This is the text of my column that appeared in the most recent issue of the News Record.
“Tea Time with the Village President” Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but this is nonetheless a great opportunity to keep folks updated and informed about what is going on in South Orange. In addition to this column, which will appear in the last issue of each month of the News Record, I am keeping a blog on my website and Patch, doing video updates after the Board Meetings, looking into restarting an update show on SOMAtv in addition to micro-updates on Twitter and Facebook and office hours every Tuesday 4:30-6:30pm (to start). This builds off of the already great set of resources that are available to residents by watching the full meetings on southorange.org or on TV, or reading the minutes of any of the meetings, which are posted on the website (which will be going through a total redesign very soon).
“How’s it been so far,” you ask?Well, South Orange is fairly unique in not having a transition period after its elections, which provides quite a challenge. But the BOT and staff have been very supportive in helping get me acclimated to the office. There is a list of things that have been done since the election, which will be more so addressed in the next update (and will be available online), but it has been great to get to sit down with each of our trustees and learn about all the projects they are working on and their ideas for South Orange. We had a planning meeting (Not the development kind of planning) last Monday night and were able to discuss a variety of important topics like redevelopment, business recruitment, personnel planning, IT planning, marketing/communication and more. Getting a long term vision together and being strategic about how go about tackling these problems is going to really help us all make sure that all of the work we, the employees and volunteers do is all towards a unified goal and an understood set of objectives and values. We asked ourselves four primary questions to aid us in guiding our conversation (which can be seen in full in the minutes on the website)
There has been a lot of great work done over the years to push the envelope in South Orange, and I think we have some really big things ahead of us. I see a synergy growing between myself and our Board that is going to be an excellent dynamic towards supporting each other – even in disagreement – and focusing on the work that needs to be done to bring our downtown to the next level, help stabilize property taxes, push forward as an environmental leader, improve both the actual and the perception of our public safety, leverage technology for improved interactivity, volunteerism, communication and infrastructure and form even more positive partnerships with those around us, like Seton Hall and other municipalities to share services with.
I see South Orange as a leader. Not just doing things well, but setting an example for other towns and governments around the state and country and helping them accomplish what we have and will continue to do.
I’m excited and deeply humbled to be here to be able to do this, and I hope anyone reading this will join us by coming out to meetings, volunteering and providing us with feedback and ideas about how we best can move forward. South Orange has the intellectual, creative, and human capital to do anything we want to. After the first month learning more about the obstacles and restrictions that are placed on local governments by external regulations, and larger forces, I am only more motivated to further build upon the work of our Board to prove what can be accomplished by people sharing a common passion and vision of improving their community and innovating government for the 21st century.