Elections: Meet the Montclair candidates for mayor and council
Montclair will figuratively go to the polls soon, with the township’s 2020 municipal elections slated to be completed by May 12. (Reminder: the election will be held by mail-in ballot only.) Montclair Local reached out to all 14 candidates for a
short biography explaining their backgrounds and qualifications. Seven candidates are on the “Your Voice, Montclair” slate headed by mayoral candidate Renee Baskerville, while six are on the “Montclair 2020: Progress in Action” slate headed by Sean Spiller. Carmel Loughman is running as an independent.
In the coming weeks leading up to the election, Montclair Local will also be publishing candidates’ answers to questions on key issues facing the township.
Reneé Baskerville - Your Voice, Montclair
Reneé Baskerville is a third-generation Montclairite, a woman of faith, a mom, a school-based physician, a former school board member and vice president, a former Montclair Public Schools instructor, and the current Fourth Ward town councilwoman. Baskerville has served as the council’s Fourth Ward representative since 2008.
Baskerville is a pediatric, adolescent primary-care and school physician, as well as a health educator. In addition to her service on the council and municipal boards and commissions, she has also served on the board of education.
Her work on the council led recently to the creation of a rent-control ordinance and halted a cellphone tower erection in the South End. She has been a proponent of and helped create increased affordable workforce housing and housing for seniors; youth employment; EZ Ride for senior transportation, and a mobile farmers market to the Fourth Ward. She secured a designation of Montclair as a “Welcoming Community for Immigrants’’ and added LGBTQ representation on the civil rights commission. Baskerville has enhanced community-based policing and prevented voter suppression of Fourth Ward residents by court order. She helped memorialize and preserve the legacy of Montclair legends by renaming education and recreation centers in their honor.
While on the BOE, she saved medical benefits for paraprofessionals.
Sean Spiller - Montclair 2020 Progress in Action
Currently the Third Ward councilman, Sean M. Spiller was elected to serve the residents of Montclair in May 2012. On the township council, Spiller has fought for progress, justice and equality. He joined with Montclair residents to stand up to President Donald Trump by advocating to make Montclair a sanctuary city, fought to protect the environment by banning single-use plastic bags, worked to make Montclair more financially sustainable by reducing debt, worked to pass mandatory paid sick leave in Montclair and more.
He graduated from Rutgers University and received his M.S. from Ramapo College.
Spiller is a high school science teacher and serves as vice president of New Jersey Education Association, where he fights for public schools and working families. Spiller lives with his wife, Lauren, who is also a teacher, and his son.
Spiller is also a member of the Montclair NAACP, the League of Women Voters, and many other local groups and organizations.
John Hearn - Your Voice, Montclair
John Hearn came to Montclair with his family in 2012, after living in New York City for nearly 20 years. He and his wife, Nicole, have two children, Hudson and Vivian. Hudson is a freshman at Montclair High School, and Vivian is a fourth-grader at Hillside. Nicole works in New York as a talent agent and has been active for years as a volunteer with the local PTA.
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Hearn earned a B.A. in political science from Swarthmore College. While there, he founded a community service organization called the Junto, modeled after a group started by Benjamin Franklin, which was dedicated to finding nonpartisan solutions to community problems. He also represented the student body on a number of campus-wide executive committees, including one responsible for envisioning long-term plans for the college.
Hearn has gone on to become a successful entrepreneur and business consultant. His career has been driven by a desire to make a positive impact in moments of mass disruption. His causes have included reviving free enterprise in the Czech Republic after the fall of communism, rethinking the role of banks in the wake of the Great Recession, putting people’s well-being at the center of the health-care reform debate, and championing human needs amid the rise of artificial intelligence. He has worked with blue-chip companies and cutting-edge startups, as well as cities and nonprofit organizations.
Along the way, Hearn has contributed to innumerable local, state and national political campaigns. His determination to run for First Ward councilor was sparked in 2016, when the current council stood for reelection unopposed — even as Montclair continued to struggle with hard questions about the school system, development, and affordability. To him, it was an affront to our democratic ideals.
Bill Hurlock - Montclair 2020 Progress in Action
Bill Hurlock has served as First Ward councilor and deputy mayor. He has lived in Montclair for 21 years, and his two children are graduates of the Montclair School District.
Hurlock is the managing partner of Mueller Law, a national firm, with offices in Montclair. He has served as an adjunct professor at Seton Hall Law School, was formerly a federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., and worked for a United States congressman and a member of the British Parliament.
During his council tenure, he worked to make Montclair affordable for all residents by controlling municipal spending, which led to the town’s AAA rating, saving millions in debt service that allows for the monies for important capital projects in our parks, roads and overall town infrastructure.
Robin Schlager - Montclair 2020 Progress in Action
Robin Schlager is serving as Montclair’s Second Ward councilor. She has lived in Montclair for 27 years. Both of her children have attended the Montclair public schools, and her husband Ken is the editor of the state’s largest consumer magazine, New Jersey Monthly.
Schlager is the associate director of development for the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges. She attended the New School and the University of Miami.
She has a long history of community involvement, having served as PTA co-president for Nishuane and Hillside schools and served as second vice president of the PTA Council. Schlager also served as director of the Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence (MFEE) for 14 years, raising funds for all 11 schools in Montclair.
She has served and continues to serve on a variety of nonprofit boards, including as a trustee of Mountainside hospital, and is currently a board member at the Montclair chapter of the Salvation Army. Schlager has also served on committees for Project Graduation, the Joe Walsh Alumni Concert, Buzz Aldrin Middle School, the Montclair High School Scholarship Foundation and the Montclair 4th of July Parade.
Christina M. Thomas - Your Voice, Montclair
Christina M. Thomas is a lifelong resident of Montclair. She attended Edgemont, Mount Hebron (now Buzz Aldrin) and Glenfield, and is a 1987 graduate of Montclair High School. Known as Chrissy, she currently resides in Upper Montclair with her daughter, Ella, and their dogs, Sammy, Molly, and Lola. She is a trained foster parent and is active with the Edgemont PTA, where she serves as hospitality chair.
Thomas graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law, where she was vice president of Virginia Law Women, was involved with the minority affairs committee, and was an editor of the award-winning Virginia Law Weekly. She has an M.B.A. and is two credits shy of a master’s in public policy from Georgetown University, where she was an editor of the Georgetown Globe. She has a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and also attended Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, where she started a chapter of the Kappa Alpha Theta female fraternity and played varsity field hockey and softball.
In 2002 she opened a private law practice in Montclair, focused on legal malpractice cases arising out of family law disputes. She has served on the Family Law Executive Committee and the New Jersey State Bar Association Women in the Law Committee.
Lori Price Abrams - Montclair 2020 Progress in Action
Lori Price Abrams has lived in Montclair for 24 years. She and her husband have raised two kids who attended Nishuane, Hillside, and Glenfield, through Montclair High School.
She holds an undergraduate degree in philosophy from SUNY Binghamton, with a certificate in Human Services & Society, and a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley’s Boalt Hall. She was formerly a practicing attorney.
Price Abrams has 30 years’ experience in public policy, government and community relations. Most recently, over a 10-year tenure as vice president in MWWPR’s public affairs practice, she engaged in driving public affairs issues campaigns, lobbying and communications for clientele including those in the health, higher education and energy sectors, religious communities, business interests and nonprofit organizations. Most recently, she served as director of community relations for the MetroWest Jewish Federation, where she was a lead voice on values-based issues such as aging in place for seniors, anti-hunger efforts, civil rights, and the genocide in Darfur, as well as in building collaborative relationships.
Currently, she is a trustee at NJ Citizen Action, NJ Center for Non-Profits, NJTV Community Advisory Board, and Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield. She was a founding officer of Emerge NJ.
Marguerite “Maggie” Joralemon - Your Voice, Montclair
Marguerite “Maggie” Joralemon has lived in Montclair for 34 years, as a renter and a homeowner. Her daughters attended Montclair public schools and graduated with honors from MHS in 1992 and 1995. They both have become innovative educators and advocates for youth. Her two grandchildren were born and raised in Montclair and currently attend middle school.
Joralemon began her higher education at Livingston College of Rutgers University, an experimental college opened in 1969 and designed to provide access to innovative education for an intentionally heterogeneous student population. She received a B.A. in anthropology in 1973, and later an Ed.M. in language education from Rutgers Graduate School of Education.
She is semi-retired. For 29 years, she taught K-12 students enrolled in bilingual and ESL programs in the Newark public schools. She has served as a docent at the Newark Museum, a curriculum specialist at the Puerto Rican Congress of NJ, a counselor for the Essex County College high school equivalency program, and an instructor for Upward Bound for ESL students at NJIT, the Intensive ESL Program for International Students at Felician College, and ESL at Passaic County College.
In 1994 Joralemon co-founded the Undoing Racism Committee at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation. She advocated for Montclair public schools administration and staff to participate in the People’s Institute of New Orleans Undoing Racism conference. In 2014 she and her neighbors founded the Portland Place Neighborhood Association. They successfully defeated a proposed development of a parking deck, a self-storage facility, and apartments on the south side of Portland Place. She serves on the board of trustees of Peaceworks, a nonprofit supporting community empowerment projects in Nicaragua.
Today, Joralemon is a yoga teacher at the YMCA.
Note: No other candidates have filed to run for the Fourth Ward council seat.
David Cummings - Your Voice, Montclair
David Cummings is a Montclair native and has lived here most of his life. He graduated from Montclair High School in 1985, where he was a three-year varsity basketball player. He was also a first-team All-Essex County football player and earned 3rd team All-State honors.
He is married to Kimberly Cummings, and they have three children: David Jr. and Elizabeth, both 2017 MHS graduates, and Katherine, a junior at MHS.
Cummings is a graduate of Morehouse College, where he earned a B.A. in communications with a concentration in journalism. As a student, he worked part time for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the famed civil rights organization founded by Morehouse alumnus Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was also editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, The Maroon Tiger, and covered local high school sports for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Cummings went on to pursue a successful career as a sportswriter for the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger, The New York Times, the New York Daily News, and the Miami Herald. He returned to Montclair in 2000 to take a position as an editor at ESPN The Magazine. After 17 years at ESPN, he started his own consulting agency, D.E.K. Strategies LLC., which specializes in helping clients with their communications and digital strategies.
Cummings has served on the Montclair board of education and the township parks and recreation committee, and is a past vice chairman of the Montclair Neighborhood Development Corporation (MNDC). He was recently nominated to sit on the civil rights commission.
VOTE FOR 2
James Cotter - Your Voice, Montclair
A 32-year resident of Montclair, James Cotter is married to Mary Sok and has two children, Felix and Ronan, who attend Watchung Elementary. Cotter has lived in every ward of Montclair. He has been a renter, a landlord and the owner of a two-family and a single-family home.
Cotter earned a B.A. in history and social studies at Montclair State University. At MSU, he was a student activist who led statewide protests against proposed tuition hikes, which resulted in dramatically lower increases and protected the educations of working-class students. He served as student government president and held a seat in the faculty senate.
For 22 years, Cotter has taught Advanced Placement U.S. History at Columbia High School in South Orange/Maplewood, an institution whose demographics, socioeconomic and educational challenges mirror those of Montclair. He is also a partner in a local communication and design firm that worked on projects such as community health outreach with Mountainside hospital and the dedication ceremony of Buzz Aldrin Middle School.
Through the Cloverhill Place/Grove Terrace Neighborhood Association, Cotter has lobbied for pedestrian safety and has led the fight for the thoughtful development of Lackawanna Plaza. He serves on the Montclair July 4th Committee and is a member of the Public Art Selection Committee. He was an organizer of First Night Montclair.
Carmel Loughman - Independent Candidate
Carmel Loughman is an immigrant holding Irish, English and American citizenship. Her connection to Montclair began when she was born in Montclair’s sister city, the London borough of Barnet. Montclair has been her home for more than 32 years, split between the First Ward and Fourth Ward. She has one grown son, educated through both Montclair and Montclair Kimberley Academy.
She studied classics at St. Peter’s College, then graduated from New Jersey City University, and holds an M.B.A. in finance from New York University.
She is trained in risk management and worked at Prudential, Schering Plough (Merck), and L’Oreal USA. She is now retired.
Loughman has served on the Montclair Planning Board for the past four years, reviewing more than 50 applications, from small building extensions to major redevelopment projects such as Seymour Street and Lackawanna Plaza. She worked on amendments to the Montclair master plan, zoning ordinances, and redevelopment plans.
She has volunteered at Covenant House NYC and at a tutoring program at public housing in Jersey City and is a volunteer at St. James Church, doing soup-kitchen service and thrift-shop duty and holding various leadership roles on the vestry, stewardship, finance, outreach, and parish life.
Bob Russo - Montclair 2020 Progress in Action
A 30-year resident of Montclair with his wife, Christine, Bob Russo has spent the last 18 years teaching public administration at Montclair State University, where he has served as president of the AFT NJ adjunct faculty union.
He worked for many years as director of lemon laws for the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs and still serves as the volunteer president of the Consumers League of New Jersey.
Russo was elected mayor of Montclair in 2000 after serving as council representative for the First Ward. He has also served on the Montclair Planning Board, the board of school estimate and the library board during his years on the town council.
He helped negotiate the Montclair-Glen Ridge Fire Services contract, which is a model for regional shared services agreements, and he has worked with the current mayor and council to reduce municipal debt, stabilize property taxes and make Montclair more affordable for tenants, homeowners and seniors who want to remain in our great town.
Roger Terry - Montclair 2020 Progress in Action
Roger Terry served as a law enforcement officer for 35 years, rising from the position of patrolman through the ranks to become township deputy chief of police, with oversight of more than 110 sworn personnel and a budget in excess of $11 million.
As deputy chief , he was responsible for the investigative division, including narcotics, forensics, identification bureau, detective bureau, juvenile bureau, and the Office of Professional Standards. He also served as press agent for the department and liaison for police community relations.
Prior to appointment as deputy chief, he served as lieutenant in command of Special Services, where he helped develop and manage the Schools Emergency Management Plans. He served as commander for the juvenile bureau. Throughout his tenure as a career law enforcement officer Terry has received training at the NJ State Academy for special services, narcotics intervention and case management and emergency response management.
Upon his retirement from the Montclair Police Department in 2008, Terry was elected to the office of deputy mayor and as a township councilor-at-large. As deputy mayor, he led several governance and council committees, with a focus on budgeting, and shared services, emergency management and community youth programs.
Terry attended Montclair State University, where he majored in criminal justice.
Peter Yacobellis - Your Voice, Montclair
Peter Yacobellis has lived in Montclair since 2017 with his fiancé, Benjamin. A New York native, he has been active in Montclair since 2007, when he helped lead Garden State Equality.
After studying business management and political science at Adelphi University on Long Island, Yacobellis enrolled in a graduate program at Columbia University in environmental sustainability. He has earned several business and leadership certificates in partnership with Harvard and American Express’s leadership training program.
A member of Bike & Walk Montclair and the Montclair Film Festival, Yacobellis is also an active member of the fitness community. A local artist, his work was recently showcased in town. In 2009 he helped lead the national march on Washington for LGBT equality, which led to the reversal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” something that impacted him personally when he was discharged from U.S. Air Force basic training in 1998. In 2010, following the death of Tyler Clementi, Peter partnered with the Trevor Project to launch the largest LGBT volunteer network in the New York metro area – Trevor NextGen – and also chaired the Trevor Project’s board of directors government affairs committee. He was a search-and-rescue supply distributor at Ground Zero after 9/11, and helped set up the crisis hotline for Sandy victims of Superstorm Sandy in New York.
He served in the administrations of Governors David Paterson and Andrew Cuomo and currently works as the director of human resources and facilities for Amicus Therapeutics, which develops treatments and medicine for children living with extremely rare diseases.