HIGHLANDS - A strong business background, a professional life that honed inclinations toward leadership, data management and public relations as well as strong communication skills are personal assets Jo-Anne Olszewski feels will enable her be an effective council member and bring about an enduring and sound future that also respects Highlands’ past.
Ms Olszewski, who lives on Grand Tour and has been a resident of the borough for six years, is one of four candidates seeking the two three year seats on Borough Council in the November election. Stories on candidates Michael Warren and Vincent DeSantis appeared in earlier editions of The Atlantic Highlands Herald. A story on candidate Kevin L Martin and Councilman Cody Valkos, both is seeking the single one year term up for election this year, also appeared in an earlier Herald. Donald Melnyk is the fourth candidate seeking a full term.
Olszewski, who earned an undergraduate degree in business education and a masters in secondary education, sees flooding as a major problem in the borough, one that must be addressed with an effective flood mitigation plan that would preserve the borough and prevent the danger of downtown Highlands ever becoming uninhabitable. Toward that end, she said it is important to see the “big picture first,” and that includes research necessary to develop effective results and driven solutions that work, a plan, she said she would use not only for mitigation but for every problem that needs a solution. Being a team player is also necessary, she added, but must be blended with an independent stand when needed.
A native of Tenafly, the daughter of parents who put a high value on education and goal setting, the candidate said she followed in her father’s footsteps by opening and running two retail stores for several years before her love for teaching had her change professions but taking advantage of the skills from her business career. At Teaneck High School, she played a major role in converting an outdated business department that met higher standards and modern technology, leading to doubling the enrollment in the program. As party of the faculty, she wrote, taught, and shared a number of new courses including Financial Planning and Money Management; Dynamics of Business; and Entrepreneurship. Along the way, she felt she needed to know more, and pursued and earned an MBA at St. Peter’s University. She also conducted workshops for the NY Federal Reserve Bank, teaching financial literacy, was the Business Department Chair at the high school and eventually a school district supervisor for five departments responsible for writing , earning and managing a half million dollar federal grant.
The Olszewskis moved to Highlands after frequent fishing trips to the area led them to see a for sale sign on a house in the town they had fallen in love with on first visit, and “the rest is history.” They attended borough council and school board meetings to become better acquainted with the community and volunteered as part of the Community of Hope organization assisting homeowners restore their properties after Sandy. She was also an active member of the Communications Committee until her husband became ill several years ago. He died death this past spring.
Ms. Olszewski believes “Reset” can describe her goals and beliefs for the borough in a single word, meaning RESET Bay Avenue as a business-friendly area giving all of us a reason to support it, RESET and move forward with flood control for the water from both the hills and the rivers and ocean, either with the Army Corp of Engineer plan or a better alternative, and RESET equitable property assessments and stable taxation.
Ms. Olszewski and her husband Tom, whom she met in graduate school were married more than 40 years and have two grown children, a daughter following in her mother’s footsteps as a teacher in Bergen County, and a son who is an estate gardener in Katonah, New York, as well as HOW MANY grandchildren. She is also the proud and loving owner of Wendell, a gray and white tabby cat, who she said selected the family, as well as a large brown tabby cat, Squeaks, whom the Olszewski’s rescued.
The warmth and friendliness of the residents of the borough are strong attributes, the candidate said, touched by the compassion she received at the death of her husband, as well as their fearless and positive attitude in the wake of disasters like Hurricane Sandy when she feels the “Oh Yes we will!” spirit was especially evident. She feels an obligation to contribute to the community that has already given her so much and believes her professional life has well prepared her for the challenges of municipal office as well as the opportunity to make improvements and keep the borough a blend of history and community. Being retired will enable her to devote the time her goals require.
Ms. Olszewski has two videos outlining her viewpoints on her Facebook page Jo-Anne Olszewski for Highlands Town Council, and a website – johighlands.com. In addition, her videos are shared on several Highlands Facebook pages.