Moorestown Republicans’ town council ticket will be incumbent-free this fall after the municipal committee decided Tuesday night not to select Mayor John Button to run for a second term.
The committee instead selected three new candidates to vie for the three council seats up for election in November: Phil Garwood, Victoria Napolitano and Pete Palko.
“We are excited about our ticket and the party is solidly unified behind these great candidates,” said John Logue, chairman of the Moorestown Republican Municipal Committee (MRMC). “In the coming weeks, they will share with fellow residents their ideas for addressing the serious issues facing our town.”
None of the candidates have prior experience in public office, according to a release issued by the MRMC, but all are described as active members of the community.
Committee vice chair Mike Locatell, who chairs the selection subcommittee, said the nine-member subcommittee voted unanimously to select Garwood, Napolitano and Palko and the full committee’s vote was nearly unanimous.
Locatell said members of the subcommittee initially reached out to roughly 16 to 17 people who were interested in running, whittling that down to six candidates who were brought in for interviews, which included Mayor Button.
Reached for comment Tuesday night, Button was frank in his assessment of the Republican Party in Moorestown and their reasons for not selecting him.
“What it tells me is the Moorestown Republican Committee has become a committee run by a small number of people who do not represent the majority opinion of Moorestown,” he said, “who are more focused on winning an election than they are on getting the facts and making hard decisions in the best interests of our taxpayers.
“I believe party has no real, meaningful place in running a small town,” he added, alluding to various differences of opinion between he and the party over the course of his tenure.
Asked to respond to Button’s statements, Locatell said he had no comment.
Button said he had an initial interview with the selection subcommittee, and a follow-up phone call sometime after, but no other contact with the party since then. Still, their decision came as neither a surprise nor an expectation for the mayor.
“I wasted no energy on trying to figure out what they were going to do,” he said.
With Button’s exclusion, township council could have an all-new look next year.
Councilmen Greg Gallo and Mike Testa, who ran as a team with Button in 2008, .
Button can still run as a Republican in the primary, or as an Independent in the general, but said he hasn’t made up his mind. There are unresolved issues—the municipal complex, recreation improvements, business revitalization—which he’s reluctant to walk away from.
“I have received many calls encouraging me to run … which was very gratifying, very nice,” he said. “I hadn’t given (running separate from the party) any thought … Tonight, they’ve dealt me a different hand.”
A release issued by the MRMC described Garwood as a “volunteer and leader in the community for over 20 years,” with eight years on the township Recreation Advisory Committee, four as chair. Garwood is also involved with the Christmas parade and is a soccer and field hockey coach.
Napolitano, a software instructor at a local company, enters the race with a master’s in education from Drexel and a “desire … to keep taxes as low as possible,” the release stated.
And Palko, a longtime Moorestown resident, has served as commissioner of the township’s flag football organization and, as CEO of Panther Technologies (a firm specializing in remediation), donated his company’s resources to help repair one of the township’s athletic fields and is currently advising the township on some capital projects, according to the release.
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