great to engage with all of Stafford to bring us together and keep the focus on our town.

“I am disappointed, though, that our opponents would not agree to a debate,” Mangino said, referring to efforts made by The SandPaper to convene a live forum, which ultimately did not take place because the Myhre team was unavailable. “We believed the voters and town would have benefited from hearing an exchange of ideas and positions between the candidates. Debate is a bedrock of our democracy. But we hope that people reach out to us directly with any questions, concerns or ideas.”

Mangino has heard some first-time voters say they registered just so they could vote for Focus on Stafford. “It’s humbling and gives me hope. Kids that I coach tell me they count our yard signs on the bus ride to school, and that their parents are excited to vote for ‘Coach Joe.’ I’ve had several conversations with people who have never voted for a Democrat but have committed to Focus on Stafford.”

Democrats are the underdogs in voter registration numbers in Stafford, but he feels support coming from people across the political spectrum. “If that same coalition of neighbors supports us on Tuesday, Nov. 6, we’d be honored to serve Stafford for the next three years.”

In terms of objectives for the first year in office, Mangino said the first is “a seamless transition.” There will be a lot of information to catch up on. “We really want to make sure that all the moving parts of our town continue to function throughout the transition. For example, many residents think we have a great public works department and appreciate how smoothly that runs. We want to support the people who work hard every day to make sure our trash is collected and our snow gets plowed by focusing on keeping things running smoothly.”

While there are some great things about Stafford his team wants to keep doing well, Mangino recognizes “a transition like this is also an opportunity for new ideas and a new approach.” So the new council would meet with department heads and employees for feedback.

The Focus on Stafford team wants to “create more opportunity for residents to share their ideas. We will welcome participation at township meetings but also want to do more online, like having Facebook Live discussions, and we’re looking at how to make our online systems easier to navigate at a low cost to residents.”

Once the transition is stabilized and new channels have been opened for residents and the town to collaborate, Mangino said, “First, we need to take a deep dive into our budget. Where could we be doing more for less? Or are there things we are doing now that are not a priority for residents and we could shift existing resources somewhere else? We hope to have an open, transparent process for setting our town’s fiscal plan and priorities, and it is really important to our team we do everything we can to stabilize taxes. This is a great town we live in, and we want to make sure or residents can afford to live here, particularly seniors or anyone else on a fixed income for whom ‘small’ changes and increases are really big changes and increases. We get that – we’ve heard that in neighborhood after neighborhood.

“Then we’ll need to roll some of our new ideas. We’re excited to implement the Shop Stafford program; to make sure banks are dealing with and paying for the upkeep of the abandoned properties that belong to them, instead of taxpayers covering the costs; to get our green team up and running and to get a Sustainable New Jersey certification like many neighboring towns have.”

Mangino and his team look forward to the unexpected challenges and opportunities ahead.

— Victoria Ford

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