Rossi joins Rinker, Shortway in mayor’s race

VERNON. Three candidates are running for two Township Council seats with four-year terms, and three others are vying for one council seat with a two-year term in the Nov. 7 election.

Vernon /
| 13 Sep 2023 | 07:18

Three candidates will compete for mayor of Vernon in the Nov. 7 election.

Because the township’s municipal elections are nonpartisan, candidates had until Thursday, Aug. 24 to file petitions to get their names on the general-election ballot.

The mayoral candidates are Sally Rinker, Anthony Rossi and Harry Shortway. The term is for four years.

Both Rinker and Shortway previously served as mayor and council members.

Rinker was a council member and mayor from 2009 to 2011. She now is chairwoman of the township’s Economic Development Advisory Committee.

Shortway resigned his council seat last fall after saying he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer for the second time. On Thursday, Aug. 24, he was appointed to fill a vacant seat on the Vernon Township Board of Education. That term expires Dec. 31.

He is a retired detective with the West Milford Police Department.

Council races

Incumbents Bradley Sparta and Margaret “Peg” Distasi are seeking re-election to the Township Council. They are running for two seats with four-year terms along with William Higgins.

Sparta was elected to the council in 2022 after serving more than eight years on the Board of Education. Higgins also is a former school board member.

Distasi was appointed to fill a vacant seat on the council Feb. 6 after serving on the Environmental Commission and other township committees. Former council president Brian Lynch resigned his seat in January.

There also are three candidates vying for one council seat with a two-year term. They are Jessica DeBenedetto, Mark Heftler and Daniel Storey.

Earlier run for mayor

Storey ran for mayor in 2019, losing to Howard Burrell, who promised to serve only one term. A retired sheriff’s officer, Storey has worked as a school resource officer in Newton and Wantage.

Heftler is a lawyer who oversees the people aspects of a statewide arbitration program. He also is a member of the Vernon Land Use Board and has sought appointment to the council twice in the past 10 months.

He said he was deeply troubled when he attended a Township Council meeting after settling with his family in Highland Lakes. “In a room full of big personalities and bigger dramatics, the fundamentals of good governance were missing.

“I consider it my civic responsibility to give of my time and experience to this community and its residents.”

Distasi, who has lived in Vernon for more than 37 years, has worked for more than 45 years in financial services, management, banking and the private investment field.

She led the effort to stop illegal dumping on Silver Spruce Drive, helping to create the citizen activist group PAID, which raised public awareness and involvement. “I am still actively involved in the situation, seeking funding for remediation.”

Sparta said he is running for re-election “because I have a desire to serve my community and believe that with my fellow council members I can make a difference for our community.”

He is a project manager for a company with a wide range of construction projects, from site work to golf course renovation.