May 25, 2024
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Fair Lawn’s Marc Zharnest: Striving to Make a Difference

Marc Zharnest is striving to do something that just might be unprecedented. The married father of two and Shomrei Torah congregant is running for Fair Lawn Council. Should he be elected, Zharnest would be the first in memory and possibly ever observant Jew on the Fair Lawn Council. This is one of the many reasons why Zharnest is running.

The Jewish Link of New Jersey, last April, (“Marc Zharnest Runs for Fair Lawn Council,” http://tinyurl.com/o5p4e9o) announced Zharnest’s candidacy. Since then, the campaigning began in earnest. Zharnest says of campaigning, “What I like is meeting and talking to people. I like to listen.” He relishes these small meetings as he feels he can share his fresh set of ideas and display his eagerness to get involved.

Zharnest’s enthusiasm for civic affairs was inspired by his parents. He was brought up with the idea that it is important to give back. Zharnest says his parents were always involved in shuls and schools. His parents also conveyed a message, “They said if you see a problem, you need to fix it.”

This message has been taken to heart and inspired Zharnest to volunteer for the Ambulance Corps, where he served as president for two years, the Fair Lawn Zoning Board and the Fire Department. While Zharnest is passionate about making a difference and doing good for the town of Fair Lawn, it’s his wife, Orit, who, he says, enables much of it to happen. “She inspires me—gives me the push.” Zharnest says he only decided to run after talking about it with his wife and knowing she was supportive. Not only is she behind him, but “she is working as hard on the campaign as I am. It’s a team effort,” Besides talking to neighbors and even strangers about his campaign, Zharnest’s wife is also taking up the slack at home when he misses the children’s bedtime or dinner.

As the campaign is in its final weeks (election day is November 3), Zharnest is out of the house often. “I was aware of the time commitment, but it has been challenging.” Because of the timing of the recent holidays, Zharnest says he had to be strategic and smart with his schedule and works harder on those days he is able to campaign. The fact that his ticket (he is running along with the current mayor—John Cosgrove and another would-be first-time council member John Gil) put up their signs early has been key to getting his name out there.

However, it is the door-to-door campaigning which Zharnest says is most important. While embracing the opportunity to meet Fair Lawn residents, Zharnest wears his kippah. “I’m a proud Jew, and I proudly wear my kippah. It’s my guiding compass.” The goal, says Zharnest, is to impact the entire community and do good for all the people in town. He treats people as he wants to be treated and therefore respects people of all backgrounds. Zharnest notes that his Jewish background, as well as the set of values he has gained because of it, impacts and affects his decisions and discussions.

While on the campaign trail, Zharnest also emphasizes Mayor Cosgrove’s successful record. A few years ago there were many lawsuits again the town, the borough was changing borough managers regularly, and there was tension between the borough employees, the police department and the mayor/council. Mayor Cosgrove settled the lawsuits, reaffirmed support for the police department, got the support of many borough employees, and has supported the emergency services in terms of quality. In addition, the town has been running a larger surplus since the mayor took over. It is this positive record that Zharnest discusses when meeting voters. He also notes some goals for the future such as supporting aging infrastructure, attracting business to Fair Lawn, and maintaining open space. Zharnest believes this would continue the era of progress. This era has happened because of the contributions of many from the mayor on down.

An area that Zharnest feels particularly passionate about contributing to is volunteer services. It was in his role as president of the Ambulance Corps that Zharnest first found himself dealing with the council. He had to present the budget to the council and Mayor Cosgrove. Zharnest spent a great amount of time preparing for these meetings. The mayor came to appreciate Zharnest via these meetings and ultimately asked him to be part of his ticket. Should Zharnest be part of the winning ticket, he intends on being a strong advocate of volunteer services and making sure they are well equipped to handle any event which may arise.

Zharnest hopes that the Jewish community will be strong supporters of his; however, he respects their decision to vote for whom they believe to be the best candidate. With his fresh ideas, desire to work and be part of a team, and the support of his family, the town of Fair Lawn could be going through unprecedented times—an Orthodox member as part of its council.

Larry Bernstein and his family are Bergen County residents. Larry is a writer and educator. Check out his website at http://larrydbernstein.com

By Larry Bernstein

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