The article this resulted in.
Can you provide me with some background on yourself-
My name is Jeff Epstein, I’m 44 years old, and grew up in Lower Bucks County, a northeast suburb of Philadelphia. I moved to New Jersey in 2002 with my wife at the end of our honeymoon. We have two little boys, just about to turn seven and ten.
I worked as a computer professional (software programming) at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, was then a stay-at-home dad with my boys until they both entered kindergarten, then worked again as a programmer at a company that made large programs for the big banks. I left my most recent job three months ago and have been working full-time on the campaigns of Bernie Sanders, myself, and my incredible running partner Mike Miller, who is running for Freeholder.
I am also a professional singer, and have been in backup choruses for both Barbra Streisand at Madison Square Garden, and Michael Crawford at Radio City Music Hall and many other East Coast venues. I am also halfway through a personal project to sing all 121 songs in Billy Joel’s repertoire. My singing can be found at
What town do you live in?
Do you have a family? What is your age?
My wife and I met in 1987, remet and started dating in 1998, married in 2002, had two boys in 2006 and 2009.
What is your career experience? How do you feel this relates well to the surrogate position?
Let me be totally upfront: I am not a lawyer. I am a Masters level college graduate who reads avidly, keeps up with current events, and intimately learns whatever he sets his mind to. My Democratic opponent is an attorney with experience in probate law. I can’t pretend to match that. However, since the Surrogate does not litigate (probates of any complexity are transferred to the Superior Court), this is not necessarily a deficit. If it were required to be a lawyer in order to run for Surrogate, I would not be running for Surrogate.
Do I have a lot to learn? Of course. Are there any doubts of being able to learn it quickly and effectively before January of next year? None. I am very proud of the support system that I already have gained since the beginning of this campaign. I have learned a lot, have made strong professional contacts, and will be attending significant professional training sessions, both through the state Bar and Accountancy organizations.
And again, I am computer professional. I have designed and created large systems that support businesses and professionals of all kinds. I was successful because I listened to my clients needs and put myself in their shoes, in order to deliver the most effective product.
The Burlington County Democrats have not done a very good job of getting Democrats elected. The entire Freeholder board, for example, is Republican. Both my and Mike Miller’s opponents have already run for these positions and lost.
It is time for new blood. Mike Miller and I are passionate and enthusiastic candidates, that at the very least will provide the checks and balances that are so badly missing throughout this county’s government (both of our positions are currently being held by retiring Republicans). Even if we don’t accomplish what we propose, we will indeed provide a voice for those views, and make sure that they are heard by both those in the government, and those served by the government.
To conclude: Do the people of Burlington County want someone who can “hit the ground running” but will continue the status quo? Or do they want someone that will fundamentally change the way the Office of the Surrogate works?
Do you have political experience?
I have been a “super volunteer” for the Bernie Sanders campaign since September . I’ve been full-time for the campaign for about three months, working in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, South Carolina, and Ohio. My campaign is based out of the Bernie Sanders campaign office in Pemberton. While I live in the population center of the county, and am only 10 minutes away from the Collingswood campaign office, I choose to travel every day, 30 minutes to Pemberton, because that is where the people are, that need the most.
Why are you running for surrogate?
My mom’s passing in 2008 changed me. To say that it was a stressful experience is an understatement, and that is entirely putting aside the emotional toll. The experience made me determined to create estate documents for my own family. This took many months of intense effort, but now my wife and I know exactly how my boys will be taken care of after we pass.
I want to share what I have learned, to help make it easier for the citizens of Burlington county to control what happens to the people and things most important to them, after they’re gone.
Can you talk a little bit about how you hope to serve the county and its residents if you become surrogate?
What I can offer the citizens of Burlington county is the following:
- I will be a Surrogate for ALL the people. I will provide consistent and ongoing access to my office and to myself, regardless one’s income or demographics. I will do this through community outreach, satellite offices, regular meetings and town halls with the public and with organizations, and by providing free and low-cost legal services and self-help tools.
- I will fight for progressive fees, so that those with largest estates pay more then those with minimal estates. There is no reason why those with small estates should pay three dollars per page for non-certified documents, as is currently the case.
- The Surrogate Court’s website was created by Judge Kotch’s administration, and I praise him and his staff for it. I will make one of my first priorities to form a commission to determine how this website could be improved, and implementing those changes.
- I will be full-time surrogate. My opponent has a full-time law practice and I am unaware of his intention to retire from it. The Surrogacy is a high-paying position that deserves someone who can dedicate 100% of their energies to it.
Can you talk about why you are running on the same ticket as Bernie Sanders?
You got 18 hours?
Bernie Sanders speaks the truth. If he says something, he actually follows through with it. Every time. He has been doing so for 35 years, as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Representative of Vermont, and now as their Senator. (To those who doubt, all it takes is looking at his history of accomplishments and speeches and looking at what he proposes.)
Bernie Sanders has been fighting for those at the very bottom of the grassroots for 50 years. He CARES. He is the father we wish we had and the person we wish to become.
But more specifically, Bernie Sanders is the only candidate that is leading a movement to get money out of politics. He is the only one truly fighting the disgusting inequality that we face in New Jersey and throughout the United States. Nothing much of consequence can be accomplished until we get money out of politics. We should not live in a two-tier government, where the wealthy have different economic and justice and environmental systems than the rest of us. But we do.
I only learned about Bernie Sanders in late August. I’d never heard of him before then. He has taught me and millions of others like me, that we can actually make a difference, and if only we had known it, we could’ve been making a difference for our entire lives. More than anything else, Bernie Sanders has taught me that being a politician is not complicated. In fact, it’s simple: Tell the truth, learn the truth, and avoid anyone who tells you otherwise.
I am a proud Bernie Sanders Democrat.