courtesy of Joann Neylan
JoAnn Neylan, a former member of the Westfield Town Council of 16 years, announced her candidacy for mayor in February and is running as a Republican. Her opponent is Democratic incumbent Shelley Brindle.
“I think that [my experience on town council] will help me because I have had the opportunity to see what it is like to run a town,” said Neylan. “When you are leading a town, you are beholden to the residents. They are the people who you are serving. It’s public service.”
As well as being on the town council, Neylan served briefly as the acting mayor in 2009 and 2010. She plans to listen to the community and make decisions based on its needs. “Although being a good leader means you have to make tough choices sometimes, you have to take the right things into account by listening to people. That’s how I think the town should be governed, and that’s what I intend to bring to the table.”
Neylan was inspired to run for mayor by her mother. Since her father passed away when she was 13-years-old, Neylan’s mother has been an important role model in her life. Neylan’s mother always said, “If you don’t like something, you have the obligation to change it.” Neylan, following her advice, said, “I don’t like how I feel about things politically right now, and I feel like [running for mayor] is a real way I can affect change.”
As mayor, she also plans on increasing freedoms in Westfield, specifically for homeowners. She said, “I know there’s been some legislation, which I think is overreach, regarding private property rights for homeowners. I would reconsider that. The major investment most people [make] in their lives is their home, so when you curtail or change their rights regarding whether or not a home is designated as historic, that’s a big deal.”
She also hopes to support business owners in Westfield. Neylan said, “I would continue the work that we did when I was on council, which made the town friendlier to businesses. The ordinances that were in place made it easier and less cumbersome for [them] to do business here. I would continue with those efforts.”
Neylan has been a resident of Westfield for more than 29 years, and she has raised three children in Westfield. She enjoys spending time in the downtown area, especially at Bagel Chateau. “I like to say that Bagel Chateau is Cheers without liquor. You go in there, and everybody says ‘hi’ like you know each other.”
Through her time living in Westfield, she has seen the town change and grow. “Westfield has changed a lot over the years, and change is good. I know that people are sometimes afraid of change; I’m not. I think we have to always balance the old-world charm of Westfield. It’s a town unlike a lot of places in New Jersey,” said Neylan.
Although Neylan has high regard for the Westfield community, she is frustrated with the current political climate in Westfield. She believes Westfield is unnecessarily polarized because of labels like Republican and Democrat.
“We should not be so political; things should not be so toxic,” said Neylan. “I would never judge or try to be non-inclusive. I think some of the changes the town has made have been wonderful, and we should continue to make everyone here have their voice heard, regardless of what they stand for or what their personal position is on certain other issues.”
As mayor, Neylan’s goal would be to make sure that she does what she believes is right for the town in terms of balancing the changing needs and the changing demographics. She said, “This is what my mantra is: We may not agree on everything, but let’s talk to each other, and let’s not be afraid.”