ATL. HIGHLANDS – “ I think we can win,” and enthusiastic Zack Brown said, in an interview he requested this week.
Brown, an independent candidate for Borough Council with his wife Morgan Spicer, each vying for one of the two seats to be decided in the November election, said voters who forwarded absentee have already told him they cast ballots for him.
“It makes sense,” the former Democrat said, “ If Morgan and I got elected, everyone would be represented on the governing body. Currently, there are two Democrats and two Republicans on council, along with the Mayor, who only votes in cases of tie. With Morgan and I holding the other two seats, there would be two of each party and two independents.”
The independent candidate traced his past during the interview from when he was brought up in Westchester, New York by two staunchly Democrat parents who also stressed the importance of giving to the community, helping others, and doing whatever you could to correct any wrongs. As a Boy Scout, he earned his Eagle Award, the highest in scouting, by planning, guiding and leading a team of volunteers who cleaned up and helped restore an 18th century cemetery, even prompting a historical search on some names on broken tombstones that had earlier impacts on the community.
Although a Democrat when he and Spicer married and moved to the borough four years ago, he became disillusioned with the party when he sought office as a county committeeman. “I didn’t know it was something I had to clear with the local head of the party,” he shrugged, “I just thought I could run and be a part of it.” But the reaction of party leaders after his loss led him to think he could be more helpful to the townspeople as an independent on the governing body.
Brown likes his hometown very much, first drawn by Sea Streak having an office here, giving him the convenience of commuting to his job as a salesperson for Chow-Now, a California company seeking to capture a stronger Manhattan base. Since then, seeing a future of always working for someone else, he left the company and took some advice and experience from his father-in-law, Greg Spicer, who he joined with in a financial advisory that the latter had formed in Red Bank.
Brown said he isn’t out to change the borough, just wants certain things to happen soon. He is a strong advocate of council restoring holding their meetings virtually so that all people, even those he cannot attend meetings because of other reasons or obligations, should be able to participate in every governing body meeting. He is also an advocate of some kind of cannabis inclusion, but said he would have to study it more to be sure any applicants or location are the best they could be. He advocates cannabis dispensaries becoming an additional product in local already established businesses as well.
“These are solvable problems,” he said, and working together we could accomplish these things in a short time.” He believes there could be a place for many of the cannabis dispensary businesses within cannabis regulations, but he would have to know more about the applicant and considered locations before making any decisions.
Brown joined the local First Aid Squad as a driver, shortly after he and Spicer moved into Victorian Woods. Although he led a volunteer student run emergency unit while both he and Spicer, whom he met at college, were students at Syracuse University, and was an EMT and field supervisor, his EMT license is in New York. He let it lapse while he was pursuing his career in New York, and does not feel he can afford the many hours and days it would take to either renew that certification or be certified anew in New Jersey. “As a driver, and on night duty once a week, I feel I am helping the best I can for now.” Brown said he is also working and hoping for an enlarged membership in the squad, noting that good as the borough squad is, there are not enough active members to ensure a rapid response to every call.
The council candidate also believes all residents have an obligation to protect the environment and recognizes the special challenges in communities who face not only the Atlantic Ocean and flooding, but also the differences brought about by the unique combination of mountains or high hills, rock formations, and sea proximity. He would work on whatever is necessary to hold the utility company up to higher standards and more protection of the environment.
Brown concedes he has a learning curve on the political edge of municipal government and a lack of expertise in all the rules and regulations of running a local government; like everyone in the borough, he and Spencer lament the loss of Administrator Adam Hubeny since the long time administrator announced his retirement, but is anxious to meet and work with new administrator Robert Ferrangino. “At least I can let him know, as well as everyone in town,” he grinned, “ that neither Morgan nor I are entrenched in or know the problematic ways of partisan politics.” But he added, “that means we don’t have any bad habits when it comes to local government.”