On Nov. 8, residents will have the opportunity to go to the polls to vote for four members of Gloucester Township Council. Gloucester Township Patch will share information and some of the thoughts of the nine candidates seeking four Council seats throughout the week of Oct. 9.
Name: Orlando Mercado
Political Party: Democrat
Years of residency in Gloucester Twp.: 12
Job: Assistant Director of Admissions, The Richard Stockton College of NJ, 4 years; Adjunct Business Professor, Camden County College, 7 years
Education: Master of Business Administration, Temple University - 1999
Bachelor of Arts - Marketing, The Richard Stockton College of NJ - 1996
Family: Divorced; one son, Alex, 10 years old
Why are you running for Gloucester Township Council?
I am running for Gloucester Township Council in an attempt to bring to the Township what I believe we all look for in our leaders: the willingness to make tough decisions; a desire to manage the taxpayers’ money and spend it as prudently and responsibly as possible; and the principles, common sense, trustworthiness, and integrity to be a true representative who listens to residents and makes decisions in terms of what is best for our Township.
Have you ever held public office?
Yes. Gloucester Township Council, for 6 years, 9 months.
Why do you feel you are qualified to serve as a member of the Gloucester Township Council?
I provide a balance of experience and a fresh, energetic perspective on the issues that face our Township. I understand our budgeting process, helping craft two straight budgets with a Zero increase, and the need to offset our residential taxes with an influx of commercial ratables. I am aware that our Township needs to share services and costs, and we’ve done this through shared service agreements that range from purchasing paper and fuel to trash collection services that will save our Township over $650,000. I understand the needs of all our residents and firmly believe that our tax dollars should be utilized to make our community a clean, safe place to work and play in. Serving on Council is more than attending three meetings a month on Monday—it’s about attending to the needs of our community.
What is the biggest issue facing Gloucester Township as we approach the end of 2011? How do you feel the issue should be addressed by Council?
Without a doubt, Taxes. Families are struggling to stay afloat and there’s a level of uncertainty of what type of services are available each and every year. Funding from State and Federal sources have declined over the years and it’s led to the Township becoming more creative to provide the same level of services while at the same stabilizing taxes.
The Township Administration continues to implement programs for shared services related to public works, trash collection and recycling, both from within Gloucester Township governmental entities and our surrounding towns. As Township Council we must continue to support and expand avenues of shared services. Our efforts to date have resulted in an anticipated cost savings of $650,000 in trash collection fees and we’re about to embark on a single stream recycling program that will further reduce disposal costs.
What do you feel is Gloucester Township's biggest asset at this time? How would you exploit that asset to the township's benefit?
The biggest asset that Gloucester Township has is its people. We have a diverse population that has a wonderful sense of community. This is a community that has been built upon community service and volunteerism. We volunteer our time and efforts in our athletic organizations, supporting the arts, attending our various houses of worship and celebrating our various cultures. We recognize and appreciate our Police and Fire Departments, and we’re comforted by the fact that they keep us safe from harm. We come together when a community thousands of miles away is ravaged by a hurricane or when a member of our community who has MS asks us to walk, we walk. This is the Gloucester Township I know and I’m proud to be part of it.
I believe government must continue to reach out to all residents as a means of accomplishing a common goal to provide quality of life services. When residents participate in our community, our community becomes a more vibrant place, a place where we’re proud to call home.
How do you plan to balance spending and revenue during tough economic times?
In local government a municipal budget is a moving target. Sometimes budget plans go awry, even when we have vigilantly pursued all the right financial management practices. This hasn’t been the case over the last two years. Over the last two years, working closely with our Mayor, we have passed two consecutive Zero budgets. What does this mean to our residents? It means that we have continued to provide the level of services that you expect with less. We have become more efficient in how we spend your money through contract negotiations, shared services and alternative renewable energy sources, and more creative in how we generate revenue for our Township—pursuing solar energy initiatives, making our Township more business friendly, and continuing to focus on attracting businesses to our commercial corridors.
Do you feel the current Council is effective? Why or why not? Where do you think the governing body could improve?
Yes, I feel the current Council is effective. Over the last two years we have passed two consecutive Zero budgets. We have invested in maintaining our community by embarking on major capital projects—streets and sidewalks. We have provided top notch facilities for our athletic organizations. We have successfully funded and supported numerous localized public safety efforts in a host of areas; Community Policing, Bike Patrol, an expanding K9 Unit, a burgeoning Neighborhood Watch Program, an anonymous hotline for problem properties, Anti Graffiti efforts and the expansion of our DARE program. Lastly, we have done more with less using creativity, resourcefulness and making government more efficient.
Yes, we can improve. I don’t want our Township to remain stagnant so I’ll continue to work with my colleagues in pursuing additional opportunities for business development, shared services, and reducing the cost of government.
Editor's Notes: This is the fifth of nine profiles on candidates for Gloucester Township Council. Glen Bianchini's profile and Samuel Garro's profile ran Monday, and Darren Gladden's profile and Theodore Liddell's profile on Tuesday. The following is the schedule of publication for the remaining four candidates: Republican candidate Linda Musser today at noon; Democrat candidates Sam Siler (6 a.m.) and Tracey Trotto (noon) on Thursday; and Republican candidate Erica Weissmann (6 a.m.) on Friday.
Aside from minor formatting changes, the responses each candidate provided to the above questions appear here unaltered.