Lifelong resident, J. Brendan Galligan wants to continue to give back to the community that has given him so much.
This November, the 23 year old will run uncontested for a seat on the . Galligan, whose first name is James, goes by his middle name Brendan and is the youngest candidate to apply for a seat on the Board within the last two decades. Several years ago, a high school student ran but later withdrew his candidacy.
Galligan will serve for one year, fulfilling the term left vacant by Julia Walker, which was appointed to in January. , who will pursue a three-year term, will also run uncontested this November.
Educated in the Westfield school district, Galligan attended and before graduating from in 2007. The candidate said he supports the Westfield community "at every opportunity." Shortly after earning his Eagle Scout award through Troop 72 in October 2006, Galligan became a member of the . After more than five years of dedicated service, he was named the Scheduling Lieutenant.
Galligan is currently employed by and is pursing a degree in civil engineering by taking evening, weekend and on-line classes.
Patch recently had a chance to ask the candidate about his decision to seek a seat on the Board.
What inspired you to apply?
Westfield is my home. I was inspired to run for office because I saw yet another opportunity to continue to give back to the Westfield community that has given so much to me over the years.
What do you think are the biggest issues facing the Board of Education? How do you think the Board should address those issues?
The Westfield Board of Education is the largest employer in the Town of Westfield, and the budget is one of the biggest issues facing the Board of Education year after year and staying within the statutory budget cap will require many creative solutions. The Board must aggressively explore sharing services with neighboring communities, eliminating waste and hunting down additional revenue streams wherever possible.
I am a strong proponent of practical-environmental programs. I believe that the district should be implementing low cost solutions to benefit the environment (and the budget bottom line). Something as simple as setting the computers to turn themselves off after a set period of inactivity or selecting a more fuel efficient vehicle when a purchase is to be made can save the district thousands of dollars in fuel costs and help offset our carbon footprint. Slightly more extensive programs such as sorting recyclables from trash or the installation of photovoltaic systems could be phased in over a period of time.
I also firmly believe that the Board needs to put a larger amount of money into a capital improvements fund every year. There is no reason that roofing repairs should be forced to a bond referendum. However, the repairs are necessary and the money is not there, so we must vote. In the future, bond referendums must be reserved for extraordinary capital expenditures, such as the construction of a new school or a major renovation to an existing structure.
Ongoing issues aside, 2013 will be a particularly exciting year for the Westfield Board of Education. The NJ Department of Education has implemented policies requiring all school districts to develop a comprehensive teacher evaluation system with specific milestones that must be completed prior to a complete statewide rollout of the system for the 2013-2014 school year. Additionally, the Westfield Board of Education signed a three-year contract with the district teachers and support staff in March 2010, and will expire in early 2013. I hope to be involved in the discussions of both of these topics, but at this point I must defer my position on either until I gain more information as to the progress that the Board has already made towards achieving them.
What are some strengths, qualities, interests or skills that you bring that you believe will enhance the Board?
As a recent graduate of the school system I seek to lead, I am able to present a unique viewpoint on many important issues that will face the Board. Since I do not have any children, I do not have a conflicted interest in the business decisions of the district. I recognize that many decisions will be hard to make, and not having a child in the district will allow me to more easily debate and/or vote on the merits of an issue. As an engineering student, I bring to the table an understanding of structural/construction issues as well as a strong desire to advance the STEM curriculum. As a proud graduate of the Project ’79 program, I bring an in-depth understanding of alternative education methods and I will fight for those students most at-risk of being left behind. I would call myself a strong advocate of technology, and I believe that much more could be done within the district with the implementation of new technologies.
How would you have voted on the one vs. two bond referendum issue the Board recently faced?
I will first comment on the merits of each project, then on the decision to combine the bonds into a single referendum.
Turf Field Complex:
Westfield has a long history of successful athletic programs. That success comes through a combination of athletic ability, top tier coaching and appropriate facilities. The key word there is appropriate and I feel that the existing facilities are more than adequate. The Kehler Stadium complex already provides a state-of- the-art facility for the varsity football, soccer, lacrosse, and track & field teams. While the Edison fields for the varsity baseball team and the High School field for the softball and field hockey teams are sufficient. All members of the Westfield community, particularly those adjacent to school properties, need to be respected and their concerns must be addressed before any superfluous construction occurs.
Roof repair and replacement:
As a student of engineering, I recognize the need for regular repairs to prevent significant structural damage. I have not read the engineering report, so I cannot comment on the assertion that all of the proposed roof work needs to be done this year, but I will assume that the claim is accurate. Moreover, municipal bond rates are near their historic low; so issuing a larger, one-time bond will ensure the lowest long-term costs for this work.
I do commend the decision to make the new roofs “solar ready.” The Union County Improvement Authority, through its Renewable Energy Program, is encouraging all public buildings to install photovoltaic systems. I believe the best time to install a PV system is at the time of replacing the roof. This will ensure the systems are compatible, minimize disruptions to building usage, and maximize the potential savings realized from solar power. I urge the Board to pursue the installation of a photovoltaic system and the completion of the roof replacement project simultaneously.
While both the roof and turf projects may have their merits, the two are not of the same necessity and should have been voted on as two separate bonds. Simply put, roof repairs are a necessary cost of doing business, and a lighted synthetic turf complex is a multi-million dollar luxury. I urge the Board to readdress this issue, and vote to separate the bonds. I believe that as it stands today, the single bond will fail, forcing an avoidable delay to necessary building repairs. Until the roofs are replaced, a solar photovoltaic system cannot be installed, and the district cannot actualize any of the projected savings to energy costs.
What made you decide to seek the one-year term versus the three-year?
I chose to seek the one-year term because I plan to be finishing my engineering degree around the same that the one-year term would be ending, and at this point I do not know where life will be taking me. I am very excited to be serving on the Board, and I hope to run for reelection next year, but at this point I do not want to over-commit myself. While I am running uncontested in November, I would like to undergo the scrutiny that I would face had I been running against someone. I encourage any and all members of the Westfield community to contact me with questions and comments they may have. I be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org