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Byron, Fitzsimons, Mikulski Share Their Vision for Wildwood

Newly elected Wildwood City Commission members

By Rachel Rogish

WILDWOOD – Krista Fitzsimons referenced a “dark cloud” brooding over the City of Wildwood during the election. Will that cloud lift now that she and running mates, Steven Mikulski and Peter Byron, secured political victory?
Fitzsimons, 46, and Mikulski, 54, are newcomers to Wildwood’s political arena and have promised to create a more welcoming and transparent city.
“When I retire,” Fitzsimons said previously, “I want the opportunity to continue living here, and not be pushed off the island by out-of-control tax increases every year. I also want the city to be more appealing and affordable for my kids to have the opportunity to stay here.”
Fitzsimons works for Cape May County’s Division of Aging and Disability Services and brings experience as a mother and private citizen to the table.
“Hard work does pay off,” Fitzsimons said Nov. 17, during a phone interview. She reflected on how the ‘Wildwood 4 Change’ team worked hard “mentally, physically, and emotionally” during the campaign season.
“It’s a dream come true,” Fitzsimons added.
Peter Byron, during a Nov. 14 interview, presented a united vision for the city all three officials call home. 
Byron, 64, has served in city government for eight years. He will serve as mayor, taking the seat held by Ernie Troiano.
Four main priorities shape the ‘Wildwood 4 Change’ team’s vision moving forward.
The first objective is to figure out where the money is going. Byron said a common misconception is that he has power over every budget in City Hall.
As commissioner of revenue and finance, Byron said he only controls those budgets within departments directly under him, i.e., tax assessor’s office, city clerk’s office, and finance office. According to Byron, he does not presently oversee the police or fire department budgets.
Byron voted against the 2018 and 2019 municipal budgets.
Byron said an outside party will come in and look at the books. Recommendations will be taken seriously, with changes made in each department, if need be.
Fitzsimons concurs with Byron. She stated at the Oct. 24 candidates’ forum that “all the books” must be opened and taxes stabilized. Running the city like a business is important, according to Fitzsimons, who advocates a change in mindset.
Byron announced that an advisory board would also be created. Members of the business community would be involved and consulted.
Mikulski, a navy veteran and restaurateur, owner of Key West Café, wants “to push redevelopment” in Wildwood’s downtown district. By creating programs and implementing tax incentives, Mikulski believes the quality of life will improve and help create more year-round jobs. Infrastructure projects also comprise part of the plan, including flood mitigation on Pacific Avenue.
The second phase of the plan is seeking new sources of revenue and to stabilize taxes.
“Wildwood is open for business,” Byron said. He hopes to work with the Planning and Zoning Board to make development better in Wildwood. Byron said officials can’t “pick and choose” and must provide equal opportunity.
Putting projects out to bid is vital, Byron said. The Back Bay Project will be analyzed and then put out to bid.
Byron stands by his statements regarding the project. Disagreements arose between him and Troiano in the past over the feasibility of creating townhomes, a marina, and a restaurant in what was once the city dump.
A positive outlook is crucial, according to Fitzsimons. During the Oct. 24 forum, she advocated working with neighboring communities and earning respect at the county and state levels.
Byron wishes to work with Mayor Patrick Rosenello, of North Wildwood, and Mayor Don Cabrera, of Wildwood Crest. By working together, Byron said, services, such as trash, and beach services could be consolidated in order to cut costs.
Bryon said the state encourages consolidation and would present the Wildwoods as a united front. Applying for grants would be easier as well, said Byron.
Future consolidations could include island schools, along with police and fire; however, Byron said all possibilities must be discussed and developed over time.
Taxes and cost of living pose challenges for Wildwood, and Byron said the team is committed to making the city more affordable. Working with Habitat for Humanity would make the dream of homeownership a reality for city residents. Byron desires for city employees and teachers to be able to live in Wildwood.
Bryon refuted bringing in “an undesirable element,” as alleged by political opponents. “I have no interest in bringing the city down,” Byron said.
Byron concluded the team has a path to progress plan, spanning six months to five years.
“We (team) are pumped,” Mikulski said Nov. 15.
To contact Rachel Rogish, email rrogish@cmcherald.com.

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