District 2 Freeholder Maureen Kern is seeking re-election to the board.

SOMERS POINT – Strongly influenced by her parents, District 2 Freeholder Maureen Kern said being re-elected to the Atlantic County Board of Chosen Freeholders would allow her to continue serving the community.

“I’ve never been about party politics,” the Republican said. “Once you are elected, you have to serve everyone, regardless of their party affiliation.”

Kern, who lives in Somers Point, is facing a challenge from Democrat Maureen Leidy of Ventnor.

“I volunteered in the community for years and it evolved into this,” she said in an interview Saturday morning. “I like doing things for the people.”

Instead of focusing on the divisions in Washington, D.C., Kern, the first female vice-chairman of the freeholder board, said, “When politics is local, it’s not about what’s going on in Washington. It’s all about Atlantic County and serving the needs of its people.”

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.

Her father was Lawrence “Bud” Kern, a longtime coach and community activist who died suddenly at age 52. He was recreation chairman and president of Little League, and although it was not something he would relish, the rec fields in Somers Point were named in his memory.

“He was a heck of a guy who knew how to get things done,” she said.

She is a board member for the memorial trust fund named in his honor that provides scholarships for Somers Point graduates and is funded with proceeds of the annual Somers Point Good Ole Days festival.

“I think I followed in his footsteps to honor his legacy,” Kern said.

Her mother Mary Lou was also a great inspiration, she said. She suffered with multiple sclerosis and despite her disability, raised six children.

“My parents had a big influence on me and my four sisters are a great support system,” she said.

Her community involvement over the years includes serving on the Somers Point Foundation for Education and being a Recreation Board Commissioner. She was on the Board of Education for seven years and on City Council for seven years, where she served on various committees, including budget, recreation and COAH.

At 62, the married mother of three sons, ages 24-31, is on the Atlantic County Advisory Commission for Women, the Disability Advisory Board, the Mental Health Advisory Board and All In Together, a women’s empowerment group.

“There is so much to learn on these boards, especially with the opiate epidemic, that it opens your mind to substance abuse and other mental health issues,” she said. “If you see something, you know how to approach it. I’m grateful to be able to do that.”

She is out in the community so much, that she carries a Narcan kit in her purse, just in case, she said.

She recently spoke at a girl’s empowerment camp and talked about “what we do in government.”

“Part of our responsibility is to be out there as a leader and be a good role model,” Kern said.

When she was first elected freeholder, she was the only woman on the board. Now there are four women on the nine-member board.

“We are a very diverse board, and I’m proud of where we are going, especially with the Atlantic County Economic Development Board,” she said. “Seeing a need and being able to help is what motivates me.”

Her running mates are Frank Formica, who is currently chairman of the freeholder board, and District 5 incumbent Jim Bertino. Democrat Celeste Fernandez is challenging Formica for the at-large seat and Bertino is being challenged by Barbara Butterhof-Rheault for the District 5 seat.

A national sales manager for Tropicana Atlantic City, Kern has been in the convention and sales business and promoting Atlantic City for nearly 40 years. The county’s effort to diversify the economy beyond casino gaming will provide “a new dimension” for all of Atlantic County and South Jersey, she said.

“With all the things in the Angelou Economics Report, aviation was the easiest to focus on,” she said. “When you bring in new businesses, it helps other businesses already operating here and not only creates jobs but also benefits the entire business community.”

The economic development board hired an executive director last year, and the county is getting ready to announce a tenant for the first of several buildings to be built in the Aviation Research and Technology Park, she said.

“The county provided some bonding for those buildings like they did with the Stockton Atlantic City campus,” she said.

Kern said administrators and county government officials have been “energized” by the recent approval of a Garden State Growth Zone in a 1-mile radius around Atlantic City International Airport, which will provide tax incentives for new companies that locate in the Aviation Research and Technology Park.

She is pleased that Stockton University and Atlantic Cape Community College have jumped on board to educate the workforce for high-paying jobs in the aviation industry.

“We want our youth to stay in our community and have good jobs,” she said.

Kern said she has been canvasing door-to-door but going to public events is more in her wheelhouse, she said.

“It’s important to be out there supporting different causes,” she said.

She is looking forward to another term on the freeholder board and believes she is the right person for the job.

“When I’m re-elected, I will wrap myself around diversifying the job market and make sure our youths have a good education and get the jobs we are creating,” she said.

She said she is confident she will get to serve on the board for another term.

“You can never be overconfident, but I have the experience and expertise to be doing this,” she said. “It’s my passion to be in the community and helping people in need. I want to be able to serve everyone.”

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

Copyright MediaWize 2018

Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.