FROM THE OFFICE OF THE MAYOR
Eric F. Wilsusen
Here’s wishing all our residents a Blessed New Year! 2021 just has to be better than 2020! While we all faced many challenges this year, we were all asked to give up a lot, many even suffered financial and personal loss. Even with the difficulties we faced, there were many bright spots as well. We saw many residents helping other residents through it all. We found new ways to get things done that we used to take for granted. From drive-by birthday parades, numerous food drives and distributions to dining outdoors, virtual graduations, drive-through holiday events, working out and meetings outdoors, we adapted. Thank you to all our residents who did what they had to do to make our community a better place to live.
I now have two years under my belt and certainly have faced my fair share of unprecedented challenges this year. (I won’t even bring up last year!) Pandemic, our first-ever peaceful protest/teach-in, Tropical Storm Isaias, the unfortunate drowning and tragic loss of three-year-old Luciano Franco, and now the closing of the Weldon Road bridge! Even so, I have so many people to thank and much to be grateful for. I feel all of our municipal employees do a great job, and all have stepped up during COVID. It has changed the way we do business. For example, we had to limit access to the Municipal Building; all business is being conducted in the lobby. We have a great team, so I thank them all, but I have a few departments and people I have to especially thank.
I need to personally thank my Business Administrator Debra Millikin. Deb has been my right hand. Deb is responsible for getting the day to day done and, most importantly, has to put up with me! Deb does a great job not only for me and our employees, but most importantly, our residents. We said goodbye to our assistant Joanne Meyer this year and welcome Patty Romano, who joined our Administrative team. And to Aimee Hannon, our website/social media coordinator, for helping me communicate with our residents.
I especially need to thank and am extremely grateful for all our front-line first responders, police, fire, and especially our volunteer EMS from the Jefferson Rescue Squad and Milton First Aid Squad. They have indeed been in the trenches and have gone above and beyond to serve our community. I served as a police officer and volunteer fireman. No one signs up thinking you will have to deal with a pandemic. These are truly our hometown heroes. A big thank you to Police Chief Paul Castimore, Retired Police Chief Sean Conrad, Fire Co.#1 Chief Ray Cabera, Fire Co.#2 Chief Lou Loiacano, Milton First Aid Chief Frank Parete and Jefferson Rescue Chief Albie Garcia.
My Emergency Management Coordinator, Ed Mangold, has been invaluable to me, our emergency services, and our residents. If you don’t know Ed, he is retired, works part-time for us, and is everywhere all year long offering his assistance and provides resources to our emergency services. From minor incidents to major events, Ed is always there; I am so lucky to have him on our team!
I need to thank all of our Health Department employees. Our public health nurses, Desirea Nigro and Gail Johnson, have worked tirelessly through this pandemic; Desirea started with us two weeks before the pandemic hit! Both are only part-time but have truly stepped up during this crisis, many times working seven days a week doing COVID case investigation and contact tracing. They have provided invaluable advice to our residents concerning this COVID crisis. I should also thank my Health Educator wife, Kristine, for stepping in to help as well! Thank you to our Health Officer Peter Tabbot, who we share with Rockaway Township, for all his guidance. To Pam Mancini, our Supervising Environmental Specialist for holding it all together, and Environmental Specialist Sandy Leonard,; both have had to deal with all the Governor’s Executive Orders on top of their already busy workload.
A big shout out to our Recreation and Parks department. They are a small group but get a lot done! Recreation really had to get creative this year with COVID and social distancing. Unfortunately, we had to cancel Camp and Jefferson Fest. Every event we held had to be rethought! We started with the drivethrough Easter, Parade for Heroes classic car parades, outdoor family movie nights, numerous contests, holiday decorating, virtual tree lighting, holiday drive-through, toy drive. Thank you to Grace for helping to organize the three Table of Hope food distribution sites. And through our Mayor’s Wellness Program, we got in some outdoor yogathons. And those are the few things I can remember! Great job!
COVID certainly slowed down my agenda and much that I would have liked to accomplish this past year, but despite all the challenges we faced, we still managed to get quite a bit accomplished. We expedited our 2020 budget process and adopted it earlier than usual, which proved advantageous during the bid process for road resurfacing especially. We were able to take advantage of some cost savings and paved a few extra roads, and completed our first capseal/micropave project in Waters Edge and other streets. The garbage/recycling bid came in better than anticipated with a slight cost increase, and in order to reduce that cost, we modified the recycling pick up, moving back to dual-stream pick-up. A long-awaited police addition has been finalized; this has been some 20 years in the making. New HVAC units for the Municipal Building were bid, and the 25-year-old units are due to be replaced soon, moving from inefficient propane units to natural gas. A salt shed at public works was replaced, generators had to be replaced to keep our critical infrastructure up and running. Fire Company 1 and 2 each received new apparatus as well.
The 2021 budget process is well underway. We will present our budget to the Town Council in January, and the budget hearing process will begin. Infrastructure improvements are always the highest priority. This was the first year we were able to take advantage of our 10-year strategic plan that was created with the help of our many department heads and will continue to help us plan and move forward for years to come. Negotiations with the police union PBA Local 190 is underway with three other unions to follow.
I will continue to pray that 2021 will be a better year for us all. Please continue to support our local businesses, especially our restaurants and fitness centers that are genuinely struggling. I look forward to getting back to some sense of normalcy.
Happy New Year to all.