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His Honor - Patrick Impreveduto
02/27/2011 - By Chad A. Safran
Photo: McKay Imaging (mckayimaging.com)
Patrick Impreveduto takes the reins in Holmdel
Patrick Impreveduto has been a part of Holmdelís inner workings for over a decade.He has spent time on the Board of Education, severed as Chairman of the Planning Board, and was Deputy Mayor for two years. Now in 2011, he has an opportunity to put his stamp on the community as the townshipís Mayor. Using his background as an educator and drawing on lessons he learned from his father and brother, who were a huge part of the political scene in Hudson County, Patrick is focused on keeping Holmdel one of New Jerseyís most desirable places to live.
Patrick and his wife of 35 years, Judy, have lived in the area since 1984. Itís where they raised two children, Rocco, who is now 33, and Andrea, 22. Since moving to Monmouth County, Patrick crafted out a successful career as an educator in the Secaucus School district before retiring in 2010. He maintains his ties to education through his work with the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges. But itís in his current role as Mayor that he may have a bigger impact than he did on any student who sat in his classroom or walked the halls when he was a principal.
When heís not busy helping run the township, Patrick can b e found watching college basketball. Heís had season tickets to Seton Hall since 1987 and has even been to 10 Final Fours. He and Judy also like to spend time relaxing at their vacation home in Florida whenever they can.
Patrick recently sat down with Living in Holmdel to discuss his life and times in education, and what lies ahead for Holmdel.
LIH: How did you end up in Monmouth County originally and what brought you to Holmdel?
PI: In 1978 we were living in an apartment in Secaucus, and our neighbors in the next apartment had moved to Manalapan. They invited us down for a visit, and with my great sense of direction I got lost.We ended up in this beautiful town, which I ultimately found out was Colts Neck. I used to look every Sunday in the newspaper for property in Colts Neck. Finally, I found it in 1982. Someone was selling acres of land. We wound up buying an acre and a half parcel. We built our own house there. So we ended up there strictly by accident.
LIH: Then how did you end up in Holmdel?
PI: Colts Neck did not have a high school at the time (in 1994). I was working in northern New Jersey. The Holmdel school district had a great reputation, and we thought it was best for my son. He could attend a really talented academic high school, and I would be closer to the Parkway, making it easier for my commute. And a friend of my fatherís happened to be selling a house in Holmdel. It was the perfect storm, and everything worked out perfectly well.
LIH: Whatís the best part about living in Holmdel?
PI: When I was working, every time I came across the Driscoll Bridge and got off the Parkway I felt like I was on vacation. Less traffic, serenity, open space...just the beauty of the county.
LIH: Where did you grow up?
PI: Hoboken, Union City and Secaucus were where I spent my formative years. I went to Weehawken High School, and then to St. Peters College, where I majored in English and elementary education.
LIH: What made you want to get involved in education and who influenced you?
PI: Some of the teachers I had growing up influenced me and I thought, ďIt would be nice to impart my knowledge, my influence on someone.Ē My high school English teacher and my physical education teacher/wrestling coach were big influences. So was my class advisor.
LIH: Did being involved in wrestling impact you in any way?
PI: It makes you determined to prepare for whatever is upcoming because you function as an individual and yet you are part of a team. You have to work hard at practice to do well on the mat. If itís not you, itís somebody else, and that prepares you for life. The ability to prepare was paramount.
LIH: What was your first job as a teacher?
PI: In 1975 I started as a basic skills/reading teacher in Clarendon Elementary School. I did that for one year. Then Secaucus opened up a high school, and I moved up to that level and started teaching English there. I also coached wrestling at that time.
LIH: How do you look back at your experience as a high school English teacher?
PI: It was so rewarding. Itís now easy to sit back and reflect and realize the positive impact you had. Itís great when you hear from former students how successful they are. Itís great knowing you had something to do with that, or you would like to believe you had something to do with that.
LIH: What part of English did you enjoy teaching the most?
PI: Shakespeare. Hamlet, I guess, would be my favorite.
LIH: When is the last time you heard from a former student?
PI: Just the other day. He congratulated me on becoming Mayor.
LIH: How did you go about making the jump from teacher to principal?
PI: You always want to aspire to do better, to lead, and you have to follow steps; I believe you need to prepare. So I took a path that I thought would best prepare me for a leadership role, holding various positions, initially teacher. Then I got my certification in youth sports safety and became a coordinator of recreation for the Secaucus school district. I continued pursuing my education and received a Masterís Degree in Library Media Communications from Jersey City University. I became the director of educational media for the Secaucus school district. Then, from there I obtained my Masterís in Administration Supervision with principalship in the mid-1990s. After experiencing the various aspects of education, I felt I was ready for a leadership role, so I applied for and became principal at Secaucus Middle School. Then, ultimately I became principal of Secaucus High School two and a half years later. I was principal there until 2009. Then I went back to the middle school, and I retired.
LIH: As a principal, what is the accomplishment you are most proud of?
PI: At the middle school, I was one of the first in the state to institute gender specific education.We were touted on every national news program. This was a pilot program that separated seventh and eighth grade boys and girls in two subjects: math and social studies. Because it was voluntary and not exclusionary, we felt we were not in violation of Title IX. I made sure they had the same teachers. The girls could focus more on their education and not trying to impress the boys and vice versa.With the initial data we had, it was a very successful program. Fortunately, or unfortunately for me, I applied for and became principal of the high school a few months after this project began. The state ultimately came in, felt it was a violation of Title IX, and closed it down. In the high school, I was probably one of the first to have security cameras put into the building, and they were donated by Samsung, which was great.We did a couple of good things. I started a math/ science academy within the high school in 2005. It flourished. We have added four more academies since then.
LIH: How did the academies function?
PI: Specifically speaking of the math/ science academy, if there were students who came into the high school and envisioned a career in math or science, and we felt they were academically talented enough to be successful in this rigorous program, they were accepted and tracked in a pre-set curriculum for four years. We developed some great partnerships with universities who offered courses and oversaw the program.
LIH: What types of day-to-day issues did you face while running the school?
PI: First and foremost, I had to make sure we were academically doing what we professed we were doing - making sure our students had a safe environment in which to learn. Being a principal is like running a small city; you have teachers, clerical and custodial staff, hundreds of students and a budget. Equally important was my accessibility to the parents of the students and the community as a whole.
LIH: How did you adjust from being in the classroom every day to checking in on the classrooms instead?
PI: It is interesting. I would use my experience to observe a teacher imparting the lesson and determine if the lesson was being delivered so all students had an equal chance of learning. It wasnít a big adjustment for me being a former teacher. The big thing for me was still having contact with the kids, and thatís what I loved. And I know there was a mutual respect. I knew every student by first name. I used to pride myself in knowing the students. Most importantly, I was very visible during and after school at various sporting and social events
LIH: How do you look back on your time as being a principal?
PI: It was the most rewarding time of my life for those 15-plus years. I didnít realize the positive influence I had had on students, teachers, parents and the community. You get a special feeling. Parents are entrusting their children to you and they trust you to do the right thing by them. And it parallels politics, whether you are a mayor or a councilman.
LIH: So how is being Mayor similar and different from being a high school principal?
PI: Itís not much different. People trust you to do the right thing with their most precious commodity.
LIH: What made you want to get into politics?
PI: My family has been involved in politics since the mid-1970s in Hudson County. My brother was a councilman in Secaucus for a number of years. He became a state assemblyman. My father was one of the Democratic leaders for a period of time up in that area, and I just morphed into it initially. I guess my first experience was being elected senior class president of my high school class. I then served on the military review board for Congressman Robert Torricelli. All congressmen recommend students to military academies. This student must go through a vetting process before being recommended. I was one of a group of people that these students would come before and we would interview them to see if they were worthy of the Congressmanís recommendation. Subsequently, I became a Democratic committeeman in Hudson County, and then I became the chairman of the Democratic Party of Secaucus for a short time. I also served on an education review board for the Congressman. When we moved to Colts Neck, I was elected to the sports foundation. Then we moved to Holmdel. I always felt giving back to the community was important and I became a member of the school board in 2001. I was on the school board until 2007. Then in 2008, I got elected to the township committee. I actually ran for office in 2003, in Holmdel, and lost.
LIH: What made you want to take over the duties as Mayor?
PI: The former Mayor (Serena DiMaso) and I worked hand in hand for the past two years, she as Mayor and I as Deputy Mayor. I just felt I learned enough and I was ready to do the job. She and I still work hand in hand. Sheís now the Deputy Mayor. Weíre in lockstep. Sometimes I think we are at point now where I donít have to complete a sentence, and sheíll know what I am thinking and vice versa.
LIH: What are your main duties as Mayor?
PI: To make sure that this specific community stays as pristine as we can possibly keep it, keep the taxes under control and make sure each resident is happy with the environment they are living in.
LIH: What is the biggest issue facing Holmdel right now?
PI: Like every other city in the state and every other community in the country, itís the financial aspect/budgetary crisis that we are in. The Governor is trying to do the right thing in Trenton, but itís putting a tremendous burden upon the communities. Holmdel is not excluded from it. Thatís the big challenge facing the Holmdel Township Committee.We are trying to deliver the services the residents currently have without substantially increasing taxes. And thatís not easy. You have to be creative and think out of the box. You have to look at every aspect of town government. And even after that, after you have felt you made all the right moves, thereís no guarantee you are going to succeed.
LIH: What other challenges are on the horizon?
PI: Developing the Actel-Lucent property.We have 496 acres, which holds two million square feet of office space. That was a strong ratable for Holmdel for many years. Actel-Lucent has since moved out. The building has been vacant for a number of years. Actel-Lucent has been trying to sell the property and does have a buyer in mind.We have been meeting with the Actel-Lucent people and the prospective buyers to be sure that the property owners agree philosophically with the township committee. Whatever goes there is going to be there for a very long time. So we have to make sure the development is the right thing for the residents of the community and will benefit Holmdel for many generations. I would like to think that this year weíll bring that to fruition.
LIH: What would you like to see there?
PI: I would like to see, which is whatís being proposed by the current prospective buyers, 20 to 30 homes on an acre and a half of property each. Use the building for some retail, commercial and residential components, or a convention center-type setting. They are proposing a convention center, some retail inside the building, some hotel rooms for the center and some high end condominiums. Something that is not going to have a tremendous impact on the school system or traffic, yet will keep that area as pristine and environmentally sound as possible. As we speak, the proposal is still being tweaked. As a township, philosophically we agree with whatís being proposed there, but we are still making sure whatever goes there adheres to the environment of Holmdel
LIH: What is your vision for Holmdel and how would you like to go about achieving it?
PI: My vision is to keep the town and its rural nature intact, while maintaining a fiscally sound budget. How do you go about achieving it? You have to think out of the box. You have to look at all the ratables you have coming in. You have to find ways to increase ratables without causing a major impact to the residents or school system, and that is not easy to do. Itís something that has to be done but itís not going to be done overnight. And I think the residents have to understand that. Itís a process. Everyone has to remember, the members of the township committee are also taxpayers in Holmdel. We like the community we have and we want to keep it that way. Sometimes community members forget that.We are all up there for the same reason: to do whatís best for the community. We may disagree how we get there, but there is always a common ground you can reach. Thatís the important thing. We as a committee will do whatís best for our people. They have trusted us with their children educationally, their property values and their style of living. Whether we agree or disagree, we all want the same thing, and thatís to keep our town as beautiful and as pristine as we can at minimal cost.
LIH: How hard is it to build consensus then?
PI: We have a very talented group of individuals that are serving as committee people right now, and itís not hard. You have to listen and communicate. Those are the two most important things. People donít listen anymore. You need to be open-minded, listen to what someone who disagrees philosophically with you has to say, discuss it and talk it out. Thereís always common ground. Everyone wants to do whatís best for the community so you have to be open-minded.
LIH: How long did it take for you to get the first phone call or email complaining about something?
PI: A couple of days. It was about a snow storm. I applaud the Department of Public Works tremendously for their work. The problem is every street canít be first. You have to take care of the main streets first. If the residents are patient and look back, they will realize what a great job was done compared to some other cities in Monmouth County and other areas of the state. Thatís really the only problem I have had to this point, and it was relatively minor.
LIH: Describe the experience of having to run a campaign for office, especially in a smaller community.
PI: The most important thing is the personal touch. I personally had to go door to door and shake hands with the potential constituents, listen to what they have to say and get them to understand you will do your best for all involved.
LIH: What was different between the first time you ran for township committee and the second experience?
PI: I was a little bit more savvy. After I had lost in 2003, I had to reflect as to why my message didnít resonate within the community. I knew I wasnít out-worked. I pride myself in working hard. I ran against a very popular opponent. It was a hard fought campaign.
LIH: How hard is it to get people to come out to vote in a non-presidential election?
PI: Very, very difficult. People become complacent, until it affects them personally. What people donít realize is that all politics are local.
LIH: Who are your political role models?
PI: Ronald Reagan. What he did in California and then as President of the United States was admirable. He commanded respect by all he encountered. My late brother, Anthony, also had a big influence on me. I guess I carry his philosophy of listening to the public, understanding their needs and wants and doing the best you can to accommodate them.
LIH: You are retired from the teaching, but what have you done to retain your connection to education?
PI: I work for Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges, where I am an associate director
LIH: What do you do for them in your role as associate director?
PI: Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges accredits public, non-public and charter elementary, middle intermediate and secondary schools, as well as non-degree granting career and technical post-secondary institutions. We have 3,600 schools worldwide. My position with Middle States provides me with an opportunity to work with accredited institutions, and those seeking accreditation, in making sure the institutions are offering students a full spectrum of academic, vocational, athletic, social, emotional, cultural and aesthetic opportunities.
Undici in Rumson and La Cashina in Matawan
Scent of a Woman
The Dupreeís - for my wife
Three People to Dine With:
Ronald Reagan, Pope Benedict XVI, late brother Anthony
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