Overcast skies didn't put a damper on the fun Saturday afternoon as Westfield Councilman Keith Loughlin took a running start, literally, at campaigning for the 2013 election.
Surrounded by family, friends and fellow Republicans, Loughlin hosted what he dubbed "Keith's Kickball Game: The Rematch" at Echo Lake Park. When Loughlin, an attorney with Morgan Melhuish Abrutyn, ran for his seat in 2009, the Fourth Ward candidate put the "fun" in fundraiser with some friendly competition in the form of a kickball game.
"He was a camp counselor," said Loughlin's mom Cathy, a fifth grade teacher. "He loves this sort of thing."
And so did the near-50 participants who came out between noon and 3 p.m. to enjoy some pizza and the playground favorite.
Westfield Mayor Andy Skibitsky took in the game from the sidelines and praised Loughlin for his contributions to the town. "Keith has worked very hard for his constituents in the Fourth Ward," he said.
The mayor pointed to Loughlin's work to improve traffic conditions in and around Westfield High School as well as his efforts to stop the installation of a 150-foot communications tower as examples of achievements.
"He's accomplished a lot in his first term," Skibitsky said.
Also showing their support were Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21), Summit Mayor Ellen Dickinson, and Springfield Mayor Ziad Andrew Shehady, who donned an orange shirt in honor of Loughlin's alma mater, the University of Florida, and proved he knew a thing or two about kickball.
Fellow Fourth Ward Councilman Jim Foerst covered first base while Councilman Mark LoGrippo brought along some fans in the form of his children, five-year-old son, Francesco, and a four-year-old daughter, Gemma.
"I attended the event three years ago so I couldn't miss this one," said LoGrippo, who stopped by in between participating in the 8th annual Big Brothers Big Sisters Race for the Kids in Riverside Park, NY and taking his daughter to soccer. "It's a busy day but I'm here to support Keith and I'm happy to see he's got a nice turnout."
Loughlin said while he doesn't know who is challenger will be in 2013, he will continue to focus on doing everything he can to keep Westfield "a great place to live."
"For 2013 and beyond, I will continue to work to control property taxes while preserving essential services including maintaining our police, public works, and fire departments," he said. "In Westfield, our local government only keeps 16.85 percent of a resident’s total property tax bill, the majority of the property taxes goes to our schools and Union County. In other words, even if we eliminated all municipal services in Westfield, a resident’s tax bill would only decrease by 16.85 percent.
"Under the outstanding leadership of Mayor Andy Skibitsky since 2005, the town's workforce has been reduced by more than 20 percent through attrition without the need for layoffs. We have imposed user fees for our recreation department to reduce, or in some cases eliminate, the costs to residents. During my three years as a member of the Westfield Memorial Library Board of Trustees, our Board returned approximately $366,000 in surplus funds to assist the town’s finances. I will continue to look for ways to reduce the tax burden on Westfield residents."
Loughlin added that he will strive to increase the number of roads paved each year.
"I will continue to monitor the high school parking situation to make sure our plan to improve the safety and quality of life of the neighborhood is working as intended. Finally, I continue to knock on doors to meet residents and hear their thoughts for improving our town," Loughlin said. "I encourage residents to contact me with their ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org."