Freeholder Chairman Carter’s Re-Organization Speech
Reverend Clergy, members of the Freeholder Board, elected officials, friends, family, and citizens of Union County:
BEFORE WE BEGIN, I WOULD LIKE TO OBSERVE A MOMENT OF SILENCE FOR OUR FORMER FREEHOLDER CHESTER HOLMES WHO PASSED AWAY ON DECEMBER 28th.
Thank you for joining me today as we welcome and celebrate a new beginning in 2013.
Thank you, Judge Cassidy, for lending us your Courtroom and for your participation in today’s ceremonies.
I would like to begin by expressing my thanks and love to the family members and friends who are always supportive to me:
I would like to thank our Democratic Chairman, Charlotte DeFilippo, for her support and advice throughout these years. Your commitment and energy have contributed to the success of this board.
Thru Charlotte’s leadership, the teamwork of the democratic chairs in Union County and the contributions of this board have led to another overwhelming Democratic victory at the polls.
I would like to congratulate my colleagues, Al Mirabella, and Mohamed Jalloh, for their respective re-elections. And I would like to extend a special welcome to our newest Freeholder, Bruce Bergen, who was just installed to his first term.
Finally, I would like to thank my colleagues for electing me to serve as Chairman and giving me the opportunity to make history as the first African American woman to lead this distinguished board.
I appreciate your confidence and look forward to working with you and our entire County family of employees to serve our residents and move our initiatives forward this New Year. For as Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman to serve in the United States Congress once said, “Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.”
We have a proud record of accomplishment and public service in County government, and it all begins with my colleagues on this board.
Speaking of colleagues, I also look forward to working with my Vice Chairman, Chris Hudak, who is one of the rising young stars of this board, and along with Mohamed Jalloh.
Together, we will do our best to continue to build on the success of outgoing Chairman Alexander Mirabella, who provided amazing leadership through remarkable events.
Al, we thank you for your truly inspired efforts and commend you for a tremendous job through adverse conditions.
This was a year like no other in our nation. The storm that ravaged our County, destroying homes, neighborhoods, and industry, created over $100 million worth of damage.
After the storm passed, we were then touched by unspeakable human tragedy in Connecticut not so very far away.
These events made the Holiday season a time for reflection, but also a time to regroup, and prepare ourselves for the challenges ahead.
We must also continue to be proactive in addressing our public safety and emergency management concerns.
We must also continue to make economic progress and provide opportunities for our residents, while promoting the green economy.
With all this in mind, I am announcing a comprehensive set of five initiatives entitled “Helping our families, and empowering women.’’ These initiatives are comprised of public safety, business, social service, and green components. The ultimate goal is to boost our economy, improve our safety and quality of life.
My first two initiatives address emergency management and public safety issues brought to light by the Hurricane and the tragic event in Newtown, Ct.
As part of the response to Hurricane Sandy, Freeholder Mirabella assembled a working Mayor’s group which helped to improve communications throughout the crisis.
As an initiative, I plan on establishing this group as a permanent entity to communicate with throughout the year. During its last meeting, the group discussed a wide range of recommendations to explore in several critical areas that can be implemented in 2013 to improve emergency response and overall communications.
I would now like to take a few moments now to acknowledge all those who helped out in the effort during the storm—everyone from the public servant to the local merchant to your neighbor. It took a team effort to help everyone in need, and there was, thankfully, no shortage of helping hands.
And as we got through the storm, the tragedy of Newtown unfolded.
I believe this incident will mark a tipping point in the discussion on guns, violence and schools safety. We must continue to push for change and progress on these fronts. We will work with many of our State representatives on hand today to make these changes. This includes supporting Assemblyman Cryan’s statewide legislation to limit the capacity of certain gun magazines in New Jersey.
As someone who works as a public educator, I very strongly believe there can be no higher priority than protecting our children and families.
My next initiative addresses gun control.
I am calling upon our County Police to conduct a countywide gun buyback program within the next several weeks. The timing is right. A few weeks ago, Camden County conducted its most successful gun buyback program in history, as 1,300 weapons, including some semi-automatic weapons, were turned in.
While a gun buyback may not be a cure-all, as leaders, we owe it to our residents to pursue all the strategies available at our disposal.
My third initiative focuses on jobs training and continued assistance to businesses.
As part of this effort, I am pleased to announce a unique targeted jobs training program involving Union County College called “The Union County CHOICES program.”
Union County Choices is designed to provide a range of services targeted to skills and sector training. This program will give residents Choices focused on Union County’s priority economic development sectors. Courses would be in priority fields of Healthcare/Allied Health, and Retail/Hospitality.
We are working with Union County College and the Community College Consortium to design four courses and two programs that should launch by February. And there will be more to come.
As the second half of this initiative, we will continue to offer the Union County Means Business program with four new forums, including one focusing on women and business. We also plan to host two industry specific roundtable discussions with assistance from New Jersey Talent Networks. These will be invitation only sessions with key business leaders in selected industries.
Last year’s extremely successful Union County Means Business program lit a fire in the business community at the right time.
More than 600 individuals attended most if not all of our sessions. We launched a highly-visited website, a newsletter, and more. Union County College opened a Union County Means Business Career Center in June that has now served hundreds.
The Union County Economic Development Corporation also launched the Union County Means Business Loan initiative offering low interest loans to businesses. I am pleased to announce discussions are under way to continue the loan program this year.
One other area where we can build a bridge to our small businesses may be through our libraries. I will seek to convene a meeting with our municipal library directors and foster a discussion on what services they provide to small businesses.
Today’s libraries are not just about hard cover books. For example, libraries are depositories for small business information. They can also provide business workshops, job search services, and have conference space for meetings. They also provide computer and digital services.
Finally, we will encourage businesses to go green to save green. This year, our Bureau of Recycling and Planning has received a grant that will enable it to conduct outreach to businesses on the benefits of recycling. The planned outreach will address not only what and how to recycle, but how recycling can actually save money.
And speaking of our efforts to go green, my fourth initiative is a series of new offerings, designed to to raise our environmental profile, and save energy. It will also help our residents, businesses and municipal partners save money on electricity.
First, the County, through our Improvement Authority, will explore a Community Energy Aggregation program.
This will be designed to leverage the purchasing power of residents, business and governments to purchase low-cost electricity. If the program is implemented, Union County residents, businesses and governments could save up to 15 percent on electricity.
Next, the County will also take the lead in undertaking the development of an Energy Efficiency program under the Energy Savings Improvement Program Law. This is also known as ESIP.
The ESIP Law is a valuable tool that allows local government bodies to reduce energy consumption through the installation of energy efficient boilers, lights and HVAC equipment. It allows for financing these upgrades with operating budget savings generated by newly installed equipment.
However, because the ESIP Law can be complex to navigate, many local governments and boards of education have not yet taken advantage of this beneficial program.
We will work to assist governments and boards of education that desire to lower their operating budgets and install new energy efficient improvements.
Also, in an attempt to raise awareness countywide, we will double-purpose the Public Information Van as the Union County Green Information Van.
We will design a series of small fliers that link all of the sustainability-related programs in our departments and affiliates under one umbrella. At least one of those fliers will be designed as a shared service that our municipalities can use as a promotional tool in support of projects.
The van will also receive one of the County’s first informational touch screen kiosks. These kiosks employ existing resources that are being re-used at no additional charge, and will feature information on all our government services. Another trial kiosk will begin at the Courthouse Cafeteria. If successful, we can install several more throughout the year in our key government service centers.
My fifth and final initiative addresses women’s issues, which are close to my heart. As I mentioned above, we will be adding a feature addressing the needs of women in business through our Union County Means Business programs.
I am asking our County Directors to pursue a partnership with a local Domestic Violence Shelter for battered women. We will develop a program with our County College and Vo-Tech to provide training programs. This would empower the women to re-enter the workforce and become self-sustaining and independent.
We need to unlock the inner potential of these women, and we as a society will be better for it. For as Maya Angelou, once said, “there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story in you.”
This New Year, as we look ahead at a challenging fiscal picture, we will work to work to maximize County Government’s operational efficiencies. To that end, I am calling upon our Policy Committee to conduct an exhaustive review of all workforce and operational policies to ensure our government operates in the most efficient manner possible.
First things, first, our initiatives for this year benefit ALL residents of Union County. And at the same time, I am also advocating this year on behalf of women.
Our effort to assist business, seek efficiencies, help those in need, and protect families represent the right balance needed to maintain our quality life.
Back from my days as a Councilwoman in Plainfield, I always emphasized a collective governing philosophy that kept every block connected. As Chairman, I want to emphasize a philosophy that will also keep every municipality connected. Teamwork matters.
The noted basketball coach Phil Jackson once said “Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the ‘me’ for the we.”
With this, I call upon you to re-energize your efforts for 2013. Thank you for coming today, and I wish all a very Happy, and healthy New Year.