Third Ward Councilman Ryan Kelly has formally withdrawn himself from the general election in November. The councilman will finish his term, which expires on December 31, 2016 but he has decided to not run for re-election for a second term.
As has been done numerous times before, Councilman Kelly put his name on the primary ballot to ‘hold the line’. This, personally, allowed him more time to make a final decision on whether or not to run again. It has been common practice among both parties in Roselle Park to hold the line so that the party can have time to find a candidate for the general election. In this case, the Roselle Park Municipal Republican Committee (RPMRC) has until September 15th to fill a vacancy so that candidate can be on the November ballot.
Although he had until September 13th to withdraw from the general election, the 27-year-old has decided that the sooner the message is out to the public and residents of the third ward that he is not running for re-election, the more likely someone may be inspired to run. Councilman Kelly stated, “I got my opportunity to run in a similar situation and I don’t see why it can’t happen again. The town needs good people and smart people on council. I hope there is a competitive election in the 3rd Ward this November.”
When asked why decided not to run for a second term, the councilman answered, “Simply put, time. It’s not that I’m any busier than everyone else, but I want to start a family, finish my Master’s, and start a business. Can I physically show up to meetings twice a month? Yes, but there is much more to being effective on council than that. And it would be irresponsible for me to commit to another three years if I couldn’t go the extra mile.”
The councilman said that he appreciates the support of his constituents and was flattered by calls to run for a second term from those he notified about his decision. He added, “While I believe I can still be an asset to the administration, I also believe in the public’s right to take part in the process and allow newcomers a chance at sitting on council. If I stayed on just for the sake of staying on, I would be disrespecting the process.”
In reviewing his time – both past and remaining – on council, Mr. Kelly points to asking questions as a highlight of his job as the people’s representative.
“I was never an expert on any matter but I always tried my best to ask questions, get answers, and then ask some more questions,” he remarked, “Whether I knew the answer or not, asking questions is imperative to a strengthening democracy at the local level where access is the highest. Also, I will miss the ‘meetings after the meetings’ which is where mostly everyone in attendance is in the hallways, outside, or at a local restaurant talking about the meeting. This is where you get some hard truths and ice cold glasses of reality. It also humanizes the relationship of Mayor and Council to the resident, it removes the wooden dais and microphone.”
Councilmen Kelly saw that the most trying part of his job as an elected official was making decisions or voting on matters that directly, and sometimes negatively, affected people he knew personally. He expanded on that thought, “There are countless examples where I had to make a vote or a comment on the record or to someone’s face that I felt uncomfortable making because I knew them personally but in an official capacity and for the benefit of the borough as a whole, I had to vote what I thought was in the best interest of the borough and taxpayers. I wouldn’t change my convictions but I will not miss the complications that followed.”
As for the future of his ward and the borough, Councilman Kelly points to the residents as the answer. He commented, “Get involved in any capacity you can and do not be scared to pressure your public officials. There were countless times that I voted a certain way due to input from the public. I have my own opinions, beliefs, and thoughts about topics but at the end of the day, especially when it’s a quality of life issue, I listened to the residents who would be most affected. Now, it’s not a perfect world so that was not always the case but my point is that your voice is crucial and has a greater impact than you can imagine.”
The last day for the RPMRC to have a candidate file to run in the November election for the Third Ward is Thursday, September 15th. If no one fills the election vacancy, Kevin Kolbeck, the 3rd Ward Democratic candidate, will run unopposed and will presumptively become the 3rd Ward councilmember in January 2017.