Monmouth in Focus - October 2023 Edition: Shrewsbury Bor. Mayor Erik Anderson, Fall Tourism & 9/11
Welcome to Monmouth in Focus, a program about the services and functions of Monmouth County government. I'm Commissioner Director Tom Arnone, and I'm here and joined with Shrewsbury Borough Mayor Erik Anderson. Erik, nice to have you. Good, Good morning. Great.
You have such a beautiful little town there. And, you know, I kind of relate a little bit to it because, you know, I was obviously mayor of a small town there. But the thing that you have, unlike which we'll get into a little bit is a historic side that you have there. But let's talk a little bit about yourself.
How long have you been Mayor? And a little bit about your background? Yeah, sure. I'm actually born and raised in Shrewsbury. My folks still live in town. I went to Shrewsbury Grammar School, Redbank Regional High School.
My boys are now kind of working through the school system. I've been very fortunate to be part of the community and serving the community, but I think eight years ago or over eight years ago, I served on the zoning board, came onto the council, served in council for three years, and now I've been mayor for five years. What made you decide? that you want to get into this crazy world that we're both in? Yeah, it was a kind of fostered by my folks. My dad served on the Board of Education. My mother was very active in the Parent Teachers Association.
With my first son, Connor, I started coaching some rec sports and then got an opportunity to hop on some of the zoning board and then ultimately fill the vacancy on council. And so while we are a lot alike, because that is exactly step by step, what, what I, how I got involved and why I got involved. First, before I start, I want to personally thank you.
And I know that the County made a statement on September 11th with the federal government and the state government and declared it a holiday there. September 11th. And a few municipalities stepped up and also instituted a holiday for their employees.
And when I say holiday, maybe a day of remembrance is better. Yes, day of remembrance there. And I want to thank you, because I do still believe that we should all have a day of remembrance that day. But you did have the will to step up and do the right thing, in my eyes, at least maybe not in everybody's eyes, but in my eyes. And I want to thank you for that. No, it was a year ago at Mount Mitchill.
You made a call on the federal government and Trenton to make this a day of remembrance. Hopefully, they'll take your heed at some point in time. Shrewsbury is very proud to be the first municipality in Monmouth County to declare it a day of remembrance.
And we closed the municipal building and municipal operations and it's only right and fitting. We're 22 years removed from 9/11. Unfortunately, it is fading from some people's memories, especially the youth. Absolutely the youth.
You know, the children that you know, my kids were born before 9/11. And it's important that it's just not a historical moment, but that they actually live what we lived and experienced, whether it was the quiet skies following the attacks or the empty cars left in commuter parking lots, we just can't have it as a historical note, it has to be something that's living and breathing. I agree. And the education component, a component side of it, I think is going to be the biggest factor there because we're all going to remember because we were there when we thought we would never see anything like that.
But and it's fitting that you were the first municipality because, you know, obviously your historic side goes back to the 17th century there, which is which is remarkable there in Monmouth County. So much history here and coming up on the semiquincentennial of the 250 years in 2026, I'm sure Shrewsbury Barrow will be a very, very big part of that. But you have made some unbelievable accomplishments as a mayor. And maybe if you could talk a little bit, of something that makes you, you know, everything stands out a little bit more special than others with those accomplishments. Is there anything special that really sticks out besides what we'll get to next, the grants [...]?
Yeah, no, we've been very fortunate in my tenure as Mayor to do some amazing things. And we've we've partnered with the County on many of them. For example, most recently, we teamed up with the County for County Dispatch. We've been able to enhance public safety for the community through County Dispatch while saving the community almost a quarter million dollars a year through the service.
And I want to commend you for that because it wasn't an easy decision. I did it when I was Mayor there. And, you know, you're always going to get the naysayers there and you have to deal with the emergency services, which we all know we support so much here in Monmouth County.
But at the end of the day, people don't like change. And, you know, you have to sell that this is going to be the long term right thing to do. But it's a leader that does that. And I'm a firm believer of that. You know, we could all just make everything status quo. We sat in the seat.
But, you know, sometimes tough decisions are made. But I will tell you, you know, there's a cost savings there, plus hopefully a long term better service by the technology that Sheriff Golden will offer through the 9-1-1 service. But, you know, you've also taken a look to find ways to cut, get services and get things improved at, not at the taxpayers back of Shrewsbury Borough.
And I know that a Green Space grant that you just received. Can you talk a little bit about that? Yeah, we've been, you know, working very hard to enhance our parks for the residents, especially the children. And again, you know, we've been very fortunate to partner with the County most recently received a grant for Sickles Park and we are actually getting rid of playground equipment that is decades old. And what's even better about not only replacing the playground equipment is that it's going to be barrier free playground equipment.
So it's going to give access to all children of all ages and all abilities to use it and have fun. And we're very excited. We actually spoke to the administrator yesterday.
The parts are finally coming in after the COVID delay and will be up and running in a couple of weeks. That's great news. And, you know, and you touched on something that it will benefit all children. Absolutely. And even, you know, some with disabilities that might not be able to normally go on this type of equipment. So, you know, those are all the things that are done behind the scenes that people don't realize.
They think it's just they wake up and it magically pops up. Yes, it pops up. Which it doesn’t. And the good thing about Shrewsbury Borough, I mean, you're surrounded by so many towns and and I know Red Bank Regional very well. You know, my daughter attended there and it's a great school there and but all the towns are like, they all tie together, but they're all different in their own little ways. And and they all have their special events that go on.
And I know that you probably have numerous events coming up there. They're coming up. Can you touch a little bit of. Yeah. So fall is actually the busy season for Shrewsbury. The Historical Society has an event coming up on October 1st.
The PBA has their Food truck festival in middle of October, and Halloween is a really big event for all the children because they invade the streets and it's great, the police officers are out, you know, on foot handing out candy. And it's a just great celebration for the children. That's great. You know, we used to go a long time ago.
We used to go on the road and do different meetings, county meetings. And and, you know, it got to be somewhat complicated with staffing, moving equipment and stuff like that. So we, you know, pretty much did not do that. But we just noticed that you held a council meeting at one of the I think it was a park that was at Thornbrooke? Yeah, Thornbrooke.
So I mean, Shrewsbury is not that big. We're about 2.3 square miles, but we wanted to get the residents to the meetings. And you know, unfortunately we don't get a lot of public participation in our council meetings, which also might be a good sign that we're doing the right thing.
So we went and met at Thornbrooke’s clubhouse and it was great. We probably had 40 to 50 residents and we brought all our professionals, all our department heads and gave them an opportunity to ask questions about everything from zoning to tax appeals. And it was a really great event.
And we're going to look to do it and some other developments and communities in town. You know, are you touched a little bit on The Dispatch, so I'm just going to take a step back on that. So over this period of time, how long have you been under contract with the County on that? Well, so we're just we're entering, you know, we think was like three or four months ago that we joined that...I knew it was recent there.
And how's it working now? It was a seamless transition and we're really fortunate. You know, we are providing a more enhanced service. I know the Sheriff's Office has cutting edge technology. It's always expanding, and I'm very happy that we're able to not only bring a better service to our community, but do it at a lower cost. And in closing, I know something that's passionate both to yourself, because I've been at an event that you held for the businesses, is a business climate.
Shrewsbury Borough has a lot of businesses for a small town there and and I know you're so pro-business, so can you talk a little bit about, you know, your support to your local people? Absolutely. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and our our population's about 4000 when all the businesses are up and running in the middle of the day, we get about 10,000 people in our borough. So most recently, we conducted a roundtable with small businesses in the borough and you were there and you had Assemblywoman Eulner to talk about state and county resources, and it was a great success and we're planning on doing it again in about a month. Now, you also have a Shrewsbury Community Alliance group. Absolutely.
You know, following the pandemic, there's a lot of issues with mental wellness for the children and community, and they do a great job not only talking about, you know, ways to express themselves or dealing with bullying, but they also talk about substance abuse. They team up with not only our administration but the police department. And it's a great resource not only for the children of our school, but the adult residents of the community. And they do a really valuable service for Shrewsbury. Well, I want to thank you because in that short period of time, that 8 to 10 minutes that we talked, we were able to learn so much about Shrewsbury Borough and I knew a lot of it because I've watched all the positive things that you do there and, and your council and your and your administration and how many people, you know, just love the town because you offer so many services and you try your best to keep it the affordable way.
So I want to commend you for everything you've done there. I look forward to continue working together for the period. You know, I plan on working with you for a very long time, and it's going to be it's going to be a fun time. Monmouth County's a fun place to live. It's because of the great leaders that we have in those towns and you're one of them. So I want to thank you.
Thank you for the time and thank you for the County Government for working with us. You are actually making Shrewsbury a better place to live in our partnership. So I really want to thank you for that. Well, I want to thank Mayor Anderson for coming and joining us on this Monmouth in Focus. This is a this is the end of our episode. I want to thank you and have a great time. See you.
See you next time. We are truly partners, the County’s the county [...] whole. We're part of 53 brothers and sisters here and our brothers and sisters, our towns and our municipalities. And we're here in the great town of Red Bank today.
And I'll ask Mayor Portman to get up and do a little introduction here. Welcome, everybody. On behalf of myself and Deputy Mayor Triggiano, we're happy to have you here.
I mean, I. I saw. Where's Eileen? She floating around. Oh, yeah, from Asbury. But if we're going to, if we're going to talk about tourism, Red Bank is a great place to be.
Always something happening here. Just finished the Indie Street Film Festival. I saw Hair is playing over the Two River Theater. If you know me, no surprise. That's my favorite musical. Anyway, very happy to have all of you here.
Thank you for doing this here and bringing a spotlight on Red Bank. We're definitely entering into a busy season here. We've got the October Fest coming up.
We got our second annual Porch Fest inspired by Asbury, very successful Porch Fest. So please visit us here in Red Bank and thank you all for being here. I love this time of the year. I think all of us love this time of the year because it's now it's Monmouth County's time of the year, you know, all the tourists and then they leave.
And, you know, quite frankly, we need them. But at the end of the year, it's very, very important, probably the most critical time to talk about what's going forward. That's where the businesses get the extended period of time. Monmouth Beach is truly a family beach. We have a town run bathing pavilion, and it's a wonderful place to bring your kids. We have a pool.
The bathing pavilion portion is run by the town. The beach is also run by the town, but we kind of separate the two out. So this year was a good year. And a big reason for that is the support of Monmouth County on the Beach Replenishment Program.
So thank you all very much for that. In Monmouth County, most of us wouldn't have a beach without the County support and the Beach Replenishment Program. 2023 was another, as I said, an excellent year for Monmouth Beach. Revenue was up approximately 8%. Now, with that said, we've had to raise rates.
You mentioned all the rates are different somehow we've got to pay for the lifeguards and everything. The beach to Monmouth Beach is our most important asset without it. I lived there before we had a beach. It provides protection of life and property for the town of Monmouth Beach, and it also provides jobs.
We employ approximately 134 seasonal workers. That includes beach staff as well as special Class one, Class two police officers. The employment of all those people puts money back into the local economy. So here we are talking about tourism and that's about the economy.
How do we generate more money for the economy, for Monmouth County. A small town, and that revenue to the employment base? Just imagine Asbury Park, Belmar, Long Branch, with all the seasonal employees that they must be having, and how much money is going back to the economy there. And when you put that in a hole, that's that's pretty that's pretty impressive. And, you know, you take a look and probably people wonder why was the daily badges less.
Well, that was across the board through the shore this year we're noticing. And that all is attributed to one thing, the rainy June that we had. You know, so you think about all that going back into the economy. That's a that's a huge thing.
Monmouth County has obviously this past year, we unveiled a lot of different things, including our Beach Dashboard, which for the ones that are not familiar with our Beach Dashboard, that was probably one of the most successful, successful things that we've done in a long while. We basically are the only one in the country that has implemented this. This gave the ability for residents and people outside Monmouth County into all the towns to tell you where to go. It's free to go online.
Then the County absorbed all the cost to the towns and it gives the ability to give you what the conditions are there, how crowded they are, the lifeguards and every everything that you would want to know before you went on to that beach. So that's something that we're very, very proud of. Obviously, we like promoting the towns and that's the number one thing that the County's job is.
That's what we started off. And we decided years ago when I came on the Board and then with the help of the Commissioners here, that that should be our focal point. And that's what our job is in the tourism industry. We don't have a beach.
Your beach is our beach. Our beach is your beach, but we need to market your beach. And that's our job and that's what we've done. And we started that off with the Travel Guide. We actually, this year, we had a contest for the Travel Guide and a gentleman Bill McKim of Belmar received the most votes and it ended up being on the marketing all through not just Monmouth County and New Jersey, but as far as Canada and all that. These were all where this all went to.
Our next goal now, because where we're at is, is the fall season and that's what we're geared towards and that's what we're focused for. And I know myself along with the rest of the Commissioners, have given full support to market and give the resources and funding to do any sort of sponsorship to those events. We know that our budget in the beginning of the year, the four of us sit along together and we decide what tools tourism needs to have to be successful. And when the tourism is successful, the towns are successful.
In 2026 we will be 250 years old and Monmouth County is not going to let that be forgotten with our partners, our municipalities. And we're going to have events from now until 20 through 2026 that's really going to make the state of New Jersey and the United States very proud of the way we presented all that. Some of the upcoming events are just, you know, right here at my fingertips. Of course, you have the Asbury Fest, over my hometown, Neptune City, the Fall Food Truck Festival, Red Banks’ October Fest. And every town has different events here that I could go on for hours. But ultimately, when people want to get away and enjoy themselves, they come back to the County resource.
And that County resource is our Monmouth County parks. And our Monmouth County parks are by far the best in the state of New Jersey and quite frankly, in the country. It is no secret that our county parks are really a destination throughout this county. You know, one thing I love about being in Monmouth County is the migration throughout the County during the seasons.
And it truly is, like the Director had said just earlier, and our Mayor for Monmouth Beach, our beaches are just incredible. In fact, we have our own County Parks Beach in at Long Branch at Seven Presidents, which had record numbers this year, especially, well during COVID were record numbers, but this year also with over $1 million in gross revenue that actually came into just that one beach alone. And what that means for our economy in Monmouth Beach and in Long Branch and and the surrounding areas, You know, there are so many great things to do within our park system.
You know, we have an incredible, our golf courses, we have five award winning golf courses built by some of the greatest people in the industry. We have two executive golf courses and of course, one Par Nine. And just all the events come up. You know, just recently, the fall program guide came out and this this program guide is is really your ticket to see all the amazing things that's going on in this county, not only in our park system, but in the areas that that take you through. And, you know, as we migrate in the summertime and the beach and of course, as the weather gets a little cooler in the fall, we come inland and then we start hanging out towards our farm country and and all the great stuff with the fall festivals. I know the Harvest Home Festival, which is being held this Sunday at the Historic Longstreet Farm, which is personally one of my very favorites.
I've been taking my kids there since they were born. It's 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thompson Day Park, which is being held on October 15th from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thompson Park in Lincroft, and also, you know, we recently just hosted the Wind and Sea Festival at our Bayshore Waterfront Parks.
I mean, listen, all of you know, it's just it's never ending here in the County. It's never ending in our park system. We're continuing to grow and added hundreds of hundreds of acres in the last three years to the County park system. And just to bring this type of enjoyment to our residents here in Monmouth County, to help our local businesses, to make our lives so enriched here living in Monmouth County. I'm proud to be the Commissioner that is a liaison in partnership with all of my other fellow Commissioners who I know support the park system 110% and it's just really great. Between now and the holidays, in the Hackensack Meridian Health Theater and our second venue behind you, the Vogel, we’ll host more than 150 concerts: comedy, Broadway, community theater and family attractions.
That's a lot of shows from now until December. Now, everything from Lord of the Dance to our community theater production of The Addams Family, the Musical to a DIA de los Muertos celebration, to holiday programing, and then later this fall, the Basie Center Cinemas on White Street will become the first cinema of its kind in Monmouth County, where patrons can enjoy an adult beverage while watching their favorite independent film or Hollywood blockbuster. So we're very excited for that.
And then you heard it mentioned about Two River Theater, our friends, and bookend of culture at the other side of town. Really incredible for their new season. Taking it all into account, it's really easy to see that the arts and our and our vibrant, diverse community are driving forces in creating significant tourism opportunities, even though the beaches are closed.
And it's just a great economic impact. So we thank you for doing this here. Thank you for gathering under our marquee and for giving such a warm welcome to fall and to the arts. We had a great summer. We had a great tourism season.
Please be sure to check our tourism events calendar regularly for upcoming, up to date events and happenings around the County at MonmouthCountyTourism.com. Have a great fall season, Enjoy Monmouth County and be safe and spend some money for these businesses. [OS: performer sings the line “God Bless America”] As we reflect on that clear September morning 22 years ago, there were thoughts [...] a day ahead. It was a Tuesday morning. Schools had started for the year. It was the hustle and bustle of early September morning.
People began their days as they normally would have. They probably had their cup of coffee, kissed their loved ones goodbye, and as they went out the door said, I'll see you later. Just to start an ordinary day. As we learned, September 11th, 2001, would be anything but ordinary.
We watched the worst terrorist attack in our nation's history through our own eyes and through the TV cameras. We felt powerful emotions, fear, concern for our neighbors, sympathy, rage. When the dust settled and the smoke cleared, America rose up with the promise to never forget. 22 years have passed since that day.
Well, that can seem like a long time ago. It feels like yesterday for a lot of people. As I look at the family members and loved ones who have joined us this morning, I feel some of the same emotions all over again. I look into the eyes of the parents who may never have had a chance to say goodbye to their children.
I'll look at spouses who gave everything or anything to hold their loved ones one more time. I see children who only hear the greatness of loved ones through stories, pictures and home movies. But I also see the strength and courage just as we saw first responders rush into the pits of hell. I see parents who honor their loved ones by sharing stories. I see spouses who vow to always say a prayer to talk about their spouse, and that I see children to grow up to be brave.
While September 11th, 2001, may be 22 years ago, I still feel those emotions, and I know you all do also. Today, on this National Day of Remembrance, I encourage everyone to find a moment of quiet, to reflect and remember the 147 Monmouth County families that will never change...who were forever changed that day. It's been roughly 14 years as I've been a Commissioner, and during those 14 years, this period of times where I've said that there have been eighth graders graduating right now or just past graduating. Then it went into high school students that have graduated. Now we're at the college level of young men and women that have graduated from their institution.
And if you think about that all the time, that has gone away and all the time that someone in that period of time does not know the true effect of what happened. Whether it didn't touch them, whether they weren't educated enough in the school, on that component, on that situation or that devastating attack, but at the end of the day, we all know, each and every one of us here know the effect, were impacted, whether personally or just for people of Monmouth County. You know, Monmouth County lost 147 individuals that day. The state roughly over 2700 people. And, you know, last year I sat at this podium and asked the state government and the federal government to declare this a holiday, a day of remembrance as a day where people can go to events, where they can remember and have that never forget. Where students can be educated and know why they're having off then.
Unfortunately, that did not happen, but it did happen here in Monmouth County. And I want to commend my Commissioner Board, our Constitutional Officers, our staff, and, of course, our employee base. We made this a day of remembrance.
Monmouth County is closed today and for the reason only that people will remember what this day meant when they got up in the morning. It's not Christmas. It's not Thanksgiving. It's a day just to remember. And that's what this was meant for.
And I hope and I hope that today will give a lesson to our state of New Jersey and to our federal government that this was the most devastating attack on our freedom and we will never forget. In this room, each and every one of us. But our young people are youth have to be educated on how devastating it was.
When you wake up on September 11 to educate somebody that didn't physically go through this attack, did not have the impact - whether it was a family member or friend, they were not born - to educate that individual. Our country is strong, but we have to be just as strong. Thank you. God Bless America.