Former Public Defender to Run for Borough Commission
Ian Wachstein served 18 years on the local school board after someone tapped him on the shoulder and told him to put his money where his mouth is. Now Wachstein says he's been tapped again.
Ian Wachstein is a 72-year-old father of four who has lived in Collingswood since 1978. For 45 years, he served with the New Jersey State Office of the Public Defender, retiring in December 2012. He joins a slate of challengers to the incumbent borough commissioners in the 2013 race.
The last time somebody told Ian Wachstein "If you don't like it, why don't you run?" he spent 18 years on the Collingswood Board of Education.
"I was complaining about the fact that my then-eighth-grade daughter had to take a science course that involved learning how to type," Wachstein told Patch. "Somebody tapped me on the shoulder and said, 'If you don’t like it, why don’t you run for the board?'"
Wachstein won the election, and the following year, his daughter took a ninth-grade biology class that did not include typing.
There are a lot of parallels between that story and his recent decision to petition for a spot on the ballot in this year's borough commissioners race. Wachstein said he kept getting calls from an acquaintance who asked him to run.
"I said, 'Look I’m not going to do any campaigning, but I would volunteer, so if you go out and get the petitions signed, and if I get elected, I’ll work as hard as I can for that. But I’m not campaigning, I’m not a political person."
Well, somebody went out and got the necessary signatures, because Wachstein's petition was filed with the borough by the March deadline.
The reluctant volunteer said he doesn't want to attack anyone's resume, doesn't want to raise campaign dollars, and in fact has thrown his support behind fellow candidate Hugh McGuire for the office.
But Wachstein does feel that the current borough leadership has been in power for enough time that there ought to be some turnover.
"The current administration has done some good things but I don’t think they’ve paid attention to the critics," he said.
"I’m simply saying in a democracy you run for office, you serve for a period of time, and then somebody else comes along and does it. You don’t make it a business for yourself for the next 30 or 40 years."
The biggest issues for Wachstein center on the borough tax rates. He, like McGuire, is concerned with the issues surrounding the PILOT agreements in town, the headaches of the LumberYard and school funding. But he believes the only way to have an understanding of the whole picture is to get a seat on the commission.
"Now it’s possible that I would get there or Hugh McGuire would get there and say, 'wait a second, I don’t see a different way to do things'," Wachstein said.
"I think it’s also possible to say that we need to make some changes. We need people with an independent and current perspective as to whether we are on the right track."
There's also lots that Wachstein likes about the way things are in the borough right now. He likens the borough to the Philadelphia neighborhood in which he was raised, and enjoys the casual friendliness of the town. He says Collingswood schools were "absolutely terrific" for his kids, and led them to their Rutgers educations.
"If I get elected, I will be thrilled," Wachstein said. "If I don’t get elected, I’ll still be comfortable."