One on One with Mayoral Candidate Eileen Ludden
This is part of a three part series introducing each of the candidates for Mayor to Patch readers.
As a part of a three part series introducing the candidates for Mayor of Summit to Patch readers, Patch sat down with Eileen Forman Ludden, the Democratic candidate for Mayor who explained her platform, beliefs and plans for the city.
Although Ludden has never held public office, she explained that her professional background provides her with the necessary tools to foster affective communication and facilitate “active listening” among Council members and residents, something she feels is currently lacking in the city.
“My opponents have both sat on council but their performance hasn’t been very affective. Council members are arguing with each other instead of accomplishing the objectives at hand,” Ludden stated.
Ludden explained that her background is in communication, market research, and general business consulting. She went to describe her experience listening to large groups of stakeholders, residents, businesses and nonprofit organizations and getting them to work together as a unified group.
“For me, I believe that those efforts are a natural extension of the Mayor’s role. The Mayor is the cheerleader for the city; you have to be able to go out and attract businesses and explain why Summit is such a tremendously great place to live and work, while working with residents to keep it that way.”
Ludden also detailed her dedication to the Summit community. Ludden is a founding member of TryCAN, a non-profit organization reaching out to Summit, Berkeley Heights, and New Providence that trains volunteer peer mentors ages 10 and up to mentor children with disabilities as they participate in programs in the recreational department like rec basketball or programs facilitated by TryCAN. These programs help mentors gain community service experience while learning sensitivity and acceptance of diversity.
“These are services that are provided at no extra cost to the town while taking the burden off the school districts. Through this organization, I have been very involved with the community. I know how to build programs which is a skill I could use if elected Mayor.”
Eileen Ludden went on to speak about her commitment to looking at the long term impact of decisions made by the town council and how to be fiscally responsible without “cutting for cutting’s sake.”
“I don’t have a partisan approach to local politics. I have a lot of financial experience so I know how to ask the right questions. I don’t believe in staying silent when council is voting on issues without having done the proper background research. For example, with the parking issues, there was no comparative analysis… you don’t vote on an 800,000 dollar parking ordinance before the homework is done.”
Ludden went on to further emphasize her belief in the importance of public involvement and absolute transparency of local government.
“The Mayor has to be able to stand up to the public and communicate what is on the agenda and encourage residents to come and speak at the podium. Right now, if you attend council meetings, our residents are not always treated with respect. For some, to get up and speak about an issue in their neighborhood is difficult to do. We want more community involvement, not less.”
Ludden emphasized that one of the key steps of her platform has to do with keeping seniors in Summit.
“Seniors are an essential part of our community. Every time a senior stays in Summit, it keeps the town more affordable. This is a unique location; we have the hospital here, Sage Eldercare Center, the YMCA, and several different transit options. At this point, it is still hard for seniors to navigate to these facilities. If elected Mayor, I would want to make these resources more accessible for seniors to make it stickier for them to stay in Summit.”
Ludden also noted that she supports the use of shared services and hopes to extend those opportunities as Mayor. Acknowledging the tension between the Council and county government, Ludden stated that while other candidates may have a “hostile attitude towards the county,” she believes in working collaboratively noting that “you can’t ignore the county piece of the puzzle.”
Ludden made sure to emphasize the key points of her platform, reiterating her beliefs in fiscal responsibility, supporting the Board of Education to maintain strong schools, and keeping seniors in Summit. Finally, Ludden explained the importance of having a strong downtown.
“We need a more strategic vision in terms of the businesses we want to attract downtown. Our downtown is nice, but we have too many nail salons, too many hair salons, and too many restaurants. Having so many duplicates is less useful for residents. We need to attract more businesses to Summit that will hire people while creating a better mix of retail businesses downtown so people stay in those parking spaces longer,” Ludden stated.