As we get ready to vote on November 7th the following in-depth interview conducted by Hopatcong Lake Regional News, will help provide you with the information necessary for voting on the Mayor Position.
Also read the article on Madeline McManus running for Mayor
Overview of Michael Francis:
Years within Hopatcong:
Married to Sandy for 54 years, with three children and eight grandchildren
Bachelor's degree in Business
Retired AT&T and Lucent Technologies Logistical Operations Manager
In-depth Interview Questions:
Q: What do you love the most about Hopatcong?
It’s all about the People and the Lake. We live in a unique community and I’m committed to working for our Borough and the Lake to enhance the community.
Q: How have you seen Hopatcong Change?
Over the last 45 years, I have seen the culture change from mostly vacationers and summer residents to more of a family town, where in most cases both people work and commute to jobs outside of Hopatcong.
Q: What Business Experience can leverage towards being the Mayor?
During my career at AT&T / Lucent Technologies I handled Logistics, Security, Emergency Response, Safety and Environment, Hazmat Specialist, and I also have my Firefighter one certification.
This career helped me understand on how to manage people, which is a skill that I continuously leverage in the management of the Borough and its employees. As the Mayor, I believe It’s all about how you manage people. The numbers and the technology take care of themselves, but to have a highly efficient Borough you need to really manage the people properly to achieve the goals necessary.
Q: What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
Strengths: My ability to look at change in a positive fashion, so that we can we can try different strategies to make the Borough a better and more affordable place to live.
For example, I’ve listened the residents of the Borough to understand their needs and better understand the changes that need to take place. Suggestions have been towards better roads and infrastructure, and less red tape in getting things done. So, I continuously work towards new and creative ways to achieve these goals without additional costs for the Borough.
Weaknesses: Sometimes I have just too big of a heart and I try to help everyone.
Q: What do you believe are your top accomplishments to date?
Grants: The continued investigation and pursuit of State and Federal Grants to help revitalize the area without additional cost to the taxpayers. Over the last nine years, the Hopatcong Borough has received millions of dollars in grants, which helps us accomplish our goals, without it costing the taxpayers a dime.
A good recent example is the $64,000 grant we just received for the streetscape redesign that will provide sidewalks and curbs from the River Styx area all the way to the Borough Hall.
In addition, I’m going to Trenton this week to seek another grant for Hudson Ave. to help assist the residents who are starting to see their wells run dry. While some may not consider this a Borough problem, I feel obliged to help our residents whenever possible, so I’ll be taking our Borough Engineer to help me secure this grant for the residents.
Increasing Revenue: Development of new revenue sources, such as the new taxes and fees that have been assigned to 35 new townhouses, the 92 additional townhouses and the new store front business on River Styx road. These new buildings will make a dramatic difference on our budget, and help reduce the burden on our tax payers.
On the other hand, we are always watching for ordinances and zoning that are creating issues for our residents and businesses, maybe we need to look at our ordinances to see what we can do to help existing businesses within our Borough.
Mayors Work Program: Officially called the “Mayor’s Clean Communities Work Program.” I spent the last nine months working with the different State and County organizations to create this program that will help beautify and clean up Hopatcong. It allows people with minor offenses to work off their fines, while providing a service to the Borough.
Currently we have this team cleaning up debris at the recycling center, which I job that department of public works employees would otherwise be doing.
In addition to the clean-up, I also envision this service helping Seniors who are not able to rake the leaves or shovel the snow. Which is a service that we can offer to assist our seniors.
Controlling Spending: We are going to get what we need, and control the expenses on what we want. Every item before the council is closely examined by our financial experts to ensure the cost and benefit ratio is correct for the Borough.
A recent example is our negotiations for the interest rate on the Sewer Debt. Leveraging our AAA rating we were able to save millions of dollars on future intertest payments, which helps ensure that the sewer taxes will not be increased in the future.
Additionally, within the Borough, we keep everyone’s operation budget flat to ensure that tax payers cost is keep to a minimum. While we have costs that are out of our control, such as Pensions and Insurance as required by the State, we try to minimize costs across the rest of the budgets.
Outsourcing: Based upon the Cost-Benefit analysis from our Borough’s Financial team, I’m always looking for areas where we can outsource portions of our services where it makes sense. I than work towards reassigning anyone that is displaced from outsourcing to help increase the Borough workforce without hiring anyone new, which helps reduce overall costs.
Examples of cost savings are: Garbage Services that helped save the Borough millions of dollars, and the outsourcing of landscape services, that once again helped save thousands of dollars for our tax payers each year.
Farmers Market: This market is now in the fifth year, and we have grown from just two vendors in the first year to over 20+ this year. The idea came from my travels throughout Europe, where I witnessed the open trade of goods, and the community using this event as an open meeting place. I’ve help to recreate that experience by not charging vendors, and encouraging the open meeting area through special events, which Councilwoman Marie Galate has done an outstanding job in her assistance.
Q: What are your Top Disappointments to date?
Somethings as I try to do things, the length of time that it takes to get through the red tape from the State and Federal government hinders the us from moving forward quickly. For example, in the case of the $64,000 grant, it is probably going to take another three - six months to get everything finalized. I understand the necessity of the process, but sometimes the processes are just too slow.
I don’t like red tape, and if I see it in town, I will address it directly.
Sometimes it takes time and we just need to be persistent, we can’t just give up!
Q: What are your top Initiatives for the Borough and how will you achieve them?
- New Money: I’m always seeking new revenue infused to our Borough through new development and by continuously redoing our ordinances and zoning
- Abandoned Homes: I’m working on new ordinances that help identify these homes to make sure they are revitalized as soon as possible to make sure they are not a blight on the neighborhood. We need to make our Borough by encouraging people to invest in their properties.
- Redevelopment:S Our Borough is already built out, so there is limited room for new development, Therefore, we are always looking to the revitalization of existing areas that need assistance.
- Infrastructure: Keeping our Borough in good repair covers all areas, including the ongoing re-pavement of our roads. It took two years to repave Brooklyn Mountain Rd from end to end, while we could have done this sooner in small pieces, we waited until the full funding was available and did the entire project all at once.
Now we are going to look at other roads, and the backroads that need to be completed. While we can’t do everything at once, we are invested in the on-going support of our infrastructure where we repave roads each year until we are done, and then we’ll start all over again.
- Keeping our town clean: I think that keeping our town clean is something that people are proud, of is a top priority. We need to keep our town looking good and impressive for both the residents and our visitors.
- Affordable: Making a town affordable sounds nice, but that’s difficult to do based outside influences from State and Federal agencies. We need to continue to implement. "out of the box thinking", that helps reduce costs, minimize taxes, and increase the value of Hopatcong overall.
- Small Businesses: As a strong supporter of all Small Businesses within our community, I personally work with any businesses who may request my help and direction. Many times, I find that I only need to improve the communications between the business and the County or State to make sure that the issues are clearly understand understood by both parties.
Q: Fast Forward 2 to 4 years, what does the Borough look like now?
We are healthier than we have ever been before, and we are more transparent then we have been in the past. We’ve helped you achieve to this goal by creating a new dashboard for the entire Borough, which measures our operational efficiency across all our agencies. The first example of the Tax Collector is already online to the public through the Borough website.
Q: Why should residents of Hopatcong Borough vote for you?
I’m committed to our town and I will continue to work hard for both the Borough and the Lake. Our lake is a critical part of our overall economy, and if the Lake is not good and healthy, then our businesses may suffer, which may bring long-term negative results to our Borough.
I also try to think outside of the box, and not just do what has been done in the past. If someone says, “we’ve always done it this way in the past.” I become very concerned and try to consider the matter more deeply.
In Addition, I have always had an open-door policy, which means that any resident can speak to me personally, and I’ll take what they say seriously, and act accordingly.
Lastly; The question that I always keep asking myself and other people.” Are we (Hopatcong Borough) better today than we were yesterday?” And if not… What do we doing about it to correct the issues?
If we are doing better than before, what else can we do in the future to enhance this effort in the future.