Maureen Leidy of Ventnor is running for District 2 Freeholder on Nov. 6.

Maureen Leidy challenges Maureen Kern in District 2 Freeholder race

VENTNOR – Maureen Leidy is passionate…and proud…to be one of three Democrat women hoping to sweep the Nov. 6 freeholder election.

“It’s time to step on some toes,” she said in an interview Saturday, Oct. 6. “I’m passionate and determined and won’t sell out for anyone or anything.”

She has been running a “lean and mean” campaign by going door-to-door in District 2 communities talking to residents about their concerns. She recently campaigned at ShopRite in Somers Point because that’s where the people are, she said.

District 2 includes Ventnor, Margate Longport, Northfield, Linwood and Somers Point, Ward 6 in Atlantic City and Districts 1 and 5 in Egg Harbor Township.

“I’m trying to reach as many people as I can for the least amount of money possible,” she said. “Sometimes people don’t even want to hear my views, they just say they are voting Democrat.”

She financed her first-ever campaign by holding a fundraiser at a friend’s house, obtained signage and “walk” literature from the Atlantic County Democratic Committee and accepting small checks from friends. She made her own T-shirts and advertises on Facebook. She also shares her blog which addresses issues near and dear to her heart.

She said she wants to focus on mailers in Ventnor, because that’s where people know her best.

Leidy said she is extremely proud to be a Democrat and part of a three-woman team of candidates challenging three Republican incumbents. Leidy is challenging Freeholder Board Vice-Chairwoman Maureen Kern of Somers Point for the District 2 seat. Barbara Butterhof-Rheault is challenging Jim Bertino in District 5 and Celeste Fernandez is challenging Freeholder Chairman Frank Formica for the at-large seat.

The all-woman team is hoping to ride the pink wave into county government.

Leidy, 63, who has lived in Ventnor for five years, said her interest in politics started in high school when she campaigned for George McGovern.

“That was before I could even vote,” she said.

She grew up in Philadelphia, graduated from Little Flower High School, lived in several South Jersey towns before moving to Phoenix, Arizona. Eventually, she returned to the area and decided being near her children and the beach was the way to go.

“I fell in love with Ventnor. It’s not your typical shore town because its so diverse,” she said.

She spent two years looking at houses on the weekends until settling on a place on South Hillside Avenue.

“When I first came to Ventnor I joined the Democrat Club and worked on Cassandra Shober’s campaign when she ran for commissioner. She is also involved with the Atlantic County Democratic Women’s Forum, “a phenomenal group of women trying to make a difference,” she said.

Her friend in the group (Democrat Freeholder) Caren Fitzpatrick talked me into it,” she said. “I have the chance now that my kids are grown, so I’m doing it.”

Leidy said there are many issues affecting residents of the district, including backbay flooding, taxes and the opioid epidemic, which has hit her family hard. Her younger daughter has battled addiction for the last 10 years, she said.

Leidy got her into rehab in Phoenix, but she was soon back on the streets.

Although she wants to do more for her daughter, “It breaks your heart, but she’s got to help herself,” Leidy said.

The divorced mother of four adult children and grandmother of seven has an associate’s degree in criminal justice from Camden County College and a bachelor’s degree in human and legal services from Thomas Edison University.

“When I was living in Camden County and in an abusive relationship, I was treated terribly by the police, which prompted me to get my degree. I became a domestic violence counselor for the Collingswood Police, which is the department that treated me so badly,” she said.

Today, she works for Inspira Health Network in Mullica Hill as board coordinator for the Board of Trustees and the Network Board.

“I schedule meetings, take minutes and am involved in many committees, including in governance supporting the general counsel,” she said. “When I read the minutes of the freeholder meetings, they have no detail, even on controversial issues. It’s like no one is watching.”

Leidy said she wants to see the freeholder board become more accessible to the public.

“First of all, people may understand the issues and are concerned, but they don’t know who their freeholder is. My priority is to make sure they know me,” she said.

If elected, she will petition to change the time of the meeting from 4 p.m. to later in the day, “so people can attend,” she said.

“There’s no transparency on that board. They should hold meetings in the towns more often and the website is horrendous. They want to bring in new business, but if you can’t navigate the website, how do you expect to market yourself?” she said. “We have to better promote the county and get the county government in shape before we can shape the county.”

Leidy said she is hoping the Democrat team wins all three seats.

“We have three strong women running. If we all win, it will not only will there be a Democrat majority on the board, but it will also be a female majority. When we put our minds to it, women get things done.”

This is the first in a series of stories focusing on the Nov. 6 general election in Downbeach.

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