Bergenfield Mayor Norman Schmelz is the Republican candidate for Bergen County Executive, running against first-time incumbent James (Jim) Tedesco, who was profiled by The Jewish Link last week. Schmelz, who was initially profiled by The Jewish Link in advance of the Republican primary this past June, has repeatedly expressed interest in working with people of all parties and has shown respect and support to the myriad communities and cultural groups living in Bergenfield and the Jewish community at large.
This week, Schmelz checked in with The Jewish Link to speak about his goals, plans and priorities for Bergen County, reflecting on the experiences he gained over the past five years serving as Bergenfield’s mayor.
JLNJ: What skills and experiences have you gained as mayor of Bergenfield that will serve you well as Bergen County Executive?
Norman Schmelz: I’ve learned that you need to listen to people you agree with and don’t agree with. You need to work hard, and you need to accomplish results for the people who elected you, not for any specific group or interest. The hard work and dedication needs to be there and needs to be genuine. I work every day to accomplish these goals, and will do the same as county executive.
JLNJ: What sort of changes or efficiencies would you like to bring to a county level as Bergen County Executive? Have you learned anything in particular as you have been campaigning specifically for this position?
Norman Schmelz: Bergen County’s budget has expanded vastly over the past few years. The economy is doing great, and the county has expanded its budget with new spending. This is only going to lead to tax increases and a loss of essential services when the boom ends. The budget and spending needs to be curtailed and cannot be satisfied by short-term budget gimmicks.
JLNJ: Tell me some of the most important problems we face as a community.
Norman Schmelz: We need to all listen to each other. Once we can actually listen to each other, it will be much easier to work with each other constructively. If a person or a group won’t listen to what you have to say and respond respectfully, it’s very difficult to accomplish anything of note.
JLNJ: What have your years in public service taught you about problem solving?
Norman Schmelz: I’ve learned to listen and work with people all points of view on an entire gamut of issues. As a mayor I’ve had to make decisions that some people are happy with, and others not so much. I’ve had to explain to unhappy people why things are not the way they envision. I’ve learned that if you are respectful to people and make sure they understand that you seriously value their input, values and opinions, the response and reaction is one of respect and not of disgust.
JLNJ: What is your “day one” project as Bergen County Executive?
Norman Schmelz: There needs to be a complete audit of Bergen County on day one of county government and all county agencies, including New Bridge Medical Center. Too much of our tax dollars are not being spent on essential services and are hidden in vast budgets that nobody can make sense of. Bergen County taxpayers work hard for their money, and it shouldn’t be used to pad someone’s pension or give a friend a job, instead of paving roads or providing essential services.
By Elizabeth Kratz
Norman Schmelz is on ballots for Bergen County Executive on Tuesday, November 6.