ATL. HIGHLANDS – Independent candidates for Borough Council Morgan Spicer and Zack Brown said the fact they are married and both seeking seats on the governing body gives them a different perspective and a proven ability to disagree and still be courteous and friendly to anyone with opposing opinions.
The candidates, who have been married three years, though together for more than a decade, said they agree on many areas of growth, improvements and historic preservation of the borough, but when they disagree in some areas, “we know how to work it out. We do it in our personal lives as part of why we have such a successful and happy marriage.” She said she has seen since living in the borough how politics can divide people and knows that by respecting others’ opinions and listening to their ideas, all can profit from communication and find common ground. They both pride themselves on being able to maintain relationships with friends and relatives despite political disagreements.
Spicer, an illustrator who works from home, and Brown, a financial advisor in Red Bank, officially opened their campaign with a Sunday afternoon presentation at the Atlantic Movie House , showing a short film they produced and directed about themselves and why they are seeking office and greeting guests who came for the film and popcorn.
The disagreements and discourtesies among elected officials who disagree with each other is only one of their reasons. It’s also important to respect, not only neighbors, but the land and water, Morgan said, in an interview at the Yacht Harbor. Finger pointing, bickering, and partisan rivalries are not the way to run a town, she said firmly. “This is not an attack on anyone on council ,” she added quickly, “it’s just that sometimes people might feel uncomfortable or judged because of their specific political ideology. We both certainly respect the time and energy each one of them gives to the borough and its residents.”
The Independents know it will be an uphill fight to compete against political candidates, Democrats Brian Dougherty and Lesley D’Almeida and Republicans incumbent Council President James Murphy and Ellen O’Dwyer, but they feel confident once they get their message out people will listen to them. It will also be expensive, Spicer said, saying they are not conducting any fundraisers nor asking for any financial support from anyone, but funding their own campaign themselves, starting with the day at the theater, as well as doorhangers, yard signs and social media advertising. “How can we talk about high taxes then ask people to pay to support us?” she asked, adding, “nor do we want to be beholden to anyone and not accepting financial help will enable each of us to vote individually and based on our own values, and not that of a political party.
Starting the campaign at the theater was particularly important to them, in addition to supporting a local business. That is because Spicer said it was this theater that was a drawing card to moving to the borough. Though she was raised in Rumson, she studied and then worked in New York where Brown was a native. While she loved the proximity of theaters in Manhattan and being able to walk to movie theaters and to Central Park she missed Monmouth County with its small town community and nature along with arts and culture, but did not think Brown would ever leave Manhattan. “But when he came down here, saw the Theater and the Seastreak Ferry, he fell in love. We found our house, and I can still walk to the theater, so it all came together,” she laughed.
Their campaign does not include any major changes for the borough, Spicer continued, and she and Brown are both opposed to more grand developments; parking is a significant problem and adding more development until that is resolved will only create bigger problems.
One of their first priorities is to ensure that all municipal meetings are on Zoom in order to ensure every resident has the opportunity to know what is going on in the borough. “It’s our job to listen to the people and transparency in all the governing body does is an absolute must. It is our job to listen before making any decisions.”
Both candidates see a need for more volunteers to get involved in the community and are hopeful expanding LOSAP will enable more volunteers to join the first aid squad. Brown is currently a driver for the squad, and joined three years ago when he saw he could fill a need. Neither candidate thinks there should be a vaccine mandate for any Americans, and both stress the need for officials to be open and honest, and respect each other’s differing views on this subject in this tumultuous time. Both Spicer and Brown believe there should be some cannabis allowed in the borough, but conceded that while not everyone agrees on this, each potential business should be considered based on merit and potential location. Both have strong feelings about personal choice.
With more Democrat than Republican leanings, Spicer said her husband first wanted to run as an Independent after participating in the 2020 election when he was supporting candidates up and down the state and also running for County Committee himself as a Democrat in Atlantic Highlands. Unaware of the unspoken rules and decorum that comes with party politics, he was surprised when his choice to get involved and run for office was met with anger. “No one approached him directly and said anything about his being on the ballot was a problem,” she said, “but he heard after the fact that he did it all wrong, he should not have applied for candidacy without first going to the political leader in town. He certainly got the feeling he was not welcome after that.”
Spicer said she is a lifelong Independent because of her upbringing, and sees both Democrats and Republicans as cherished family members. It will also enable her to vote on matters the way she wants, without feeling obligated to a party, she said. The candidate recently finished illustrating her latest book, a children’s book, “Norman the Christmas Dog,” written by Candace Faust and is already immersed in creating Christmas cards on order. For ten years she explained, she has illustrated Christmas and Hanukkah cards, for customers using their pets as the subject in Christmas attire or décor. “It’s been fun to see how the dogs and cats have grown over the years when the customers come in for the latest year’s cards. Each client can pick a non-profit, from all over the country or world, to designate for a portion of their commission for a donation. The profits from her newest book, Norman The Christmas Dog benefit the Monmouth County SPCA, similar to a previous work, “Hi My Name is Musky!” written by Matty Guiliano. Her studio name shows her love of animals as well…Barkpointstudio.com.
And yes, the couple’s five dogs, all rescue animals of various breeds and sizes, will be featured in some of their illustrated campaign flyers and videos. Visit AtlanticHighlandsIndependents.com