Rob Canfield graduated from high school in 2009. Less than a decade later, he believes he is the best choice to run the town he has lived in since 2002.
Canfield, 26, a part-time youth minister at an Assembly of God church in Monmouth County, works full-time for a local dental services company in patient support. He said if he wins the election in November, he’ll give up his job to be a full-time mayor of Brick.
“The main reason I wanted to run is to help people in a more meaningful sense, in a way more than is typical,” said Canfield, who described his political beliefs as “moderate with conservative tendencies.”
His platform: use fact-based data to solve issues affecting the township, and make himself available to solve the issues of the day.
“I want to be going out, being on the street, cleaning up garbage, whatever it is,” said Canfield.
In order to lead Brick, he will have to defeat Democrat John Ducey, who is running for his second mayoral term. Party sources have said internal polling shows high approve ratings for Ducey, who this year passed the first budget that reduces municipal property taxes in decades.
Ducey, for his part, said he has worked hard to be as accessible as possible to township residents. He frequently meets with various neighborhood associations and civic organizations, and last year began live question-and-answer sessions on Facebook that have drawn thousands of viewers.
“It’s well-watched, filter free – people ask me whatever questions they want and I answer them, if I have an answer,” said Ducey.
Canfield promised to review the township’s budget to see where more savings can be achieved, but promised not to cut public works or the number of police officers on the force. He wants to reduce the township’s surplus account in order to pass more savings to taxpayers, he said.
Canfield’s primary issue, however, is tackling the ongoing heroin epidemic affecting Brick, along with the rest of Ocean County.
“My approach to it is taking what we already have and expanding it more,” said Canfield, promising to expand the HARP program, under which addicts can come to the police department and ask for help without the threat of criminal charges, to be seven days per week.
Ducey said the program, which is offered each Thursday, is available seven days per week already, but Preferred Behavioral Health, the organization which evaluates patients and gets them into a rehab program, can only staff the program full-time once per week.
“If someone comes in on another day of the week, we don’t turn them away, it will just take a little longer,” said Ducey. “If they’re looking for help, they’ll get it.”
Canfield said if elected, he would want to lead a county-wide effort to combat drugs, which has already been a priority for Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato.
“I would be trying to fight to see how the county could help, or how we could get the funding to expand it,” Canfield said.
As to his campaign strategy: “don’t act like a politician.”
“One thing that I’m trying to do is just not give that aura of being a politician,” he said. “People are sick of it. “We’ll look at the facts, not blame anyone, and figure out what we can actually do and what we need to fight for. I will not be slandering anyone or sending out postcards about court cases I know nothing about.”
Canfield said his youth should not be an issue in the race. In fact, he said, he’d like to be an example of someone who is not the stereotypical millennial.
“It all depends on how you carry yourself,” he said, of the age factor. “If you’re actually able to offer something, that’s much better than the stereotype of the typical young person who’s angry over a few issues.”
In addition to Ducey, Canfield will also be running against whichever candidate – Domenick Brando or Martin Ebert – wins the GOP mayoral primary in June.