Eminent domain carries newcomers in Westville: Gloucester County (NJ) Times, 6/8/05

By Anne B. Jolis

Incumbent Arthur Kelley Jr. lost his bid for re-election [to city council] at Tuesday's primary election [in Westville].

Kelley, who has served on council for only 18 months, garnered 92 votes losing the Republican nomination for this year's two open council seats to newcomers Mark Styan, who received 151 votes, and Susan Rodgers, who got 160 votes.

Throughout their campaigns, all the candidates agreed that the issue of redevelopment in the Timber Park area was the first question on voters' lips.

"The people really just asked me about my position on this one issue," said Rodgers. "I think the people were making a very clear statement in this election. I ran because I'm against eminent domain, and I'm not that surprised that the primaries turned out this way."

In January, Kelley and the rest of the council voted to designate the residential area, now known as the "Yellow Zone," in need of redevelopment. Though Kelley has since adamantly stated that he would not support the use of eminent domain to acquire the properties, many feel that the issue still directed the outcome of the election.

"In politics, nothing is fair sometimes," said Mayor Bill Packer, adding that he believes that the redevelopment issue distracted voters from Kelley's other actions on the council. "I've seen a lot of people who've done good things for their communities get voted out of office for all kinds of reasons. But, that's life in the political arena."

"The people are concerned, they're upset," said Styan. "Kelly was the incumbent, and so I think the people have spoken pretty clearly. They just aren't happy with their elected officials — the issue is the ability to have faith in your elected officials. So many people voiced their opinions very strongly against designating the Timber Park area in need of redevelopment, and they just voted for it anyway."

"Those redevelopment plans should have been put to the people for a vote," said Rodgers. "I think that's what the people said in this election."

Running against Styan and Rodgers in the November elections are newcomers Woodrow Dooley III (D), James Pennington Jr. (D) and incumbent Fritz Sims (I). Dooley and Pennington are the first Democrats to run for office in the borough since 1980.

Both Rodgers and Styan said they're not ready to comment on specific campaign strategies for the next election.

"Right now, I'm just trying to take it all in," said Styan. "I'm trying to enjoy the moment as best I can. I plan on campaigning hard, to continue to do what I've been doing, get my word out and let people know that I can be trusted. Because I can."

Kelley declined comment.

Gloucester County Times: www.nj.com/news/gloucester/local