Eight years removed from a Village Council seat, former councilman Tom Riche wants to get back in the game.
Riche announced his intentions to run for council last week after "lots of people have encouraged me to do it. That's pretty humbling for me."
Serving one term from 1998 to 2002, Riche did not seek reelection so he could pursue his own business interests. A Planning Board member from 1996 to 1998, and again while on council from 2000 to 2002, Riche accepted a third appointment in 2008.
Mayor David Pfund and Councilman Patrick Mancuso's terms expire this year. Neither has announced their election intentions, but Riche said his feeling is they will not run.
"I'm not interested in running against incumbents. These guys have done an OK job, but it looks like they might not run," Riche said. "The village has some tough decisions, and I feel like I would bring something to the table."
A 32-year resident, Riche raised two children who graduated from the school system. Although he's seen Ridgewood's downtown go through bad periods before, the current downturn is "deeper and different."
He said a key to revitalization is "a forming an alliance with local merchants, Planning Board members, landlords, the Chambers of Commerce and council to get together to a find a solution."
Pointing to the influx of banks and chains over mom-and-pop shops, Riche said "With any town or business, you have to reinvent yourself over and over again."
He encouraged the town to look into Planning Board member Nick Tsapatsaris's suggestion to present Ridgewood at national conventions, like the International Council of Shopping Centers.
Internally, he said the village has made progress in allowing new businesses to open quicker.
"It was just taking too long for stores to open in Ridgewood... Holding up a store for 30 days can be the difference between life and death," he said.
The Site Plan Exemption Committee, of which he is a member, went through five applications in an hour last week, he said, calling it an improvement.
As for the perceived parking problem, Riche said the "issue has been blown out of proportion. We need a reasonable solution, but I don't know if now is the time for a new parking garage."
Aside from town's economic climate, he said the budget, Graydon Pool, and public safety were Ridgewood's biggest three issues.
- Budget: "For the next couple of years, we'll need to put it under control. The question is: How do you cut expenses while provide services? We need to look at all angles. There are areas where you can find savings... You have to get creative with expense levels.
- Graydon Pool: "I don't know if I have an answer to a final solution. We're looking at membership, and we need more people at this great facility... Over the years lots of people have seen it, maybe we need to open it up for other residents of other towns.
- Public safety: "I'm a big proponent of public safety. We need to maintain the current levels on police, fire, and EMS... and maintain levels that are safe. But we need cost savings without downsizing personnel. "
Riche currently is collecting petitions to be placed on the May 11 ballot. He and other potential candidates must submit their applications to the Village Clerk's Office by March 18.