Although Narberth Borough will miss Councilman Surge Ghosh, the four candidates vying for his seat proved to be exceptional successors at the Jan. 30 council meeting.
Following the Friday, Jan. 27 deadline for consideration, the council interviewed the candidates –Richard Diaz, Andrea Deutsch, Michael Gaudini and Ken Jacobs – who rotated answering first on a range of topics, from their qualifications to which upcoming Narberth issues they believed were the most pressing for council to address.
For the important issues question, all candidates agreed with the first response by Jacobs, the founder of the pharmaceutical book publishing company, Clinical Research Resources, who said zoning overlay was a top priority.
Diaz said the rewriting of the code was one of the things that motivated him to throw his hat into the race for the seat.
“I’d like make sure that for longtime Narberth residents, we preserve the look, the feel and those things that make Narberth unique,” the attorney and former U.S. Navy officer said.
Deutsch, a former attorney and current owner of Spots: the Place for Paws pet shop, said that another important issue was to help encourage growth for the business community.
“How can the borough council encourage the business community to do well in this difficult economy?” she posed. “I’d like to see how we can encourage it because I think that also helps borough.”
Gaudini, a 2011 graduate of Temple University and intern for State Sen. Daylin Leach, also pointed to sustainability.
“Something I’ve always liked about what Narberth has done is that it looks into green and sustainable alternatives,” Gaudini said. “Sometimes the technology isn’t there, but just being mindful about different things that could possible be done etches up to what [the borough] likes to do.”
The candidates were asked how they’d characterize the borough’s relationship with Lower Merion Township, as well as make suggestions on how they’d like to see that relationship continue or change, all the candidates agreed that they would like to see the relationship.
Gaudini answered this question first. At the beginning of the interview, Gaudini said his father’s generation once referred to the borough as the “armpit of the Main Line” before its economic diversity and housing stock increased.
“Narberth is compact it’s small, it’s a lot denser and because of that, we’re able to do things that Lower Merion can’t,” Gaudini said.
Gaudini added that considering Narberth and Lower Merion share services, such as the school district, the working relationship should remain close and well, with the exception that Narberth play up its individual strengths.
Jacobs said Narberth is its own entity, as is Lower Merion, but that the two have community pride in common.
“I think we’re not that different than the others in the way we feel about our town, so to speak,” Jacobs said. “I think we have examined the past contract with Lower Merion for some services and not others, and it’s something we should continue to keep an open mind about strictly on the business level…there’s a lot of economies of scale that Lower Merion has that we don’t and might be able to piggy back on with them.”
Diaz, who moved to the area with his family about four years ago, agreed with Jacobs and Gaudini, adding that the goal should be to retain Narberth’s uniqueness by figuring out what can be shared with the township to keep tax rates at an appeasing level.
Deutsch said that the Lower Merion-Narberth relationship was similar to the adage, “play nice and work well with others,” and that is something she’d like both entities to continue, while retaining the community feeling in the borough that many “don’t see anywhere else.”
The candidates were also asked which committees they’d like to lead based on their interests and qualifications, as well as how much time they plan on devoting to the council.
Deutsch said she would join the economic development committee because of her background as a business owner and a former attorney with expertise in employment and civil litigation.
The building and zoning committee interested Gaudini, as well as Diaz, who said he’d also be interested in the finance committee.
Jacobs said he was willing to go wherever help was needed, but that he was interested in the finance committee.
All four candidates said they wouldn’t have submitted applications if they felt they didn’t have the time to commit to the council’s work.
Gaudini added one stipulation, which is that he applied to graduate schools in and out of the Philadelphia area, and his acceptance would determine where he would be come Aug. 2012.
Councilman Bob Weisbord was impressed by the candidates’ responses.
“It’s a shame we can’t just hire four new council members,” Weisbord said.
Council President Sam Quinn said that there would not be a second interview a previously scheduled for tonight, Jan. 31, due to council having asked the candidates all its questions at the Monday meeting.
The council will vote to fill the vacant council seat at its caucus meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 8.
Check back with Neighbors this week for profiles on the four Narberth Borough Council candidates.