2019 Mayor's Annual Message

File Jan 09, 10 20 49 AM

New Year’s Day Message from Mayor Robert H. Conley
January 2, 2019

Thank you to Rabbi Shalom Lubin of Chabad of South East Morris County for your invocation. Thank you to our Police Honor Guard for the presentation of colors, Girl Scout Troop 6221 for leading us in the Pledge of Allegiance and Rose City Songsters for the singing of our National Anthem and a song setting the right tone for the New Year.  

Welcome to the Wolkowitz, Baillie-Kimball and Coen families. Astri, welcome to another term serving the residents of Madison. Welcome to Deb Coen as you continue to serve your community, making the shift from the Board of Education to the Borough Council after your one-year sabbatical. Welcome back to our returning Council Members; Carmela Vitale, Pat Rowe, Maureen Byrne and John Hoover.

And, a special welcome to Lt. Governor Sheila Y. Oliver. When I called Lt. Governor Oliver to see if she could fit our reorganization meeting into her busy schedule she quickly said, “I love Madison; you can count on me being there.” Having the highest-ranking elected woman in New Jersey join us tonight is an honor, as 2019 is a special year. Tomorrow a record number of women will be taking the oath of office in Washington, including our own Congresswoman, Mikie Sherrill. It is very fitting that this year the Madison Council will be a majority women board leading the way.

And, welcome to Assemblyman John McKeon. Welcome to our residents, Department Heads and all Borough staff in attendance.

Each year I like to remember a few of the cherished residents who we lost in the past year. Those who not only left a mark but also taught us how to be better people:

Louise Paterson – Louise was our most loyal resident at our council meetings, sitting in the first seat of the second row, and if you sat there, she would politely tell you that it was her seat. Of course you would have to arrive very early to beat her to the seat. She was an extremely proud Republican but she never let that get in the way of periodically pulling me, the Democratic Mayor, aside to whisper; “I can’t let anyone hear this, but you’re doing a very good job as Mayor.” So as we go into 2019, let us take this lesson from Louise Paterson; yes we may wear our party labels with pride, but don’t ever let that label get in the way of us working together for the greater good

Kay Leary – Kay like many in Madison wore many volunteer hats. Ambulance Corps, Friends of the Library, Thursday Morning Club, St. Vincent Martyr Church to name a few, but she also had a passion for history. Having lived all her 95 years in Madison, she was the perfect person to serve as our Town Historian. In that role she gave us the lesson of how important the history and heritage of Madison is. We each bring our perspective and diversity to this great community, a diversity that has shaped our community. Let us continue to tell the stories that Kay helped preserve.

Tony Donato – Tony left us in August but his smile and sense of humor will be with us forever. He was a fourth-generation Madisonian who served on this Council from 1972 through 1974. He was instrumental in the forming of the Downtown Development Commission and served as our Downtown Manager from 1987 through 1999. His dedication is a lesson on how important a thriving downtown is to Madison. Our commitment is paying off, but we should never take it for granted.

Ruth Russell – Yet another dedicated volunteer. Ruth served many years with the Madison Ambulance Corps, but it is her spirit that will always be with us. I learned at her funeral service that I was in her special, but not too small group that would receive her periodic phone calls. On my voicemail would be the sweetest voice saying, “This is your favorite resident Ruthie Russell calling her favorite Mayor. No need to call back, I just wanted to say hello.” In this day and age of texts and tweets, Ruth left us with the lesson that nothing is more powerful than the spoken word telling someone that you are thinking of them.

Sandee Fielo – Short in stature, but tall as a Madison volunteer, Sandee volunteered with the Senior Citizen Center and in particular developed a program called Stay Healthy, helping seniors adjust to the life that comes with aging. Sandee left us with the message we are never too old to help others be healthier and feel younger.

As we say good-bye to 2018, let us also keep in our thoughts the Dachisen family. In August, Chief Darren Dachisen lost his brother Michael, the Rockaway Township Mayor and in December, Darrren’s wife Mechele lost her battle with cancer. I spoke to the Chief earlier today and he shared his appreciation for all the support he has received from the Borough government, Madison residents, and the extended Madison Police and law enforcement community during this very difficult time.

Let us take a moment to remember those who died in 2018, to remember in times of need the importance of community in getting through loss in our families.

This is my eighth New Year’s message. Time flies when you’re having fun. In preparing for tonight I reviewed my comments from January 1, 2012, my first year as Mayor. A few things hit me from those comments. One was I spoke too long, so hopefully I am now more concise. Also I had laid out many goals in those comments, which might have appeared to be ambitious for a rookie Mayor. I am happy to say we have done well with almost all and I will touch on two of them.

One was the need to recommit investing in infrastructure, to reestablish the policy of transferring operating dollars to capital. Through the strategic planning process led by Ben Wolkowitz, and a commitment by our Council and staff we have a capital program that is second-to-none. Of course, if you drove around town this summer you already knew that with the many road disruptions. In addition to the roadwork, we have also replaced miles of water mains, lined miles of sewer pipe and invested in recreation facilities. This is a commitment that we will continue and not waiver on in the coming years. Again, for all those who were inconvenienced by the detours and road closing, I thank you for your patience.

The other goal I had laid out was strengthening our committees. I have often said the Council that sits in front of you is just the tip of the massive volunteer iceberg that serves Madison. With an annual Committee Leadership Training Conference, we have put in place one tool to support the work being down at the Board and Committee level, but it is clear that we need to do more to strengthen and support our committees. I have already spoken to a few Council members about the process I would like see happen to get all of our committees running on all cylinders. This process will launch in the first quarter of this year.

Now that I have probably already gone past my promise of not talking too long, I want to close with a quick Madison story that I shared with the DDC last month.

I was in front of my house on Brittin Street, when one of Madison’s newest residents stopped to ask me a question. She did not know who I was, but was very curious about the water running out to the street from the many houses in the neighborhood. You see she had moved from Florida, the land with no basements to Madison and the land of old basements and high water tables, especially in the year of record rainfall. I explained the concept of sump pumps. She was relieved to hear the explanation as she had thought it was a poorly maintained water system. I thought this was now a good time to introduce myself as the Mayor. She then shared that a job-relocation had necessitated a move to New Jersey, a move that she thought was the end of world, as she knew it for her family. She went on to say that she quickly realized that they chose the right town and that by moving to Madison she had truly found a “slice of heaven.”

That is what Madison is all about, a strong sense of community that has created our slice of heaven.

An with that, thank you all and to all a Happy and Healthy New Year.