Winslow Township’s Mayor Wright
WINSLOW TWP.—From the time he was a young boy, Winslow Twp. Mayor Barry Wright (D) knew the potential for good that the office offered.
“When I was a kid, Dominic Maiese was our mayor; he was mayor for 26 years. My father worked for the railroad as a freight agent, and he was big in the union at the railroad. Dominic Maiese was vice-president of the international shipbuilder’s union, so they were great friends, My father helped Dominic get elected years before, and they became very good friends. Whenever anyone had a problem, Dominic was able to help them. I said—even when I was a kid, and all through when I was a cop—‘someday I’m going to be mayor. Look at all the people you can help,’” Wright told The Gazette.
Now in his third term, Wright—a 1970 graduate of Edgewood Regional High School—was a Winslow Twp. police officer before retiring in 2001 after 27 years. It was during his time on the force, Wright said, that he attended Camden County College.
“Back then, the federal government actually paid for police officers to go to mostly community colleges at night, and that’s what I did. I was working as a police officer, and then going to college at night,” Wright said.
Wright is the father of seven children, ranging in age from 17 to 47—his son, Jason, passed away from an accident—and lives in Winslow Twp. with his wife, Robin.
Wright said that he first decided to run for township committee after retiring from the police department because he “missed being involved with people.”
“I talked to lady named Barbara Holcomb—she was municipal chair of the Democratic party in Winslow ... I started in 2003; I did a three-year term, then I took a hiatus for two years, came back and served on it for two more years,” Wright said.
Wright said that the party asked him if he wanted to run for mayor.
“I thought it was time for a change. I literally knocked on 6,000 doors, and I won by 68 percent. That was my first election. In the two after that, I was unopposed ... Now, I’ve been mayor for 10 years,” Wright said.
Speaking from his office, Wright noted that he is also involved with a number of state and county organizations.
“I’m one of the sergeant-at-arms at the New Jersey Senate, so I go up there when they have a voting session. This year I started as president of the Camden County Mayors’ Association. I’m Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Ancora Psychiatric Hospital. Besides that, I stay at home and take orders from my wife and kids, when I’m not here,” Wright said.
During his time as mayor, Wright said that Winslow Twp. has seen an increase of commercial ratables of $86 million and an increase of residential ratables by $51 million, for a total ratables increase of $136 million.
Wright said that there are several significant projects that are currently pending in Winslow Twp., including a Super Wawa being planned for the corner of Waterford Road and the White Horse Pike.
“Those plans have gotten Pinelands approval, and they ought to be before the planning board soon ... On Cross Keys Road, we have a 10,000-square-foot retail, 5,500 square-foot restaurant that has just received approval. We have another 5,000 square-foot office and storage building on Cross Keys Road; that’s already been approved, and they’re getting ready to start. We just got word that Dollar General wants to build on Route 73 in Cedar Brook,” Wright said.
There are also future residential projects being planned.
“We have a gated apartment community of 300 apartments on Sicklerville Road; it’s a beautiful, gated community with top-notch technology, a community center for the people who live there. We have 52 townhomes that are being built as part of the Cross Creek development in Sicklerville; a lot of that is affordable housing. We have a 97 single-family home Legacy Acres, which is a 55-plus community presently being built on Route 73,” Wright said.
An industrial project is also due to appear before the planning board, Wright said.
“It’s going to be a large warehouse facility on Norcross Road and Route 73 that distributes parts for appliances and whatnot nationally. We’re booming, as far as ratables go,” Wright said.
The township has seen its financial standing improve during his tenure, Wright said, noting that their bond rating has increased to AA+.
“That goes by watching your budget; we have a decent surplus in both our utility and general funds. Our budget this year will be about $34 million, and we’re able to do that; when I became mayor, we had to lay off eight police officers in 2010. I came back on the committee in 2010 and my party took control of the governing body; we were a mess. We were $1.5 million in debt. We had to lay off people. We were able to reorganize our police department, and actually we went from 88 to 75 officers; we have more cops actually on the road now than we ever did, and our crime rate is stable,” Wright said.
Wright also noted that Winslow Twp. has created the All-Star Program, headed by Carolyn Chaykin, which is an “athletic program for children who are developmentally disabled.”
“We were able to get the school district to allow us to use the gym at School 4—until the pandemic came along. They’re able to go there, and we get young teens to work as buddies for them, and they play soccer inside, and basketball. It’s great to sit in the stands as a parent or grandparent and see your child actually having a good time—and seeing these young teenagers learning how wonderful it is to be able to help somebody. That’s something I’m extremely proud of, because no child, no matter what their ability, should not be able to enjoy the benefits of recreation,” Wright said.
Additionally, the township is interested in acquiring a parcel of land on Route 73 and Pump Branch Road to emulate Jake’s Place, a recreation area in Cherry Hill.
“It’s a playground manufactured and designed strictly for handicapped children and children with disabilities. There are swings where you can go on if you’re in a wheelchair, there are things that stimulate children that are developmentally disabled. That’s going to be one of the big projects that I will look forward to in the future,” Wright said.
Wright also noted that Winslow Twp. has been instituting programs to aid its senior citizens.
“We just finished an expansive renovation of the Bud Duble Senior Center on Cooper Folly Road. Our senior club has over 350 members, and they were running out of room. We doubled it in size ... We got a senior bus, and that was all funded through CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) funding, and the county freeholders helped us out there, providing seniors that don’t have transportation ways to get around,” Wright said.
Wright said that perhaps his greatest accomplishment is helping to bring unity to Winslow Twp.
“I always wanted to unify the township and get everybody to just be good to each other—and it works. When people want to come build something in our town, I’m the salesman; I brag about my town and I’m happy about it. We have a good workforce. I think the census is going to show that we’re about 42,000 or 43,000 people. We have 58.6 square miles—we’re the largest in Camden County. I’m lucky—and I love this job,” Wright said.
Wright said that he hopes that Winslow Twp. continues to have “good growth.”
“We continue to have people who work together, and we continue to provide for everybody—the seniors, the young people, the people with disabilities. That’s my hope: that things keep going progressively as we go,” Wright said.
Wright also talked about the relationship between Winslow Twp. and Hammonton, dating back to the founding of both by William Coffin; Winslow Twp. was named for Coffin’s son Edward Winslow Coffin, while Hammonton was named for Coffin’s other son, John Hammond Coffin.
“We have a good relationship. We’re different counties, but, because of the low end of the township especially, we still have a good growing agricultural community. As a matter of fact, we’ve got our fourth winery being built right now on Route 73. Our police departments work together when there are opportunities on different cases. Our public works director speaks frequently with Hammonton’s public works manager,” Wright said.
Wright said that two of his grandchildren attend Hammonton schools.
“My grandson, Connor Wright, is a track star at the high school. I don’t know where he got his speed from, but it definitely wasn’t from his grandpop. Gavin’s in the middle school,” Wright said.
Wright also noted the culinary similarities between the neighboring municipalities.
“Hammonton’s got some good food places—but Winslow does, too,” Wright said.