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Candidate Statement: SHOW KINDNESS

SHOW KINDNESS

Since I declared my candidacy for Chatham Borough Council I have been asked time and again, “Why are you doing this?” Most of my friends and family members would rather have a root canal than run for office. At first, I found myself searching for the best way to express my reasons, but no answer ever felt completely right. Then, in early June, as I was walking our dog past the train trestle on Fairmount Avenue, I looked down on the ground beneath the mural that Mr. Hasegawa created with the Public Arts Council. Someone had written on the ground in chalk, “Show kindness.” I realized at that moment that THIS is why I am running for office.

Our country is so divided right now, and I want to do what I can to bring people together. The people who live in Chatham, for the most part, want the same things: a safe and welcoming community, excellent schools for our children, and a good quality of life for ourselves and our families. I believe our government can—and does—play a vital role in making Chatham not only a desirable place to live, but a community where the residents are invested in the well-being of their town. That’s where kindness comes in.

If we can show, from the top down, that our elected officials truly care about our residents, we will improve not only relations but results. I believe this starts with listening. The borough has instituted a new platform, “Planet Civic”, which is a great tool for communicating with residents. I say let’s go even further. Throughout my professional and personal life, my ability to communicate well with people has been a strength. When I interviewed with the CIA they believed, through my language skills and personal manner, that I would be skilled in fostering relationships and developing contacts for U.S. intelligence. When I was on Capitol Hill, my congressman touted my ability to calm agitated constituents and find answers to their issues.

That kind of one-on-one personal connection with constituents cannot be underestimated. I have had powerful conversations with fellow residents while canvassing during this campaign, residents who’ve said no candidate or official had ever reached out to them personally. I think we can take a multi-layered approach for communicating with residents—through social media, the holding of office hours, and other more formal efforts to meet with them. Let’s listen to each other to understand what our residents’ needs truly are. In other words, let’s show kindness.

“Community” isn’t just a word for a group of people living in the same area geographically. We have a feeling of fellowship and common interest that our borough government can bolster. I have learned that folks in Chatham want a vibrant downtown and more community events, not fewer. The Farmer’s Market, Fishawack, and our parade and fireworks on the Fourth of July are traditions that help knit us together. They showcase Chatham Borough, inviting others in to see what a great town we have. I think we could do even more. For example, we could offer a summer concert series at the gazebo, or perhaps yoga sessions on the gazebo lawn. Both of these are ideas proposed by our Community Services department. Activities such as these bring in people, foot traffic, and potential customers for our businesses downtown. The costs of these activities are minimal compared to the benefits. Such events bring together people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, and economic levels, making us all feel excited to be living here. That is positive community-building. That is how we show kindness.

In my various leadership and volunteer roles in my church, our schools, and philanthropic organizations, as well as in my small business (Carolyn’s Cookies), I have had to raise money and work within budgets. Being fiscally conservative is a hallmark of our borough government and I believe in maintaining that commitment while continuing to improve on the services we provide our town. We should be able to go online to apply for a pet or garage sale license instead of having to line up for one in Borough Hall. Instead of locking up our public tennis courts and requiring a photo “membership” I.D. to use them, we should provide free and open access to all who wish to play on them. The cumbersome and expensive variance process on home additions and new construction should be simplified by going paperless, so that a homeowner doesn’t have to pay for seventeen sets of architectural drawings when appearing before the planning board. Regular reviews of our shared services contracts to make sure we’re getting the optimal service for what we as taxpayers are paying for should be an absolute priority. We residents of Chatham pride ourselves in aspiring to have an environmentally conscious town, so let’s get the pesticides out of our playing fields and grassy areas by going completely organic. We must resolve to negotiate an affordable contract with a landscaper who will help us do so. The township has achieved this, and so can we. Our elected officials must always look to do better for the people of Chatham; to me, that is the ultimate kindness.

These days, each side of the political aisle is shrieking at the other with little cooperation or effective policymaking taking place. When I was growing up I respected my elected officials. That’s not happening today. I want to return bipartisan civility to our local government. I grew up a Republican, and honestly, the values I was raised with haven’t changed, although the rhetoric certainly has. We are in need of broader representation here in Chatham that reflects the true demographics of our town. That means having greater female representation, and, hopefully, a greater diversity of ideas on the Borough Council going forward. Let’s be the model of a town whose leaders can work together, across the aisle, to bring together ideas that are representative of all our residents; this will help ensure that our Council makes decisions that will truly benefit all of who live in this wonderful borough.

I believe seeing those words, “Show Kindness” below our Chatham mural on that walk in June was a bit of kismet. My family has been touched by the kindness of Chatham, most notably when I was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago. This town has become our extended family. While I wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone, I can tell you it has shaped how I see our friends and neighbors, and the needs of this special community. Chatham needs empathetic leaders who will reach out to residents and work relentlessly on behalf of all its residents for the purpose of making our terrific borough even better. If elected on November 6, I will be such a leader. That’s my promise.


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