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March 29, 2021

BERNARDSVILLE - The Bernardsville Municipal Democratic Committee has now endorsed its full slate of candidates for the 2021 Borough Council election, with Old Fort Road resident Christina Balas joining incumbent Dr. Jeffrey Hammond of Flintlock Court on the party ticket.

The endorsement was announced in a press release from Democratic Chairman Robert Frawley on Monday, March 29.

“We’re very pleased to have two such outstanding candidates in this year’s race,” Frawley said. “Both candidates bring impressive skills, significant experience and tenacious energy and enthusiasm to our community.''

Two, three-year terms are up this November on the six-member council, which is now evenly split between the two major political parties.

The Bernardsville Republican Municipal Committee (BRMC) endorsed two first-time council candidates, Jay Ambelang of Mullens Lane and Al Ribeiro of North Finley Avenue, for the June primary during its screening on Wednesday, March 17.

Republican incumbent John Donahue is not seeking re-election after having served one term.

Monday, April 5, is the deadline for candidates to file to run in the primary elections.

Balas is making her first bid for public office.

"She has been active in our town from the moment she planted her roots here,'' Frawley said. "Her enthusiasm for the community has already contributed to the Bernardsville tax base, as she successfully recruited her parents and their best friend to move into town.

"A committed political activist since a young age, she has volunteered on Congressional campaigns and served as an election challenger. She is a member of Bernardsville’s Diversity Council and is passionate about making government accessible to and for all its citizens.''

Balas is a Rutgers University graduate with a master’s degree in organizational communications.

“What most excites me about serving on the council is the opportunity to merge my professional and personal passions to boost downtown walkability and retail potential,” she said.

She said she looks forward to “working with the council to continue to increase residents’ awareness of, and participation in, municipal government.”

Balas is an operations and strategy director for a commercial real estate firm. She has one child at Bedwell School and another in pre-kindergarten.

Hammond, the former chief of trauma/surgical care at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital's Level 1 Trauma Center and now an administrator at Morristown Medical Center, was first elected to the council in 2018.

"An engaged and committed council member, Dr. Hammond has championed safety issues as chair of the Public Safety committee last year such as speeding mitigation, walkability and bicycling initiatives and the town's Covid-19 response,'' Frawley said.

Hammond is a liaison to the borough's Office of Emergency Management and serves on the Somerset County Health Recovery Advisory Committee. In recent weeks he has led three video and in-person town halls providing information on the virus and vaccine availability.

In 2019 he spearheaded the committee that designed and implemented the banners honoring Bernardsville veterans and in 2020 led borough efforts to expand diversity and anti-discrimination policies and training.

An avid cyclist and hiker, he is the council liaison to the Environmental Commission and the Green Team and has secured two energy efficiency focused grants for the borough.

A 29-year resident of Bernardsville, Hammond and his wife, Jill Books, have three grown children who attended Bernardsville public schools.

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"BERNARDSVILLE – Preliminary results showed Democratic incumbents Tom O'Dea and Christine Zamarra with a comfortable lead in a contest for two, three-year seats on the Borough Council.
If successful, they would be the first Democrats to win re-election to the council in 83 years.

The last was James McGuirk who won a third council term in 1937.  He did not seek a fourth term in 1940.

In the next 77 years, only four Democrats were elected to the governing body and all served only one term."

For the full article click: ​

Image by Taras Shypka


Voters in four of the Somerset Hills towns will decide contests for municipal seats in the Tuesday, Nov. 3, general election.
Board of Education seats will also be filled in the election, but there are no contested school board races in the local communities.
In Bernardsville, voters will fill two, three-year terms on the Borough Council.
Democratic incumbents Thomas O’Dea and Christine Zamarra are being challenged by Republicans Diane Greenfield and JoAnne Robertson.
Our enthusiastic endorsement goes to the Democrats, two finance pros who have proven to be proactive council members who are fully engaged in the community.
Since being first elected three years ago, O’Dea and Zamarra have demonstrated competence, dedication and strong work ethics. They have both worked diligently to usher in an era of positive change in borough government that’s resulted in visionary downtown redevelopment proposals and long overdue recreational planning initiatives.
O’Dea has become the council’s leader on budgetary matters. On a governing body that’s evenly split between political parties, the Democrats have worked cooperatively with a Republican mayor and council members to advance common goals.
Greenfield brings extensive volunteer experience to the race and a proven long-term commitment to the community. Her running mate is not up to speed on the many complex issues facing the community.
On Nov. 3, Bernardsville voters should re-elect Thomas O’Dea and Christine Zamarra.

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The Bernardsville News conducted an interview with Christine Zamarra and Thomas O'Dea Jr. about their reelection campaign. 

They discussed their most significant accomplishments, reviewed how their election was a historic victory, dug into recreation issues that are at the heart of the two candidates, and provided a background of the candidates. 

Check out the very informative article here:

Image by Markus Winkler