By Megan Roche
For Denville Township Mayor Tom Andes, the seven years he has been in office have been some of the most eventful in the township. Sworn in on Jan. 1, 2012, Andes had to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, which left areas of the town devastated in its path
Originally from Lyndhurst, Andes and his wife Sharon moved to Denville in 1984 after they married. Still living in the same house they bought 34 years ago off Morris Ave., the two have five children and seven grandchildren. Andes works as a technical sales representative for Pamarco Global Graphics.
After graduating from high school, Andes attended William Paterson College and earned a bachelor’s in business administration. He also holds a Municipal Elected Officials Certificate from Rutgers University and a Management Labor Relations Certificate from the New Jersey Department of Labor.
After moving to the township in 1984, Andes noted that during the closing of his house, the effort to begin volunteering in the township was started. The sellers of the Andes home urged Tom and his wife to sign up to volunteer at the annual St. Francis Fall Festival.
“When you have the comradeship of pulling something off and being part of the team that makes an event happen, it’s an accomplishment,” he said. “The success of it all and the time it takes to plan. It makes it even better. The community and team work make all the hours worth it.”
A passionate volunteer, Andes sits on multiple boards across the township and county level. Andes is a member of the Morris County League of Municipalities Board, a former town council member, served three terms as council president, acted as liaison to the fire department, board of adjustment, social services, planning board, recreation committee, and the township’s library.
Before running for mayor, Andes began his political aspirations on the Denville Town Council in 2000. He served as council president in 2007, 2008 and 2010. When he challenged incumbent Mayor Ted Hussa in the 2011 primary election, Andes ran on quality of life issues, his slogan Andes: All About Denville.
August 28, 2011, brought devastation and horror to the township when Hurricane Irene breeched the banks of the Rockaway River and brought flooding, power outages, and much more to the township. Andes was an active member of the town council, doing what he could to help the victims of the rising waters.
What transpired after the hurricane was nothing short of moving. According to Andes, Irene was one of the worst tragedies to take place in the township since its inception in 1913. Dubbed the 100 year flood by residents, the community spirit far outweighed the devastation. Late in the year, Andes and a team of volunteers made an effort to collect money and gift cards for those hit hardest by Irene’s waters. With a massive downtown area, why not take advantage? That’s where Denville Up and Running and Band Aid on Broadway were born.
While there have been many moments that Mayor Andes is fond of in Denville Township history, some of the best days in Denville, he recalled, were playground build weekends and Band Aid on Broadway.
“It was one of the best weekends in Denville,” he said. “When the community comes together, it’s always amazing to me to see what we can accomplish together. Every time we build a community playground, it’s always fun to see people getting to know each other.”
After the hurricane, Andes also focused on revitalizing the downtown section of Denville. With many stores abandoned, Andes encouraged the town council to consider approving work to be done to turn the downtown into more of a hometown USA feel. The streets of downtown look much different from when Andes first took office with new lamp posts, street signs, flowers, sidewalks and a welcoming vibe.
A proud Eagle Scout, in 2018 Andes was inducted into the Patriot’s Path Council Boy Scouts of America Hall of Fame. Andes was also awarded the Good Scout Award in 2000. He lives his life and serves in his elected capacity according to the Boy Scout Oath.
In 2013, Denville Township celebrated its 100th birthday and Andes was excited to be mayor during that year-long celebration. After the hardship year from before with hurricane cleanup, the year-long party is one of Andes favorite township memories that stick out in his mind.
“That was a fun year celebrating our 100th birthday,” he said. “We threw a big party and to be the mayor during that year was pretty special. It was an honor and it is something I will cherish forever.”
During the Centennial year-long celebration, Andes and his team of seven main volunteers also created a Denville Township Yearbook and the Denvilleopoly board game. The township also has a time capsule that will be opened when the town turns 200 in 2113.
Known around town as Mr. Playground, Andes was instrumental in beginning the process of seeking volunteers to rebuild the Gardner Field Playground. Back in 1996, the original playground was built on an all-volunteer effort. The volunteers raised the money to buy the equipment and installed the playground entirely themselves.
Due to Andes’ interest in playground construction, he has always been asked to help build or offer advice on how to go about building other playgrounds in the township area. His experience and expertise has helped lead to the construction of the South Shore, Laudati, Kwiatkowski, Denbrook, and James F. Dyer playgrounds.
“That first playground build was my introduction to public service,” he said. “When former Mayor Jim Dyer asked me to help rebuild the playground, I couldn’t say ‘no.’ The former Gardner playground was so bad and so unsafe with pipes and nails sticking out everywhere. I told my friends that if any town could build a playground, it was Denville.”
In a year, the committee raised $150,000 and the original Gardner Field playground was a dream that came true.
As anyone in Denville knows, the community spirit and giving ways of those who call the township home is nothing new. Andes is a proud volunteer. He has given his time volunteering with Boy Scout Troop 17, Cub Scout Pack 31, a little league coach, a PAL softball coach, a Knights of Columbus member, a St. Clare’s Harvest Festival Gates & Raffle Co-Chair, a Joey Bella Foundation Lip Sync performer, a Rotary volunteer, a PAL-lympics volunteer, a Denville PRIDE member, a Riverview School PTA member and is a member of the Denville Republican County Committee.
A charity that is close to all those in Denville and especially the mayor is that of the Joey Bella Memorial Fund Inc. Named for a young resident who lost his battle to cancer, the Joey Bella Memorial Fund Inc., according to Andes, is Denville’s charity.
“When you see the work that the charity does and the money raised goes towards helping kids and families that are dealing with catastrophic illnesses, you participate,” he said. “There are so many good things about Denville and that’s what makes it such a special place, but Joey Bella is truly Denville’s charity.”
Through his work with volunteering, Tom has been given many awards throughout the years, just check out his office in town hall. His favorite award? The mini-bowl from St. Clare’s Health System that he received in 2000.
“When I see the names of the people who have also been given the mini-bowl, I am always very humbled that I was chosen,” he said. “Many of the people who have been given that award made vast contributions to this town and I can’t believe sometimes that I was thought that highly of to be added to the list.”
Up for re-election in 2019, Andes has already announced his plans to seek another term. Though he is unaware of what the issues during the next election cycle will be, Andes is always passionate about solving issues surrounding flood mitigation, parking downtown, and traffic flow.
“The same things that concern people today are the same thing that concerned people 10, 20, 30 years ago,” he said. “It’s the same key issues. I will run on quality of life issues. We need to improve our infrastructure, maintain our roads, and keep fighting for lower taxes.”
Andes believes that he has a strong working relationship with the town council. When he ran in 2011, his slate of candidates Gene Fitzpatrick, Chris Golinski, and Don Kuser all joined him as victorious. When he ran for re-election in 2015, his slate of candidates John Murphy, Nancy Witte, and Stephanie Lyden were also victorious. As he runs for his third term, his council is standing behind him with nothing but support.
While being the mayor has its glory, Andes takes none of it for granted. He loves his job and sees everyday as a chance to help someone with a task big or small.
“I never take being mayor for granted and I appreciate all the people who trusted me to run this town over the last eight years,” he said. “Every experience that you have in life teaches you a lesson. Being a Boy Scout gave me the foundation of the person I am and I think that my Boy Scout experience and being brought up in a good family have helped me to run this town as well as I have.”