Five for Four in Borough Council Primary

For the first time in many years, Swarthmore has more Democratic Party candidates for Borough Council than there are open seats.

Four candidates are endorsed by the Swarthmore Democratic Party: incumbents Michael Carey and Lauren McKinney and first-timers Sarah Graden and Betsy Larsen. Melissa “Mel” Jurist did not seek the party’s endorsement, preferring to run a campaign “outside the traditional Dems.” There are no candidates registered in the Republican primary for Council.

The Swarthmorean spoke with the candidates for Borough Council, and presents their (abridged) responses to our questions this week with two candidates, and next week with three, plus the two Republican-filed candidates in the area’s only other contested race for Wallingford-Swarthmore School Director for Region 2.

Sarah Graden

4-14 sarah graden

How did you come to run for Borough Council?
The election happened; Hillary lost and I felt I had to do more. Political change happens locally, and then spreads to the county and state level. I felt that I could be most helpful in stepping up to serve on Borough Council. I really love Swarthmore. It’s a great place to live, I love my neighbors and we all watch out for each other.

What is your background?
I’m a licensed social worker with a public health background, providing counseling and community referrals for students and families at Delaware County schools … coming up with solutions among different interests without alienating people along the way. I’m a volunteer coordinator for SRS, co-chair something else there … I almost over-volunteer, and my plan is to cut back on that and focus on [Borough Council]. My parents live close by, I said I didn’t think I could find the time to do it, and they told me, “You have to do this!” and offered to babysit any time.

Do you have any thoughts on the borough’s relationship to Swarthmore College?
I see how symbiotic the relationship already is, in public safety, for example. I’d like to work with the college where I can to ensure that the open spaces and the green spaces within the college are preserved. Residents [appreciate] that, though I know the college has to develop and build.

What do you see as your possible role on Borough Council?
The General Government and Human Services Committee is a fit for obvious reasons. The Aging-in-Place Task Force … put out a huge report, lots of great recommendations, and I would really like to help implement that, especially the matching of volunteers with needs and opportunities. Also, I want to make sure the town is accessible to people of all abilities. That helps people of all ages, but it’s especially important to older people who want to say here. I’m also interested in partnering with Swarthmore Town Center. And I am interested in Public Works, Parks and Recreation. As a parent with small children, I spend a lot of time out on the fields and playgrounds, and I see how hard SRA works, and I want to really support their efforts.

Do you have an opinion on the Swarthmore21 referendum to allow granting of liquor licenses?
It’s up to the residents to decide for themselves about Swarthmore21. If elected, I will work on council to involve local police and business owners to ensure that regulations are in place and laws are working to keep us safe and preserve what we value about our town. We can also turn to other small communities who have gone through similar changes and learn from them.

What other priorities do you see for Swarthmore?
I’ve been talking with business owners here and residents here about their ideas for the borough. The common theme is that they just want to be heard and understood. We are more connected than ever through social media, but without face to face, personal communication, people are less engaged and less invested. Relationship-building is what I do as a social worker — I really think that’s what I’ll bring to council — to make sure everyone in Swarthmore feels that they have a voice.

Tell us about your family.
My sons are Owen, 7, and Jacob, 6. My husband Tyler [Graden, an attorney in Radnor] and I moved from the city four years ago to raise our family. We live on Cornell Avenue.

Michael Carey

4-14 e-carey

How long have you been a member of Borough Council?
This completes my first term. You are chair of the Finance Committee.

Do you have new or continuing committee preferences?
I hope to continue on the Finance Committee. I don’t think anyone else on council has the same background, and it’s a good fit.

Do you have a wish list for things you want to see happen in council’s next term?
In terms of finance, I’d like to keep taxes as low as possible, but keep services as high as possible, and do it in a way that is cost effective but also serves the borough well. I also serve on the Pension Committee. We recently changed advisors, and we want to continue to improve the funding levels for the pension plan.

I do serve on the Public Safety Committee, and I hope to continue to do so, though the committees may get switched around depending on who comes in. Pedestrian safety and pedestrian-friendly endeavors which we have been taking on, I’d like to see continued and improved.

Do you have an opinion on the Swarthmore21 referendum to allow granting of liquor licenses?
It’s not something that’s before council, so I don’t have an opinion as a council member, but I did sign the petition as a private citizen. I’m in favor of it from the perspective of helping economic development … I try to be as open as possible to things the borough can do relating to finance, but also want to be supportive of other good ideas for making the downtown as strong as it can be.

Are there areas in which you see the interests of council and Swarthmore College converging or diverging?
I don’t think so. With the increasing enrollment of the College, they’re taking on a lot of building, and I think there’s a natural friction that should occur. And there is some healthy conflict about building; how that encroaches on green space, and potentially the downtown and residents. But the College is very supportive of the borough in terms of supporting our police and fire departments. That is not something they’re required to do, but they do it, and that shows a lot of good faith on their part. There is a lot of good will built up.

Tell us about your family.

I’m a 23 year resident of Swarthmore. We moved here when Fariha and I married in 1994. We started off at the Greylock Apartments, then bought a house on Westminster, then on N. Princeton, and now on N. Chester Road. This is the last stop. Fariha teaches at University of Pennsylvania; I am an investment advisor in my own firm, Carey Investment Solutions, with an office in Philadelphia. We have three children: senior Zayn, sophomore Mateen, and 6th grader Faiza.

Register To Vote by Monday, Online or by Mail

Monday, April 17, is the deadline to register for the May 16 primary election.

Not sure you are registered? A nifty tool at canivote.org can tell you. If you are not registered, you can do so online at pavoterservices.pa.gov/Pages/VoterRegistrationApplication.aspx. You may also download a registration form there, fill it out, and mail it in, with a postmark of April 17 at the latest.

You can apply for a mail-in absentee ballot at votespa.com, which also provides customized polling place locations. Absentee ballots are also available at Delaware County offices in Media’s Government Center. The deadline for absentee applications is May 9.

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