Joseph F. Berenato
Mayor Wade of Waterford Twp.
WATERFORD TWP.—At 1 p.m. on January 1, Andrew Wade (I) was sworn in as the newest mayor of Waterford Twp.
A lifelong resident of Waterford Twp. and a 1980 graduate of the former Edgewood Regional High School, Wade has taken numerous environmental solid waste management courses from Rutgers University—both their Camden and New Brunswick campuses—and Atlantic Community College.
Wade told The Gazette that he is the third generation to run Wade’s Salvage—replete with household items and vehicles as well as decommissioned aircraft—which was one of the shooting locations for the 1983 film Eddie and the Cruisers. Wade’s family also runs Scrap King, a company that rents movie props; helicopter and airplane parts that were used in crash scenes in television shows like “Manifest” and “The Blacklist” and films like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen came from Wade’s Salvage.
Wade’s involvement with the business speaks to his familial connections, which are largely responsible for his interest in local government.
“My mom and dad and my aunt and uncle were always involved in politics. When my father came out of World War II—he was a Pearl Harbor survivor; he was there when they bombed it—he ran as the first Democrat in Waterford Twp. and won ... When I was 18, my mom put my name in to be put on the zoning board. Later on, I became chairman. The boards were combined, so then it was zoning and planning board. I was on there for about 15 years,” Wade said.
After that, Wade said, he stepped away from government for a time while supporting various individuals for office.
“Then I saw that Waterford was rapidly declining, and there was one seat. The way that Waterford is set up now, Waterford has two people run one year, two people run another year and then there’s one seat. I wanted the one seat so I could run as an independent, so I ran for that seat. I ran in 2018 and took office in 2019. I was a committeeman then, and last year I was deputy mayor and then this year I was promoted to mayor,” Wade said.
Wade noted that he has something in common with his father, the late Edward P. Wade.
“He and I have kind of the same mold; he was the first Democrat and I was the first independent that was elected in Waterford,” he said.
Wade also said that his family connections run deep in Hammonton.
“My father went to Hammonton High School; he dropped out when he was 16 to join the civil defense, then, after that, he joined the Army ... While he was going to Hammonton, he was on the football team. When they would slaughter the pigs at the farm, they would dry the pig’s bladder, and he was the guy who brought the footballs—which were the bladders—to the high school,” Wade said.
Wade noted that all high school-age students in Waterford Twp.—as well as those in seventh and eighth grade—now attend school in Hammonton, and have done so since the opening of the current Hammonton High School in 2002, and said that he hears “good things about our kids going to Hammonton.”
“I think our two municipalities get along pretty well. I don’t really hear of anything negative. I’m really not that involved with the school side, as a councilperson. I think the school board and the township committee should be more involved together. They’re not, and it’s not because it’s adversarial; it’s just that the boards don’t get together. It’s one of the things that we started doing last year and the year before—especially in 2019—to try to get more joint meetings together, but then when COVID hit that fell apart,” Wade said.
That intergovernmental cooperation is important to Wade, as well as the possibility of future intergovernmental cooperation between Waterford Twp. and Hammonton, as well as other surrounding municipalities.
“I’d like to see if there are more things that the two governments could do together, joint ventures, co-ops, whatever it be—buying or whatever. When I got elected, I reached out to the two Berlins, Chesilhurst—I already have a good personal relationship with Barry Wright from Winslow Twp.—but the other towns, when I went to their re-organizations, they said nobody ever comes from Waterford. I said that we’re not on an island; they’re our neighbors, and we’ve got to work together,” Wade said.
Wade said that his salvage business has afforded him the opportunity to work with neighboring municipalities and has fostered a familiarity that he hopes will be able to encourage joint ventures.
“Especially in these trying times, you’ve got to work with each other, whether it be for commercial development, infrastructure, housing, roads or whatever, we’ve all got to work together. There are a lot of things that are coming down our way. We’re not getting smaller; we’re not getting unsophisticated. We’re getting more sophisticated; we’re getting more residents and more businesses. We’ve got to work together. We’ve got to have a better working relationship,” he said.
Wade said that municipalities often benefit from the growth of their neighbors.
“Along the beginning of Jackson Road and Route 73, there’s a Tractor Supply Co. being built there. They’re going to break ground in the next month or two, depending on how harsh the winter is. That’s coming; even though that’s in Berlin Twp., that’s the entrance to Jackson Road and our town, so we welcome that. Hopefully, that’ll spur some more stuff,” he said.
One business coming soon to Waterford Twp., Wade said, is Capitol Floors.
“We do have a flooring company that sells flooring, but they’re going to be making flooring. They bought property in Waterford, and they’re going through the process to come before the planning board ... They bought a property on Haines Boulevard, and we’re working with them to get them to the planning board,” Wade said.
Such companies, Wade said, are vital to the future success of Waterford Twp.
“This is part of the reason I ran. The majority of the previous committee was always looking at retail, housing or offices. I think it’s plain to see that, with this pandemic—this is a real eye-opener—more people are working from home, there are less people wanting to go into the city to offices, brick and mortar stores are not that desirable anymore—there’s a large amount of internet sales—so I’ve been preaching for years that our town should be looking more towards light industrial, industrial and service-oriented businesses: plumbers, electricians, carpenters, construction, all that kind of stuff,” he said.
One area in Waterford Twp. that is available for such development is the site of the former Atco Multiplex Cinemas at the intersection of Routes 30 and 73.
“There are a couple of people kicking around. We’re open to see what people want to do, but I’m not for big housing projects. I’m open for light industrial, industrial, that kind of stuff, but not on housing. It doesn’t make sense. The previous committee wanted to put 1,100 homes in that area. It would have killed our school system immediately, whether it be local or even high school. It would have done nothing for us but be a huge financial burden,” Wade said.
Wade said that the township needs to be open to job growth and long-term sustainability before it can consider a housing boom.
“I think, as government officials in this area, we need to look at what would help our residents, as far as maybe a first and second generation ... We need to be able to create jobs for that kind of industry because we’re not all suit-and-tie people that live down here. We’re people who work with our hands. Truck drivers, forklift drivers, warehouse people; that’s this area. That’s what describes this area; we’re hardworking people in this area,” he said.
Given his deep ties, Wade knows something of the people of the area, both with the longevity of Wade’s Salvage and with his family connections to Waterford Twp. and Hammonton.
“Not only is Waterford almost part of Hammonton in theory, but I can tell you that me, myself and my family feel that Hammonton is a part of our family because the history with my father and my aunt Pearl growing up and going to Hammonton High School. We’re part of Hammonton,” Wade said.