Retired Deputy Police Chief, Councilman, and Board of Education Member Team Up for June Primary

Retired Deputy Police Chief Eric Wilsusen, Councilman H. Ronald Smith, and Board of Education member Melissa Senatore have created a team to run for the Republican nomination for mayor and two Township Council seats in the June primary. Their goal is to forge “a new vision for Jefferson.”

The three Republicans told The Jefferson Chronicle that since the current administration and incumbents have been in office for 20 years, they believe now is the time to bring in new people with fresh ideas.

Their vision includes creating an economic advisory board to find ways to attract new businesses to Jefferson, increase ratables to help stabilize taxes for residents, improve communication with residents, and enable the local government to run more efficiently.

Eric Wilsusen

Wilsusen is running for mayor. As a young adult, he became a volunteer firefighter and worked his way up to the position of fire chief. He has also served as the township’s director of communications and deputy emergency management coordinator. Wilsusen lives in the Lake Shawnee section with his wife, Kristine, and two teenage daughters. He has served as president of the Lake Shawnee Club since 2007.

“As a lifelong resident, I have enjoyed serving this great community my entire adult life,” he told The Chronicle. “As the mayor of Jefferson Township, I intend to use my proven leadership skills and service experience to make a difference – to have an impact in moving our community forward in a positive direction and ensuring our local government is doing the best it can for all our residents.”

Wilsusen is the director of Child and Youth Protection for the Roman Catholic diocese of Paterson, president of the Jefferson Township High School PTSA, trustee of Our Lady Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church, vice president of Jefferson Youth Soccer, president of the Jefferson Township High School Girls Soccer Booster Club, alternate member of the Lake Hopatcong Commission, and member of the Morris County Prevention is Key board.

The mayoral candidate has an associate’s degree from County College of Morris and attended Montclair State University. He completed a graduate program in the School of Police Staff and Command at Northwestern University, the certified public manager program at Fairleigh Dickinson University, and the municipal finance administrative certificate program and municipal budget process certificate at Rutgers University.

H. Ronald Smith

H. Ronald Smith was appointed to fill an unexpired term on the Jefferson Township Council, and subsequently elected to the position. He is now seeking his first full four-year term. He is chairman of the Lake Hopatcong Commission and served on the Jefferson Township Board of Education from 2011-17, including five years as president. He was on the Jefferson Township Planning Board from 2008-2010 and the Piscataway Board of Adjustment from 1964-1968.

Smith has a bachelor’s degree from Seton Hall University and a master’s degree in education from Kean University, and did other graduate work at Seton Hall and Rutgers University. He has a school business administrator certificate with the New Jersey Department of Education and is a qualified purchasing agent with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.

Currently, Smith is the president and educational management consultant of HRS Management Services. Past positions include board secretary/business administrator for the Clark Board of Education; school business administrator with Essex County Vocational Schools, including six months as acting superintendent; associate vice president for administration and finance at Kean University; adjunct faculty member at Kean University and Seton Hall University; and consultant with many school districts. He has also been an interim school business administrator for several boards of education, most recently in Kearny since October 2016. He served as president of the New Jersey School Business Officials and the Association of School Business Officials International.

“I believe that my years of experience as a chief financial officer and working on many school budgets will help improve Jefferson’s finances,” Smith told The Chronicle. “I look forward to working with Eric, Melissa, and the rest of the council to bring a new vision to Jefferson.”

Smith, who served in the U.S. Army, is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Jefferson American Legion Post 0423. He was an aide to Senator Robert Martin from 1997-2008. Smith has two sons, a stepdaughter, and four grandchildren, and is a marathon runner.

Melissa Senatore

Melissa Senatore, a lifelong resident, is in her second three-year term on the Jefferson Board of Education. She represented the board on the Morris County Board of Education in 2016 and 2017 and has headed the Board of Education’s negotiations and education committees.

“My goal is to make positive changes in Jefferson, bringing a new vision to the township with future mayor Eric Wilsusen and Councilman H. Ron Smith,” she said. “I believe that my five years of experience on the Jefferson Board of Education have helped prepare me for my new role on the Township Council and will help me to continue to improve Jefferson for all of our families.”

Senatore, who lives with her husband and two children, cites her many accomplishments on the Board of Education, including advocating for special needs children. She helped introduce a job coaching program for special needs students to prepare them for the workforce, and helped implement a continuous education program for high school special education students. In addition, Senatore has worked to improve school facilities and implement a full-day kindergarten program. The candidate told The Chronicle that she hopes to bring the same passion and drive to the Township Council.

Senatore has served on the Jefferson Softball Recreation Board and committee, and has coached for the Jefferson Recreation Department since 2013. She was the PTA president of Park Lake School, was named Business Woman of the Year in 2010, served on the board of the Jefferson Township Chamber of Commerce, and is an Eastern Star member.

A graduate of Jefferson High School, Senatore has lived on both sides of town, in Oak Ridge and Lake Hopatcong. She received an associate degree and a bachelor of science degree in hospitality from Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. Senatore is a regional sales representative for the Gillespie Group, industrial/commercial flooring contractors.

For more information, visit New Vision for Jefferson at https://www.newvisionforjefferson.com/ and follow the team on social media (https://twitter.com/newvisionforJT, https://www.facebook.com/newvisionforjefferson/, https://www.instagram.com/newvisionforjefferson/).

New Vision for Jefferson campaign promotional graphic. (Graphic provided by New Vision for Jefferson)