Two Candidates for Eagleswood Committee Face Off in Nov. 7 Election

Nov 01, 2017

On the ballot Nov. 7, voters in the small town of Eagleswood Township will choose one of two candidates to fill the Committee seat being vacated by longtime Committeeman Wayne Thomas at the end of the year. The historical trend would suggest Republican Nick Sommaripa is a shoo-in, but Democrat Sarah “Sally” Collins got on the ballot with three write-in votes in the June primary election.

Sommaripa is a newcomer to politics, though he was active in his community as a volunteer, coach and board member while his son and daughter were growing up. Now divorced but with a long-term girlfriend of 14 years, Sommaripa works as a Sales Representative for Allied Beverage, the largest distributor of wine and spirits to the retail and restaurant trade in New Jersey. His kids are now grown up and living independently, and he has lived in West Creek for six and a half years.

He was drawn to the town, he said, for its rustic charm, spectacular waterfront with unobstructed bay views, and abundance of wildlife and outdoor activities. “We are situated within minutes of schools, the beach, parks, restaurants, a hospital and (national) retailers.”

He would like to see the Route 9 corridor enhanced with increased business opportunities, activities for families and additional aesthetic improvements, he said. He would also like “to explore why our real estate values have not increased commensurate with our surrounding communities – but that will only happen if our residents and businesses share the same vision.”

Sommaripa’s run for committee was inspired by the work of Mayor Mike Pasternak and Committeewoman Deb Rivas, he explained, and by “their genuine desire to improve our community and their dedication to serving our residents.”

In Sommaripa’s view, “a leader in a town the size of Eagleswood should be directly connected and easily accessible to its residents and able to unite a majority of residents to work toward our common goals.”

Collins is a Southern Regional High School biology teacher, President of the Southern Regional Education Association and Co-Advisor to the Class of 2020.

She has always had an interest in politics and contributing to society, she said. “I really got involved with the Ocean County Democrats when my husband (Michael) ran for office.” She has also learned a lot about politics during her involvement with the teachers’ union, since 1999, and attended political activism workshops. The Collinses have owned their property in Eagleswood for 13 years and lived in Manahawkin before that. They have no children. Sarah is originally from Toms River but moved to the southern part of the county in 1988.

“What motivates me is the upcoming generations and what we will leave for them. Do we leave a planet they can live on, or just a heap of destroyed land and water?” Another issue she feels strongly about is gender equality. “Just because we have an XX chromosomal makeup does not make women ‘less than.’ I want to leave a world where young women are seen as vibrant, contributing, intellectual equals to their male counterparts and where they are treated fairly and not harassed.”

As a science teacher and nature lover, passionate about ecology and the environment, Collins appreciates Eagleswood’s natural beauty and tranquility of Eagleswood.

Her main concern in the town is Eagles Nest Airport. She and Michael live close to the airport, so the sound of takeoffs, landings and skydivers regularly disturbs their peace and quiet, “not to mention the reduction in wildlife I have seen around my home since the Township has allowed the owner to do whatever he pleases, at the expense of the other taxpayers in the town,” she said.

The quality Collins values most, not just in a leader but in any human being, is integrity. “Being in government is not about you; it is about those people that you represent and how best their voices can be heard through you.”

Her goals for the town include preserving the quiet, peaceful beauty while at the same time moving the town forward. With “the best of both worlds,” i.e. the bay and ocean as well as the vast Pine Barrens, Eagleswood is “a very rare and special place in Southern New Jersey, and I would hate to see it lost to airplanes and developers. We need to protect our natural resources and wildlife.”

—Victoria Ford

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