County Commissioner Bette Jane Kowalski was elected to her first term in 2004 and has been re-elected five times. During her two terms as Chair in 2007 and 2019, Commissioner Kowalski promoted initiatives for shared services to reduce costs and increase efficiency. 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.
Currently, Commissioner Kowalski represents the County on the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, where she is a member of the Executive Committee. As the federally authorized metropolitan planning organization for the 13-county northern New Jersey region, NJTPA oversees more than $2 billion in funding for transportation improvement projects. And 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.
Through the Open Space, Recreation, and Historic Preservation Trust Fund, Commissioner Kowalski and her colleagues have added hundreds of acres of land to the Union County parks system, including a parcel added to Nomahegan Park in 2019. She has worked to extend funding for open space and regularly participates in Adopt-a-Park programs.
An active advocate for flood control, she has met frequently with local mayors, state and federal officials, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to obtain funding for flood mitigation.
Commissioner Kowalski frequently attends events in Union County’s diverse communities. She has served on the Cultural and Heritage Programs Advisory Board, the Commission on the Status of Women, and the Committee on the Status of Libraries and is a recipient of the Advocates for New Jersey History Government Leadership Award.
Commissioner Kowalski grew up in Cranford and graduated 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.
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