As a candidate for Haddonfield commission, Adam Puff dubbed himself a true “son of the borough.” He grew up in Haddonfield, attending Central Elementary, Haddonfield Middle School and Haddonfield Memorial High School and now Puff and his wife are raising their three daughters and his business, Haddonfield Financial Planning, in town.
As a child, Puff stayed busy acting at Haddonfield Plays and Players, swimming for Wedgewood and playing a variety of sports. He remains an active member of the community as an adult as president of the Haddonfield Educational Trust and a member of the board for the Haddonfield Outdoor Sculpture Trust and Partnership for Haddon.
“It’s sort of impossible to bring up something I wasn’t involved in during the last 40 years,” he said. This May, Puff hopes to add another title to his resume—that of borough commissioner.
Puff is one of four candidates so far to announce a bid for one of three open seats in May’s municipal election. Sitting commissioner Colleen Bianco Bezich, and newcomers Kevin Roche and Frank Troy are also vying for seats. Commissioner Jeffrey Kasko and Mayor Neal Rochford have not announced plans one way or another. Candidates have until March 8 at 4 p.m. to submit their petition for candidacy for borough commission.
Puff thinks a contested election will be good for Haddonfield as it will challenge those ultimately elected to take an active leadership role—something he believes the town sorely needs. If elected, he hopes to improve communication between the governing body and residents and other boards in town and help move projects forward.
The Partnership for Haddon, for example, is supposed to help downtown business and recruit new businesses to make the downtown more vibrant, but that is not necessarily what happens, he said. As a member of PFH’s board, Puff said plans “never translate into what business owners want. It doesn’t work when well-meaning citizens make decisions for a dynamic downtown.”
Some business owners have given up working with the borough and PFH because they do not feel their ideas have been supported or their needs met. “That’s not the answer anyone wants. The partnership does not want that and the town does not want that. This could be changed and addressed,” he said.
He has visited many Haddonfield business owners to ask them what they might need and what the borough could do better to support them. The focus seems to have struck a chord with many downtown business owners, as evidenced by a number of endorsements on his website. “I’ve spent the time with them. I’ve been in these shops for hours on end. … They have some neat ideas. I don’t know why we couldn’t get it done. It just seems like there are more roadblocks than there need to be. Our businesses are what makes us this awesome town. I don’t want to see Haddonfield lose a bunch of businesses as COVID rolls on.”
Towns like Princeton and Cape May got heaters in record time to support their businesses and adjusted ordinances to make sure their businesses could still operate, he said. “We did not do that here and our
businesses felt that in a big way. That’s something I’d like to help with.”
Storm water management is another big issue in town for many residents, and Puff feels communication could be more forthcoming from the borough. He said he reached out to borough engineer Remington and Vernick and they sat down with him for an hour to discuss ongoing and upcoming projects. “[The upcoming projects] would be a great thing for the commission to tell people. … Most people want to know what’s going on, but there is a sense of apathy when there is no information out there. They give up trying.”
When a tree fell on Lake St. and it took the better part of a year to get a tree removed and a sidewalk replaced, Puff sent an email to American Water because the tree belonged to them and got their plan, which included when a crew would be out and an explanation as to why cleanup took so long. “It could have been sped up. You can get the answer and put it out. I think the town needs to do a better job about letting people know what is going on,” he explained.
Puff has attended a variety of board meetings over the past year, watching and learning to see if he could help the borough. “The more I watched, the more dismayed I became and the more convinced I am that I could make a difference. … I’ve been committed for quite some time,” he said. “I’m keyed into the town. I’ve developed a reputation for getting things done,” which is part of the reason other residents have encouraged his run.
He is humbled that many prominent citizens have endorsed his candidacy, including Joe Murphy, Stuart Harting, Tish Colombi and Jack Tarditi. However, because Puff has been active in many ways, excitement around his candidacy has been growing as those he has worked with in the past find out he is stepping up to run. He also has gained endorsements from 2021 Citizen of the Year Joe Serico, Haddonfield’s legendary teacher Rosie Hymerling, King’s Road Brewing Company co-owner and active resident Bob Hochgertel. “This is my home. I grew up here. I have a business here. I’m a son of the borough. I plan on remaining here for a very long time,” said Puff.
The fact that he owns a business in town is advantageous for a potential commissioner because he could always be available, he added. Haddonfield Financial Planning is within “spitting distance” of borough hall, so if there was an emergency or event, he could easily be available to respond. “If I need to put the town first, I’m in a unique position to do that,” he said.
Puff believes active leadership would speed up issues like those surrounding Bancroft and Snowden, but it is also important that the commission be aware of possibilities on the horizon. The sale of the vacant Kingsway Learning Center for around $600,000 is one example of a missed opportunity by the borough as the parcel could have been used to make affordable housing at Snowden less dense or provide additional youth sports fields.
There are other large properties, like 1 Centennial Square, that may come on the market soon, and Puff wants Haddonfield to be ready to take action if an opportunity arises. That’s why Bancroft became an issue, he said. When the Bancroft School was looking to leave Haddonfield, Puff said leadership should have been meeting with school officials regularly to see where they were in the process, which could have ultimately avoided the involvement of developer Brian O’Neill.
That opportunity, as well as the chance to purchase the full tract in a referendum, has since passed, but Puff still feels Bancroft’s parcel is “big enough to make everyone happy” with age-restricted housing, affordable housing and townhomes. “I don’t think it has to be one way or another,” he explained. “There are smart people in this town and in this area. There’s a near perfect solution floating around that would check the box for everybody.
“I like to think I have a few of those skills to do the job. It helps to have people behind you that care about the town. Not all these ideas are mine,” said Puff. “I do not need to have the best idea in the room, I just want to make sure Haddonfield has the best idea in the room.”
Though Puff has many ideas he would like to enact if elected, he does not plan to slow down if the election doesn’t go his way. “I’m committed to the town. I’m not stopping one way or another.”