The iHeartRadio Town Hall Meeting of Sussex County Freeholder Candidates

Photo: Steve Debenport / Getty Images

You’re invited to join iHeartRadio on Saturday morning, November 3rd at 9:30am for a town hall meeting with all five candidates for the two open positions for Sussex County freeholder. The meeting will be broadcast live on WSUS starting at 10am, moderated by Steve Andrews.

Meet republicans Dawn Fantasia and Joshua L. Hertzberg, democrats Howard M. Zatkowsky and Patrick Curreri, and Wayne Levante of the Strong Conservative Leadership party. They’ll each have a chance to speak about why they want to be your freeholder – and they will all take questions.

This iHeartRadio town hall meeting will be broadcast live from our Franklin-Sussex Auto Mall performance studio at 45 Ed Mitchell Avenue in Franklin, New Jersey. Join us at our studios at 9:30am please for the 10:00am broadcast.

And have your questions ready!

Dawn Fantasia - Republican

Dawn holds a BA in theatre with a minor in communications and an MS in educational leadership.  She's taught English, speech, and theatre, served on the executive team of a North Jersey public charter school network, and is currently the middle school principal of Bergen Arts and Science Charter School in Garfield.  She has been active in educational advocacy efforts and provided testimony before the state legislature for fair school funding.

Dawn serves on the Franklin Borough Council, and is the current Council President.  Prior to this, she served on the planning board, zoning board, and economic development committee.  Dawn ran for council on a platform that included support for police officers and first responders, on a promise of transparency and accountability, and of economic growth and stability.  Working as a team, the mayor and council has consolidated its zoning and planning boards to become more business friendly; cut its municipal property tax rate; attained a positive Aa3 credit rating; and brought discretionary spending under control.  Dawn helped put the Length of Service Awards Program (LOSAP) before the voters and helped pass this important means of supporting our dedicated first responders.

Josh Hertzberg - Republican

Josh started his professional career working for the Department of Justice.  While with DOJ, and then Homeland Security, he worked in Border Patrol, DEA, and then in Homeland Security in various positions and locations across the country.  With this background, Josh went to work at Port Newark for Maher Terminals.  He is currently the Director of Business Operations for the International Longshoreman's Association (ILA). 

As Mayor, Josh has been part of a team in Sparta that has built a fiscal surplus and lowered the tax rate in two consecutive years -- all while continuing to add impactful capital improvements. This kind of fiscal responsibility has helped Sparta achieve a double A2 credit rating allowing further saving to the taxpayers.  Sparta has just completed its first turf sports field with no tax impact to the residents.  The township is partnering with the local VFW to create a local military outreach committee and has started a community business forum to help improve and grow the Sparta business community.  With his background in national security, Josh worked with Sparta's Police Chief to increase training hours for our officers and is bringing in a nationally recognized security firm to conduct a threat assessment and give our township employees, school employees, and teachers security training for worst- case scenarios. 

Issues:

Fiscal Transparency - The number one priority of county government is to manage and provide critical services.  That ability is severely diminished when it is overburdened by debt and is crippling residents with taxation.  In government, it is always easy to give, knowing you won’t be there when either the bank breaks, or the taxpayers' backs do.  The public has the right to be informed of decisions that affect the financial health, safety, and welfare of the county. An ordinance that establishes no borrowing that exceeds 2% of the annual appropriations of the county without voter approval will guarantee that the process of acquiring debt is done in the open and publicly debated, and will curtail discretionary spending on non-essential goods and services without direct public support. Expectations, timelines, and funding sources must be clearly communicated to the residents to foster trust in those elected to serve.

Prioritized Spending - New Jersey consistently delivers reduced liberties coupled with higher taxes, and this is a toxic combination.  We are frustrated with laws and unfunded mandates that are passed at the state level by a Democrat majority that does not live in Sussex County, nor do they understand the unique needs of our area.  This legislation has negatively affected our property values, our levels of school funding, and the ability for our businesses to grow and in turn provide sustainable employment opportunities. It is critical that elected officials at both the municipal and county levels exercise fiscal restraint to ease the burden of this unsustainable tax-and-spend mentality promulgated in Trenton, and advocate for our tax dollars to remain here in Sussex County.

Ethical Leadership - Six counties and 34 municipalities in the state of New Jersey have established local ethics boards.  In direct alignment with the provisions of P.L.1972, c.154 (C.40:41A-1 et seq.), Sussex County should establish a county ethics board consisting of six county residents, with no more than one individual from the same municipality and no more than three members from the same political party.  This board should be free of any financial interest or personal bias, and will be responsible for adopting a county ethics code in order to bring additional transparency to county government.

Effective Communication - You cannot possibly govern at the county level if you do not effectively communicate with each municipality. To that end, each Freeholder should be assigned as liaison to specific municipalities in order to build relationships and ensure services reach every corner of the county.  The Freeholder Board must be present, and cannot lead from the sidelines. We will listen to what municipal leaders need for their respective communities, and will not attempt to micromanage the towns or the county employees. Our biggest asset in the county is our human capital, and county government must steward a vision of unity, respect, and true servant leadership. 

Howard M. Zatkowsky - Democratic

  • Age: 73
  • Family: Married to Suzanne, 1 daughter, son-in-law, 1 granddaughter
  • Education: BA History – Windham College
  • Occupations: retired from AT&T, Work part-time as a notary signing agent

Experience: I believe that local and county government entities mirror a service business with a specific goal of providing services in a cost-effective manner. My professional experiences will enable me to achieve fiscal and societal success as a Freeholder. During my work career, I was responsible for the management of multiple personnel, huge budgets,  and extensive  revenue.  I created numerous strategic partnerships and joint ventures with service-based solutions. My business designs addressed a wide area of needs ranging from infrastructure-support to complex business applications in financial service industries. In addition, I have worked with many government agencies at the local, state and federal level. 

Top Three Issues:

  • I view the direct responsibilities of the Chosen Board of Freeholders to be important and will work to maintain and enhance these services wherever possible and will strive to maintain fiscal responsibility in doing so.
  • I believe that the students at Sussex County Technical School and Sussex County Community College should have an expectation that is met in regard to  their future, whether that is an opportunity for employment in their field of study or a path to further education.
  • I am keenly interested in addressing the continuing trend of a shrinking population and the lack of business growth and net new job opportunities in the Sussex County.

I have lived in Sussex County since 2002. I love it here and I want Sussex County to thrive.

Patrick Curreri - Democratic

  • Age: 40
  • Hometown: Vernon
  • Family: Married to Joe (together 16 years) with three children
  • Education: Completed Bachelor's Degree with focus in Psychology from Montclair State University in 2002.
  • Occupation: Currently serve as the client relationship manager for the real estate appraisal & consulting business that Joe and I started in 2011.

Experience: Before leaving the corporate world to start our appraisal firm, I spent several years with Towers, Watson, & Co. as a Senior Associate. I successfully managed a data team, analyzing budgets, compensation, and benefit changes for both government and private industry. 

In my recent experience of running a small business here in our home county, I have had the privilege of hearing from other local business owners - from the burden of bureaucracy, to the challenges of creating family-sustaining jobs. I would like the opportunity to bring this experience to county government. Campaign website: www.czforfreeholder.com

Top Issues:

  • Cut unnecessary taxes on Sussex County residents - As a county, we have missed several large grant opportunities just because we have not applied for them. I would vote to bring in a grant writer at the county level to claw back those dollars that we have already paid out. In addition, we can do better at seeking public-private partnerships to revitalize our downtown areas. Failing to claw back the dollars we have already paid out, along with missing opportunities for partnerships, is the equivalent of taxing us twice. From seniors on a fixed income, to young families just starting out, we can't afford this double tax.
  • Protect the natural beauty of Sussex County - There are hundreds of dump trucks filled with questionable material crossing our county roads every day, and local authorities have their hands tied. We need a county level response to protect and defend Sussex County from outsiders destroying our environment, and precent them from causing further damage to our infrastructure. Any large development projects should have to pass rigorous scrutiny on many fronts-from who is footing the bill for water use and protections, to future impacts on our communities.
  • Bringing new business & Family-Sustaining Jobs to Sussex County - From the serious issues of struggling seniors, a perpetually squeezed middle class, to fleeing students, the answer is the same -we need to draw, keep, and expand businesses in our county. We need family-sustaining jobs. We need businesses that pay their tax bills. Implementing ideas provided by an ethical, balanced Economic Development Advisory Council is part of the solution to ending the yearly tax hikes.
  • Addressing the Addiction and & Mental Health Epidemic - Based on the most recent Sussex County Needs Assessment, improving access to Mental Health Care was identified as the Number 1 need. In meeting with family members of people struggling with addiction, the same ideas were echoed. We have amazing organizations coming together to try to meet this need, and we can do more to reach people through them. Other counties have used grants and partnerships to bring in mobile "Mental Health First Aid" training. Sussex County deserves those services too. 

What else should we know? My best days are those spending time with our boys-whether coaching their soccer team, or actively participating in the SCA. I am genuinely grateful to have the opportunity to run for office with Howard Zatkowsky & Bill Hart. Balanced government and healthy debates about issues will yield better results for our future.

Wayne Levante - Strong Conservative Leadership

Wayne Levante is a 38 year-old self-employed business owner.  He and his wife of 17 years moved to Sussex County in 2006, buying a house in Newton, New Jersey.  Since then his family has grown to include two young daughters ages 9 and 4. 

Before starting his own business, Wayne taught mathematics at both the middle school and high school levels in Paterson, New Jersey.  He holds a Bachelor's degree in Business Management, a Master's degree in Education, and has six New Jersey Educational certifications including 2 in administration and supervision.  

Wayne was elected to the Newton Council in 2014 and served until 2018.  He served as Deputy Mayor in 2017 and Mayor in 2018.  During that time, he was also a member of the Newton planning board for 2 years and the Economic Development Committee for 6 years.  

In all walks of his life, he prides himself on putting people first and has made a commitment to use his life and skills to benefit others.   He's not afraid to stand up against the status quo and establishment to advocate for what's best for people and not just parties.  

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