A Conversation with Westfield Mayor Andy Skibitsky
Saturday, February 1, 2014 • 2:09pm
WESTFIELD, NJ — Now at the beginning of his third term, Andy Skibitsky is the longest-serving mayor in Westfield’s history. He first became mayor after completing Greg McDermott's term in 2004 when McDermott moved away from town. When running in 2013, his daughter Hope Skibitsky served as his campaign manager.
Mayor of Westfield is an unpaid position and Skibitsky juggles his day job at a major pharmaceutical company with evening meetings, ribbon cuttings and catching up with constituents. Sundays are often the only days he spends at home.
The Alternative Press: Tell us about your family and pets.
Skibitsky: My wife, Debbie, and I have been married for 27 years. Anyone who knows Deb will agree that she is an amazing person. She is the sincerest person I know and she constantly brings joy to those around her. Deb is a wonderful partner and an incredible mother, sister, daughter and friend.
Deb and I have four children, Drew (26), Hope (24), Shane (21), and Troy (19). Our nephew, Chase (16) also lives with us. We have a German Shepherd named Heidi.
Our most unusual pet was a desert tortoise named “Thomas,” whom we adopted while we lived in Arizona. Desert tortoises are an endangered species. We adopted Thomas from an Arizona wildlife center. A tortoise can live up to 100 years, and I’m happy to say that Debbie and I recently visited our old home in Scottsdale, and although we couldn’t see Thomas because he was in hibernation, the homeowners reported that he is doing well.
TAP: Where were you born and where did you grow up? Where were you schooled?
Skibitsky: I was born in Glenn Cove, New York, and I grew up in Connecticut and New Jersey. I attended Rider College in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.
TAP: Where do you live now? How long have you lived there? Where did you live before this?
Skibitsky: This is the second time we have lived in Westfield. Debbie and I bought our first home in Westfield in 1990. Shortly after, I was relocated to Arizona. In 1997, we had the option of moving back to New Jersey, and we jumped at the opportunity to move back to Westfield. We have lived in the same house in Westfield ever since.
TAP: How did you choose to live in Westfield?
Skibitsky: Debbie was familiar with the Westfield area, as she had relatives in Cranford. We just fell in love with the town. We loved the neighborhoods and the downtown area, and knew that the Westfield School District is among the best in the state. We were beyond excited to raise our family in town.
TAP: What are your hobbies? Do you belong to any clubs, teams, civic organizations?
Skibitsky: For the most part, my full time job and the time I put into being mayor keep me very busy. I do enjoy reading fiction and non-fiction and spending time with my family. I also enjoy taking Heidi for long walks. During the summer, we like to spend a week down the shore or on a lake. Cape May Point is one of our favorite vacation spots. We are parishioners at Saint Helen’s Church.
TAP: Where is the most exotic place you've ever traveled to?
Skibitsky: I’ve travelled extensively on business. One of my favorite trips was to Tokyo, since it was unlike any other country I had ever visited. I loved the culture.
TAP: How do you spend your days off?
Skibitsky: I spend most of my weekends on town business. I meet with neighborhood groups, speak with residents during Saturday morning office hours, and make sure that I’m in contact with department heads. The council members and I try to visit new residents to introduce ourselves and welcome them to town.
TAP: What's something about you that almost no one knows?
Skibitsky: I enjoy birding, and used to do a lot of birding when we lived in Arizona. It’s a hobby I would like to pick up again when I have more free time. It’s relaxing to be outside and to take the time to appreciate nature and discover species of birds I’ve never seen before.
TAP: What are your favorite spots to spend time in Westfield?
Skibitsky: Westfield has such a vibrant downtown, and Debbie and I have too many favorites to name. I’m always excited to bring friends from out of town to Westfield. I think my favorite time of year in Westfield is the summer. I love the atmosphere downtown, especially during Jazz Nights.
TAP: What thing is Westfield doing right that other towns in New Jersey should emulate?
Skibitsky: I’ve always maintained that one of the things that makes Westfield such a strong community are all of our volunteers. We have many talented and passionate individuals who serve on our boards and committees, who are committed to preserving all of the wonderful things about the town and making Westfield an even better place to live. To my knowledge, Westfield is the largest municipality in the State where elected officials are unpaid.
TAP: If you were giving a guided tour of Westfield, what is the first thing you would show your guests?
Skibitsky: I would probably start at Mindowaskin Park. The Park is a good example of a private-public partnership that has greatly benefited our community. With the help of the Friends of Mindowaskin Park, the Park epitomizes the spirit of volunteerism that permeates throughout Westfield.
TAP: You already served as mayor of Westfield for two terms when you were reelected in November. What made you decide to run again?
Skibitsky: I thoroughly enjoy being Mayor and was excited about the town’s accomplishments under my leadership. I love working with our other elected officials and on behalf of the residents of Westfield, and am eager to meet even more residents over the next four years.
TAP: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Skibitsky: There are a number of environmental projects that we are working on this year. I’m very excited to be working with the Green Team and to get the Town certified by the State’s Sustainable Jersey program. I’m also enthusiastic about our Re-Scaping the Suburbs initiative to help make Westfield more hospitable to New Jersey’s native wildlife.
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a monthly series of question and answer articles with Westfield people.