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Former Winfield Mayor to Run With Aschenbach

Hannen circulating petition to run for Township Committee seat.

A former Winfield mayor will join Mayor Dan Aschenbach on the Democratic ticket in the Township Committee race this year.

Thomas Hannen, who served 12 years on the Winfield Township Committee before moving to Cranford over two decades ago, was knocking on doors in the Riverside neighborhood Sunday afternoon seeking petition signatures. Hannen will be seeking one of two seats on the Township Committee in the November election.

Hannen indicated that Aschenbach, who has served on the Township Committee on and off since the mid 1980s, will be seeking his seventh term. Republican incumbent Public Affairs Commissioner Mark Dugan will not be seeking a second term in office.

“I think I have something to offer,” Hannen said. “That volunteer spirit has been with me since my teens.”

Hannen indicated that finances top his agenda in the election. He noted that he wants to work on rebuilding the township’s surplus account, along with addressing declining revenue and the sewer tax. The township’s auditor briefed the Township Committee earlier this year that projections for a $1 million plus surplus were off and the township’s surplus account stands at $54,000.

“That is nothing more than one big snow storm away,” Hannen said during an interview Sunday between door knocking.

Hannen said he does not see using the township’s sale of assets account as a way to rebuild the surplus, noting that this would only be a one-shot revenue source. He said he the township needs to think on the issue from a long-term perspective.

In terms of the sewer tax, Hannen said he wants to see the township assess users based on usage if a fee is imposed. Hannen said this would allow residents to not subsidize larger commercial users.

Control of the Township Committee is at stake in the election, with Democrats currently holding a 3-2 majority and one seat from each party at stake. If Republicans sweep both seats, control would then be at stake in 2012 when Republican Public Works Commissioner David Robinson is up for reelection. If Democrats claim both seats, the party would retain power in 2012 and 2013, when Democratic Deputy Mayor Kevin Campbell and Finance Commissioner Ed O'Malley are up for reelection.

Hannen stressed his business, government and volunteer experience would be a benefit to the township. Hannen and his brother operate a plastics extrusion company, Patwin Plastics, in Linden. Hannen is a volunteer firefighter in Cranford and has been a volunteer firefighter in Winfield and Roselle Park.

Hannen, a Union County College and Rutgers University alum, was elected tax assessor in his native Winfield when he was 18 and then elected to the Winfield Township Committee at the age of 20. Winfield operates under the same rotating mayor form of government as Cranford, with Hannen holding the mayor’s office four times during his dozen years of service in the county’s smallest community.

Hannen unsuccessfully sought a State Assembly seat in the 1980s in a heavily Republican district encompassing parts of Union and Essex Counties.

Hannen and his wife, Cindy, have four children. Cindy Hannen is a Cranford native.

“We need to bring good business practices to the running of municipal government,” Hannen said. “Government should not be a bad word. It should be something people are proud of.”

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