Councilman Nelson Launches Mayoral Campaign
Democratic ticket running unopposed so far in June 4 primary.
Parsippany Democrats now have their standard bearers for the 2013 races for mayor and Township Council.
Jonathan Nelson, a businessman elected for a one-year council term last November, tossed his hat into the ring for Parsippany's top elected position at a campaign kickoff event at the Sheraton Hotel Thursday night.
A large, enthusiastic crowd was in attendance to show their support for Nelson and his ticketmates, Planning Board member Robert Keller and newcomer Mihir Oza, who are running for the two available council seats.
Oza is a 25-year-old Parsippany Hills High School and Drexel University graduate who works for a nonprofit organization in Morristown.
"He's running to ensure a diverse council," said Nelson. "He grew up here, cares about the town and wants to help make it better. Mihir is not here to be my friend, but to keep me in check."
Oza agreed, telling the crowd that he, Keller and Nelson are working as a team, one that will hold each other accountable before the people of Parsippany. And he reminded the audience that they, the people, are what matters.
"I want to erase the picture of politicians just taking, taking, taking," he said. "From Troy Hills Elementary School, where I went to grades 1 through 5, to Parsippany Hills—go Vikings!—I was privileged with the great education that was provided to me. Now I'm a man. I can really compete out there. So I want to give back. And Jonathan, Bob and I work so well together, not just because we're great friends, but because we come from different walks of life and can offer fresh perspectives.
"Stand with us, we're going to need your support."
Keller is a longtime Planning Board member and community volunteer who ran unsuccessfully for council in the late 1990s. He told Patch that he is running because he loves his town.
"My wife and I have purchased two homes in this town," he said. "We bought the second because we loved living here."
And he said living in Parsippany has become more difficult at times because of politics.
"I want to make the town boring again," he said. "I'm tired of watching the infighting go on and the battles among personalities. It's time to focus on what's important, the issues.
"Personality clashes have stopped conversations at Town Hall. All we hear are monologues with witnesses. That's a failure to communicate with one another and with the people."
Keller said the party is excited for the campaign and for the possibility of a more hopeful future.
"The party cohesiveness is certainly there and the enthusiasm has grown since Jonathan's election last year," he said. "Admittedly when you have defeat, it's hard to rally the troops. With a win in our column, it has re-energized us."
Keller's vision for a better Parsippany, which dovetails with Nelson's and Oza's, includes dealing with economic development in the town.
"We've got to get some of the empty space, retail and commercial, filled again. We've lost a lot of tax revenue and we need to build up that rateable base again."
He said one thing businesses research when considering relocation is the quality of a town's local government and he said the Nelson ticket will provide good, solid, responsive government.
Transparency is an issue important to the ticket, he added.
"We're open," said Keller. "Residents are free to talk to us—and we'll listen and respond. We won't duck answering questions. I'm going to keep a close eye on Jonathan and smack him if he shows up with a plan to spend $20,000 on an informercial hosted by Terry Bradshaw."
And he urged attendees to vote for the Nelson ticket in the June 4 primary, "but even more importantly, on Nov. 5."
"This campaign is about giving Parsippany the change in leadership it needs," Nelson, 44, told Patch. "This campaign is about bringing common sense back to local government, making common sense common again.
"We want to represent all the people. For too long, Parsippany has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Under my administration, the township is going to once again be a place where people want to move to and not flee."
"We plan to stay focused on the issues," he said, noting that one topic he stands for strongly is "enforcing stacking laws, but enforcing them justly."
The Nelson-led ticket currently is running unopposed in the June 4 Democratic primary, so its first likely challenge will be either the GOP Barberio-Ferrara-Shah reelection ticket or the Carifi-Peluso-Valori challenger slate.
Nelson asserted that he, Keller and Oza can be victorious in a town some perceive as Republican but which actually has more Independents than members of either major party.
Keller agreed, but offered a simpler reason.
"We're a great team," he told the crowd at the Sheraton.
"Last year, when I ran for council, people told me I couldn't win," said Nelson, who pulled off his 2012 upset by appealing to voters beyond party lines. "I ran to win and I won. This year, I'm running hard and running fast and running to represent every man, woman, child and business in Parsippany.
"Bob, Mihir and I are independent voices. We bring experience—and youthful exuberance. We bring diversity. We bring integrity and knowledge. And we have no agenda other than doing right by the people of Parsippany-Troy Hills."