MARGATE – Calvin Tesler cares about the people of Margate.
“At the end of the day, it’s about the people of Margate,” he said in a telephone interview Thursday, March 21. “If they are unhappy, then we have to do something about it.”
Tesler, 34, has lived in Margate full-time for the last two years, but spent many years vacationing here with his parents and is no stranger to Atlantic County. He attended high school at Trocki Hebrew Academy in Egg Harbor Township, commuting daily from his home in Philadelphia.
“You can say I have roots in the area,” he said.
When it came time to settle down with his new family, which includes his wife Caitlin, a licensed social worker, and 5-month-old daughter Gabriella, he decided Margate had much to offer, including a vibrant business community and great schools.
“Living in Center City was getting crazy and we thought Margate would be the best place to raise a family because it is a safe community with good schools. We absolutely love living here,” the Amherst Avenue resident said.
Although challenging incumbent commissioners in the May 14 election is his first foray into politics, his background makes him a natural. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Temple University, a master’s degree in Holocaust studies from Touro College in Manhattan and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in American history and urban planning from Lehigh University.
“I’ve been involved on boards and thought this would be a good opportunity because I feel so connected to the city,” he said. “The people of Margate welcomed us with open arms, and I feel passionate about the city.”
He is vice-president of programming for the Jewish Federation’s NextGen program and is involved in his synagogue, Shirat Hayam in Ventnor. He is an adjunct professor of history, literature and writing at Temple, Stockton and Rowan universities.
He decided to run after he learned the incumbents had no challengers. He has been talking with residents to understand their concerns.
“Most people are concerned about over development and they don’t want to see Margate lose its identity as a residential community by the sea,” he said. “They want it to thrive year-round. Businesses can’t stay in business without full-time residents.”
The top three issues facing the city is attracting families, transparency in government, and promoting the city’s assets, which includes low taxes.
“It was eye-opening when I was getting signatures for my petition to hear their concerns,” he said.
Tesler said it comes as no surprise that since 1970, the city’s year-round population has decreased about 40 percent, he said.
“That’s a major problem. Do we just want to be another summer town?” he asked.
He will make it a goal to attract families to stabilize the community.
He would also like to see more transparency in government, he said.
“I cannot make it to meetings at 4 p.m. because I have to work,” he said. “There are not enough voices coming from the community.”
He would petition the other commissioners to meet later in the day when working people can attend.
Promoting the city’s public schools is a good way to attract families, but the price of homes puts them out of reach for young families, he said.
“We need to seek a solution and push for more housing that families can afford,” he said.
Although homes ranging between $300,000 and $500,000 would be affordable for professionals with decent jobs, taxes are low in Margate compared to off-shore communities that have good schools.
“I think that has to be marketed more,” he said.
Tesler said he plans to raise the funds needed to conduct an effective campaign, which would include mailers, door hangers and brochures, but meeting people in person is the “fun” part of campaigning.
“Personalizing my message is the fun part of the job,” he said.
He is looking forward to the candidates’ forum being planned by the Margate Homeowners Association and the Margate Business Association. Although plans have not been finalized at this time, it will be held 2 p.m. Saturday, May 4, most likely at the William H. Ross School, he said.
The League of Women Voters has been asked to moderate the forum and incumbents Michael Becker, Maury Blumberg and John Amodeo, who are running as a team, have agreed to attend.
The community groups will solicit questions from the public to present to the candidates, he said.