County Commissioner Bette Jane Kowalski was elected to her first term in 2004 and was re-elected in 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2019. She served as Chair of the Board in 2007 and 2019.
During her two terms as Chair, Commissioner Kowalski promoted initiatives for shared county-local services to reduce costs and increase efficiency. In 2019, those efforts included assisting municipalities with public outreach on their recycling programs, and moving forward with plans to expand the Union County Regional Dispatch Center.
As a result of work by Commissioner Kowalski and her colleagues on the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition, NJ Transit began direct service to New York on the Raritan Valley Railroad line for weekday trains during off-peak hours. The coalition continues to advocate for expanding that service and other rail improvements.
Commissioner Kowalski served as the Board’s liaison to the Human Services Advisory Council for 10 years, helping to coordinate services for seniors, children, and those in need. Her work in this area has been recognized with awards from United Way of Greater Union County, Community Access Unlimited, and Jewish Family Services.
As a member of the Open Space, Recreation, and Historic Preservation Trust Fund, Commissioner Kowalski has worked with the Board to add hundreds of acres of land to the Union County parks system, preserved for public recreation and nature conservation, including a key parcel added to Nomahegan Park in 2019.
She has worked to extend funding for open space and recreation, and she regularly participates in Adopt-a-Park programs. An active advocate for flood control, she is a member of the Cranford River Maintenance Committee.
A supporter of the arts, Commissioner Kowalski frequently attends events in Union County’s diverse communities. She has also served on the Cultural and Heritage Programs Advisory Board, the Commission on the Status of Women, and the Committee on the Status of Libraries. She is a recipient of the Advocates for New Jersey History Government Leadership Award. The Union County Women’s Political Caucus honored her as a Notable Woman in Politics.
Commissioner Kowalski grew up in Cranford and graduated with honors from Cranford High School. She has a Master’s degree in Journalism from New York University, and a Bachelor of Arts from Hunter College, where she graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. She is married and lives in Cranford.